Art Under Terrorist Attack

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Garth Benton’s mural at the Getty Villa.


For the first time, Museum Goers, have come under Terrorist attack.

It is not a coincidence that Jirayr Zorthian was influenced by my kindred, Thomas Hart Benton, the cousin of my late brother-in-law, the muralist Garth Benton. Christine, Keith, Barry and Seyburn, and I lived together in a SF commune with Nancy Hamren. Add to this the art collection of my late kindred, Elizabeth Rosemond Tayor, and you have what constitutes a liberal, and for the most part, a secular art dynasty.

For over twenty years I have given proof the religious-right is waging cultural warfare against artists and bohemians. They have now been joined by Israel and ISIS. The Tunisian museum looks like the Getty Villa where Garth rendered murals.

Jon Presco

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This morning, I discovered Michael Jackson was an artist. I had read that his close friend, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, encouraged this Pop Star to collect art as she had done. Liz’s great uncle, Howard Young, had no children, and I believe he willed his amazing collection to her. Howard was married to Mabel Rosemond, the sister of Liz’s grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Rosemond. Add to this the marital union with the Getty and Benton family, and my families literary and artistic legacy, then here is the foremost Artistic Dynasty in the world, that rivals what the Habsburgs and de Medici achieved in many generations.

In 1987, my aunt and uncle, June and Vincent Rice, left most of their kindred a half million dollars in a Trust. With my portion I have been able to concentrate on my long genealogical and historic research that has established my kindred in the annals of Art History. June and Vincent did not know we were kin to Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. Their desire was to enhance and esteem all members of their family, something I have done, thus I have acted in good faith to their generous Trust.

There can be no doubt who the ‘Caretaker’ of Christine Rosamond’s creative legacy is. Regrettably, there are dark forces fighting over Michael’s art the same way they fought over the art of my late sister.

In looking at Michael’s art, I get a true idea of what his dream was. I believe he wanted to be like Walt Disney. His drawing of George Washington, the Wright Brother’s plane, and the White House, suggest a Disney theme of America – and all that is good and democratic.

Like my Janke kindred, Michael built his own theme park, a Never Never Land where the youth he – and Liz – never had, could be set free. Liz is kin to the artist Thomas Hart Benton, whose paintings are The American Landscape that Walt captured just a part of in his fantasies. Howard Young was a good friend of President Eisenhower. Most artists are patriots.

Christine and I had our childhood taken from us too. Vic put his to sons to work in his produce market when we were eight and nine. Christine was the maid when she was twelve. June and Vinny had no children. Vinny was my art patron. He wrote for the UCLA college paper. He would be very proud of what I have done.

Thanksgiving Day has just commenced. I will be having my Creative Comrades over – in spirit! We will look over each other’s shoulders while we create, and be joyful!

Jon Presco

Artwork of Zorthian

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Artwork of Benton


Ken Burns’ “America: Thomas Hart Benton” paints a portrait of a hard-working, hard-drinking man full of contradictions. Born into a political family, he was named after his famous great-uncle, U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, champion of Manifest Destiny. Benton’s father was a U.S. Congressman who wanted his son to follow in the family footsteps to become a lawyer and a politician. But from an early age Benton wanted to be an artist and later said of his father, “that I should even think of becoming an artist gave him a sense of outrage. It would never do for a Benton to descend so low.”

“To Garth with appreciation of your wonderful assistance and with warmest, best wishes.”
– Betty and Gerald Ford

“What a joy to have your murals!”
– Bob and Dolores Hope

“Your work is truly fine, and you go above and beyond the call of duty. So when you present your final bill to me, make it for whatever you like…within reason, of course.”
– Barbra Streisand

“To master artist Garth Benton, and his two talented daughters, and with gratitude for your beautiful additon to our new home.”
– Rhonda “Mann” Flemming

(Partial List)
Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope
Pres. and Mrs. Gerald Ford
Ms. Barbra Streisand
Mr. Sidney Sheldon
HRH Prince Saud Al Faisal
Ms. Carol Burnett
Mr. and Mrs. David L. Wolper
Ms. Jaclyn Smith
The J.Paul Getty Museum
M.H. De Young Memorial Museum
Mr. Danny Kaye
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Singleton
Mr. And Mrs. Mickey Rudin
Mr. Dean Martin
Mr. Hugh Hefner
Fluor Corporation
Ralph M. Parsons Company
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Firestone
The Beverly Hilton Hotel
Squaw Valley Inn
Mr. Richard Cohen
Lily and Richard Zanuck
Mr. and Mrs. George Doheny
Princess of Iran
Ms. Polly Bergen
Mrs. Walt Disney
Ms. Pamela Mason
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Knight
Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Spelling
Mr. and Mrs. Kirk Douglas
Mr. Jerry Magnin
Mr. and Mrs. Warren Clark
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Maguire
Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Resnick
Ms. Danielle Steel
Mr. David Nutt, Esq.

Closeted Artist

Until now, Michael Jackson’s art collection was shrouded in mystery. It was said to be stuck in a legal dispute over possession. Then, people speculated that buyers such as Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté were interested. It’s been valued at the staggering (and slightly unbelievable) sum of $900 million.

“Then we met, and spent more and more time with each other, and just became really good friends. Told each other everything,” Taylor said in 2006.
They bonded over their “horrible” childhoods, which she said was destroyed by becoming famous as kids. Indeed, Taylor achieved fame at age 12 in National Velvet, Jackson began his career at the age of 5 as the lead singer of the Jackson 5.

One crucial fact: Jackson’s art collection isn’t art by other people — it’s mainly drawings and paintings that he created himself. So what does that art look like?

Yesterday, LA Weekly was the first to visit the (until now) top-secret Santa Monica Airport hangar that Jackson used as his studio and art storehouse. The collection is currently owned by Brett-Livingstone Strong, the Australian monument builder and Jackson’s art mentor through the years, in conjunction with the Jackson estate.

Though the entire art collection has been mired in disputes and battles for rights, Strong claims that he is working with everybody — the family, the estate, as well as others — to exhibit and publish as much of Jackson’s work as possible.

According to Strong, he and Jackson formed an incorporated business partnership in 1989, known as the Jackson-Strong alliance. This gave each partner a fifty-percent stake in the other’s art. In 2008, Strong says, Jackson requested that his attorney sign the rights to Jackson’s portion of the art over to Strong. Now, Strong is beginning to reveal more and more of the art as he goes ahead with Jackson’s dream of organizing a museum exhibit.

Jirayr Zorthian Mural “Phantasmagoria of Military Intelligence Training” (missing/unknown location)

The Zorthian siblings have made concerted efforts to keep a recorded history of their family’s work, and have photographs of their father’s murals in humidity controlled containers. As to where some of the original ones are, like the “Phantasmagoria of Military Intelligence Training,” they have no idea. While converting this photographed mural to a digital format, Alan emphasizes, “We would love to know where it is! It’s a 157-foot mural documenting the process of people in training preceding the formation of the CIA.”

Jirayr Zorthian was infamous in Southern California for his bacchanalian parties at the Ranch. In a taped interview with Jirayr, and corroborated by his daughter Seyburn, now a painter in Santa Barbara; they recall the story of an evening in 1952 when legendary saxophonist, Charlie Parker (aka Bird), performed. Impromptu music studio sessions took place all the time there and one night, Julie MacDonald, a prominent sculptor in Pasadena and alleged “west coast girlfriend” of Charlie Parker, brought him and his band to Zorthian’s ranch. There was an attractive woman dancing to the jam, and Jirayr encourages a striptease by taking his top off, Bird then drops his pants, and by the end of the session, two-thirds of the people are dancing naked. “The rest is left to your imagination,” Seyburn laughs. This is nearly two decades before Woodstock and half-a-century before video-recording cell phones; these events would not be easily caught on tape, but this one was.

Live, raw and unadulterated, one can hear the calls to “Take it off, take it off” in the background of the 77-minute tape which was sold to Pasadena jazz music collector, John Burton, for safekeeping. “We want to release the recording with a DVD of Jirayr telling this story. I’m a Charlie Parker fanatic and I’ve never seen this story annotated in any Bird or jazz literature.” Could you imagine Bird and a bunch of people playing and dancing naked on a ranch in the 1950’s? “My father was able to bring such wonderful and interesting people around because he himself was a big personality,” Seyburn adds.

Artist John Outterbridge went to countless parties at the ranch. Outterbridge met Jirayr having been studio neighbors, in what was then, the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). “You could do anything up in the ranch, and be whoever you are,” the artist says with a grin. One party Outterbridge will not forget was for the East West exhibit with Andy Warhol’s soup cans installation. “Warhol came into the gallery with a beautiful black girl on his right and beautiful white girl on his left, dressed in kitchen aprons – you could see right through them [Outterbridge giggles]. About 1,000 people came to that show, and the after-party was at the Ranch. The Zorthian Ranch had a reputation for entertaining a lot of people.”

One of the most anticipated annual parties at Z Ranch was Jirayr’s spring birthday party, called “Primavera”. One of the main features was a skit where Jirayr would lay on a chaise lounge, and eight nude “nymphs” would dance around him. “My father loved to stage” Seyburn exclaims, “He started the parties when he was 80… and had them until he died at 92 years old!”


Murals: (some of the significant ones) A large rock mural in the Laura Scudder home in La Habra, California, 1957. Phantasmagoria of Military Intelligence Training A large serial mural 157′ long and  4′ high.  Commissioned by the U.S. Army and later lost, 1945. The Development of Power” and “The Development of Light
Two large murals in the reception area of The United Illuminating Company, New Haven, Connecticut,  Temporarily removed for reinstallation in new building, 1937.
Restoration After the Hurricane,” Mural in United Illuminating Plant, New Haven, Connecticut. Twelve (12) murals in the Governors Reception Room in Nashville, Tennessee.
Post Office, St. Johnsville, New York,1938 .
Other murals are in churches, hotels, post offices and residences.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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2 Responses to Art Under Terrorist Attack

  1. “‘Presco’-digitation!” (MAGIC WRITING!) John, I …UNDERSTAND your ‘reference’ points EXACTLY…you really got a weather-eye out. But…here’s an idea for you….let the people SEE the TUNISIAN (ROMAN) mosaics…so EVERYONE can UNDERSTAND that the MEDITERRANEAN &ergo MIDDLE EAST TOO) was an almost completely WHITE area. Save for where HINDU workers had been (EGYPT)
    Those were the ONLY ‘blacks’ other than when NUBIA was created as a kind of ‘District of Columbia’ to Egypt’s ‘USA’. HINDUS became “GYPSIES” and many now have a ‘Jewish’ heritage also visa-vis many many ‘inter-racial’ ‘mixings’…colmanating in the “KHAZAR”. OK? Feel better now about being an Aryan? YEs, it is a form of schitzomania…but relax…99 percent of the ahite world has the same mental ‘angst’ thanks to TV brainwash. Jon, just take a page form the know; Manchurian Candidate. (Oh, by the way there are also AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES they were LAST of three (3) BLACK RACES discovered by the WHITE MAN…1. “DRAVIDIANS” (BLACK CAUCASIANS…the “HINDU” “TAMIL’ “EDDA” “SINGHALESE” etc of INDIA who’re are the POLAR OPPOSITE of the WHITE ARYANS (ALSO CAUCASIANS!) they were first…then only 2,600 years ago…the “NEGRO”…was “DISCOVERED”:…and then just a couple of CENTURIES ago the AUSTRALIAN ABORIGNES. Three SEPARATE and DISTINCT “BLACK” races! (PLEASE CONSULT ANTHROPOLOGY DEPT OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA)

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