Art Already Won It’s Battle

 

Thomas Hart Benton painting is at the heart of a controversy at Indiana University, where a student petition is calling for a mural depicting hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan to be removed from a classroom. In response, the school has stopped holding classes in the room, the largest lecture hall on campus.

Let me begin my response, thus……….as a lone artists and writer, I do not recognize any group of non-artists, as having any relevance in any complaint they might bring against any artist, or work of art. These alleged students resemble iconoclasts. What they truly are, are parasites, who go about as a mob attaching their half-baked Victim Game, to my kindred, Thomas Hart Benton, who is kin to Jessie Benton, who married John Fremont, the co-founder of the Republican Party, who was the first to emancipate slaves in America, thus, forcing Lincoln’s hand. But, rather then STUDY history, or art, these NAMELESS students took out their Weak Identity Crisis on a dead artist, who was ripped off when it came time to be paid for his work and labor. Go paint your own cause.

“In hopes of ending the controversy without removing the mural, the school says it will now use the room containing the mural for activities other than classes.

“Covering the murals feels like censorship and runs counter to the expressed intent of the artist to make visible moments in history that some would rather forget,” said Robel. “Repurposing the room is the best accommodation of the multiple factors that the murals raise: our obligation to be a welcoming community to all of our students and facilitate their learning; our stewardship of this priceless art; and our obligation to stand firm in defense of artistic expression.”

I think the whole university should be shut down, due to Massive Ignorance that was worshiped in Nazi Germany. Hitler held an art show – filled with Degenerate Art! More people saw this show than any show in art history. What I suggest, is, these petitioners found ‘The Hall of White Shame’ and collect other works of art that BEST OFFENDS THEM, so the whole world can come study – WHY!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerate_Art_Exhibition

To get the New Iconoclastic Age, rolling, I hereby remove Charlie Parker from the Bohemian Culture I have gathered in this blog. There is a good chance Charlie used alcohol, and drugs, to seduce women at Jirayr Zorthian’s party. Did he use his fame to weaken the natural defenses of curious young women? Did he employ jazz to get them to take off their clothes? Did he hear them when they said “No!”

I hereby found The Hall of Big Shame that will be inclusive of all races, and, sexual persuasions. Above is the mural my brother-in-law did for the Gordon Getty, that was painted over. Garth Benton sued for $350,000 dollars, and won his case. Gordon was bid to remove the paint from this work of art.

The HBS will contain four halls…….

The Hall of Shameful Penises

The Hall of Shameful Vaginas

The Hall of Shameful Black Penisis

The Hall of Shameful Asian Vaginas

Jirayr H. Zorthian, says was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas is the cousin of the muralist, Garth Benton who married my late sister, the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Benton. These four women and myself would live in a commune in San Fancisco, our rent paid by Betty Zorthian, the heiress of the William’s Shave fortune. Seyburn is an artist. I put Mary Ann’s art alongside Benton’s and Zorthians that are political in nature. Mary Ann is the All American Woman who deserves mention by her ex who is exploiting the Hip scene Mary Ann was a pioneer of. She paid her dues. Has Thomas, who has lived his life in fear of meeting me Mr. Hippie? Thomas has to get over it, the death of his good friend, Richard Farina, whose charisma was off the chart. There are so many “What ifs”. Who is going to author Pynchon’s biography. Who is going to author Kesey’s biography?

https://rosamondpress.com/2015/08/25/springfield-augurs-ken-kesey/

Jon Presco

Recorded live at Jirayr Zorthian’s Ranch, Altadena, California, Monday, July 14, 1952. This super-rare recording was made at extentic millionaire Jirayr Zorthian’s home in California as features a 74 minutes performance by Bird that has never been heard before now. This historic session was recorded during one of larger than life painter and sculptor Zorthian’s infamous sex, drugs and booze parties – attended by a wealth of intellectuals, artists and hangers-on. These parties became knwon throughout Southern California as they would last for several days at a time. Bird attended one of these parties, on July 14, 1952, and had the bright idea of bringing along a tape recorder to capture the event. This was clearly a wild night as a massive striptease was arranged before and during Bird’s rendition of “Embraceable You”. This performance is also the only recorded encounter of Bird playing with Frank Morgan and Don Wilkerson.

 

In 1952, Los Angeles would play host to one of Parker’s wildest exploits. The New York–based musician was in L.A. for some club gigs, even as his health was rapidly declining — fat, and alternately strung out on heroin or in the throes of withdrawal, he nursed his pain with alcohol binges. He went hard until the end. When Parker died in 1955 from a bleeding ulcer and liver disease, the coroner estimated his body to be between 50 and 60 years of age. He was 34.

But not even Parker could have anticipated what unfolded in the early hours of July 15 at Zorthian’s Ranch — an artists commune in the foothills above Altadena in northern Los Angeles.

That evening, the saxophonist was invited to perform at a party by the ranch’s eccentric owner, a bohemian sculptor named Jirayr Zorthian. Something of a legend himself, Zorthian was friends with everyone from Andy Warhol to Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman, and the ranch, perched atop Fair Oaks Avenue, was his personal Utopia, with life-size art installations and recycled construction materials scattered across hillside chaparral. Still standing today, the place looks like a cross between an old Western movie set and a scene out of Alice in Wonderland.

https://rosamondpress.com/2016/01/04/the-zorthians-and-kardashians/

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/whats-hot/beauty-pageant-contestants-share-stats-on-violence-against-women-instead-of-measurements/ar-AAuhR6w?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

 

Governor Paul McNutt dedicated the mural display in Chicago on July 2, 1933. Critics were sharply divided on the murals. Some believed that the murals made Indiana’s state exhibit the most artistic at the fair. Others disliked Benton’s style and subject matter. Benton himself described the murals as “a dream fulfilled.” Due to the controversy that arose over the murals at the World’s Fair, they were transferred to an old horse barn on the Indiana State Fairgrounds after the fair had concluded. They remained in the warehouse until 1940, when the new Indiana University President, Herman B Wells, convinced the Indiana State Legislature and Governor Townsend to donate the murals to the University. Benton himself assisted in the installation and retouching, and was present at the Auditorium on “Mural Day,” December 9, 1941

Students Rally to Remove a Thomas Hart Benton Mural Depicting the KKK at Indiana University

The mural is an homage to the Indiana press for breaking the Klan’s grip on power in the state, but critics say its depictions of the KKK aren’t just historical.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana,
Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana, “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press” (1933), detail, at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of Bart Everson, via Creative Commons.

A Thomas Hart Benton painting is at the heart of a controversy at Indiana University, where a student petition is calling for a mural depicting hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan to be removed from a classroom. In response, the school has stopped holding classes in the room, the largest lecture hall on campus.

Nearly 1,600 signatories are asking the school to take down or cover the offending panel from A Social History of Indiana (1933), also known as the Indiana murals. But others are speaking up in support of the artwork, contending that Benton was looking to draw attention to the evils of the Klan.

“It is past time that Indiana University take a stand and denounce hate and intolerance in Indiana and on IU’s campus,” reads the petition, which argues that exposing students and faculty of color to the image of the KKK stands in violation of the school’s diversity policy and the student Right to Freedom From Discrimination.

In the mural, the Klansmen are seen alongside a reporter, photographer, and printer—a reference to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1928 story that uncovered the KKK’s ties to the government and broke their political influence over the state. Similarly, Benton unapologetically depicted the ugly side of Missouri history, including lynchings and a slave auction, in his A Social History of Missouri murals for the state capitol building.

Thomas Hart Benton, <em>A Social History of Indiana</em>, (1933), on view in th auditorium at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana (1933), on view in the auditorium at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

“Like most great art, Benton’s murals require context and history,” said Lauren Robel, the school’s executive vice president and provost, in a statement, calling the works a national treasure. “Many well-meaning people, without having the opportunity to do that work, wrongly condemn the mural as racist simply because it depicts a racist organization and a hateful symbol.”

“It does not glorify or celebrate this particular dark episode of the KKK in Indiana, but instead shows that the state’s past has shameful moments the likes of which we do not want to see again, ever,” added James Wimbush, the university’s vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, speaking to USA Today. “It’s important to understand the state’s history—the good and the bad.”

The petition acknowledges that Benton intended to denounce the Klan, but points out that the KKK is still active in the state today, claiming that “these are in fact modern depictions and not just depictions of a historical time in Indiana.” It calls the classroom housing the artwork “an environment that promotes a group known for discriminating against people of color, homosexuals, non Christians, and various other marginalized groups of people.”

Henry Adams, an art history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, has published an editorial in defense of Benton in the Conversation. He details the painter’s well-documented rejection of racism, from participating in the NAACP-organized 1935 exhibition, “An Art Commentary on Lynching,” at New York’s Arthur Newton Gallery to learning the African-American dialect Gullah.

Thomas Hart Benton, <em>A Social History of Indiana</em>, (1933), on view in Woodburn Hall 100 at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana (1933), on view in Woodburn Hall 100 at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

A Regionalist painter who painted scenes of everyday American life—think Grant Wood’s American Gothic—Benton was commissioned by the Indiana State Legislature to create the murals for the Indiana Hall at the “Century of Progress” exposition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Adams says the artist was likely chosen for the project “because of his progressive political views”—and because he could complete the massive project in time. (He used 10,000 eggs to create the 22-panel egg tempera work over the course of just six months.)

The murals were donated to Indiana University in 1940 and installed across three buildings on campus the following year. According to the school, the murals are quite delicate and cannot be removed without risk of damage. There was talk of having classes discuss the sensitive artworks, but some professors were uncomfortable moderating such potentially fraught conversations or did not want to devote class time to a subject unrelated to the course.

In hopes of ending the controversy without removing the mural, the school says it will now use the room containing the mural for activities other than classes.

“Covering the murals feels like censorship and runs counter to the expressed intent of the artist to make visible moments in history that some would rather forget,” said Robel. “Repurposing the room is the best accommodation of the multiple factors that the murals raise: our obligation to be a welcoming community to all of our students and facilitate their learning; our stewardship of this priceless art; and our obligation to stand firm in defense of artistic expression.”

In recent years, people have protested the racism of Confederate statues, Hollywood and sports mascots.

But a curious campaign has taken place on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. Students have circulated petitions and organized protests seeking the removal or destruction of painter Thomas Hart Benton’s 1933 mural “A Social History of Indiana,” which contains an image of the Ku Klux Klan.

“It is past time that Indiana University take a stand and denounce hate and intolerance in Indiana and on IU’s campus,” a petition from August read.

A detail from the controversial panel of Benton’s mural. Bart Everson, CC BY

In September, the university announced that it would stop holding classes in the room where Benton’s painting is placed, and it would keep the room sealed off from the general public.

As the author of four books on Benton, I propose that the protesters take a closer look at Benton’s life and Indiana’s political history before they reflexively denounce the mural’s imagery.

A painter of the people

Along with Grant Wood (of “American Gothic” fame), Thomas Hart Benton was the leader of the Regionalist movement in American art, which proposed that sections of the country hitherto thought of as artistic wastelands, such as the South and the Midwest, could be suitable subjects for art.

Thomas Hart Benton painted large murals that depicted the country’s social, labor and political history. AP Photo

Benton’s “America Today” (which can now be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) was the first major American mural painting to focus on contemporary working-class Americans, rather than heroes in colonial garb or allegorical figures.

Throughout his life and career, the painter adamantly denounced racism. One of the very first articles he published, a 1924 essay in the journal “Arts,” contains a snide dismissal of the Klan. In 1935, he took part in a widely publicized exhibition, “An Art Commentary on Lynching,” organized by the NAACP and staged at the Arthur Newton Gallery in New York; and in 1940 he explicitly denounced racism of any sort, declaring:

“We in this country put no stock in racial genius. We do not believe that because a man comes from one strain rather than another, he starts with superior equipment.”

What’s more, to a degree very unusual at the time, Benton actively sought out and befriended African-Americans. He taught African-Americans in his art classes, used African-Americans as models for his paintings and invited African-Americans to dinner in his Kansas City home (a gesture that was still raising eyebrows in the city in the 1980s, when I worked as a curator there). He even learned to speak Gullah, the African-American dialect of the Sea Islands.

The Klan in Indiana

Benton’s murals take on added significance when we consider their historical context. (Art historians Kathleen Foster and Nanette Brewer tell the full story in their excellent catalogue on the murals.)

In the 1920s, the Klan dominated Indiana politics. Counting among its members the governor of Indiana and more than half of the state legislature, it had over 250,000 members – about one-third of all white men in the state. While devoted to denying equal rights to African-Americans, the group also denounced Jews, Catholics and immigrants.

D.C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of Indiana’s Ku Klux Klan. Wikimedia Commons

Only the relentless coverage of the Indianapolis Times turned the tide of popular opinion. Because of the paper’s reporting, the state’s KKK leader, D.C. Stephenson, was convicted of rape and murder of a young schoolteacher.

Stephenson’s subsequent testimony from prison would bring down the mayor of Indianapolis, L. Ert Slack, and Governor Edward L. Jackson, both of whom had forged close political and personal relationships with the Klan. In 1928, the Indianapolis Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative work.

Five years later, a handful of state leaders approached Benton to see if he would be able to paint a mural for the Indiana pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair. The group included progressive architect Thomas Hibben and Richard Lieber, the head of the state’s park system. (Lieber appears on the right side of the controversial panel, planting a tree.)

They seem to have chosen Benton because of his progressive political views. But they were also drawn to Benton because no other American artist seemed capable of completing such a massive undertaking on such a short deadline.

The fair was less than six months away.

A refusal to whitewash history

Working at a frantic pace, Benton spent the ensuing months traveling around the state and making studies. Then, in a mere 62 days, he executed the entire project, which was over 12 feet high, 250 feet long and contained several hundred figures. It was the equivalent of producing a new, six-by-eight-foot painting every day for 62 straight days.

In 1941, the murals were installed in the auditorium at Indiana University Bloomington, where they remain today.

In the controversial panel, Benton painted a reporter, a photographer and a printer into the foreground – an homage to the press of Indiana for breaking the power of the Klan. In the center, a white nurse tends both black and white children in City Hospital (now Wishard Hospital).

The sinister figures of the Klan are visible in the background, behind the hospital beds – a reminder, perhaps, that racial progress can always slide backwards.

As Lauren Robel, the provost at the University of Indiana, recently wrote in a statement to the university community:

“Every society that has gone through divisive trauma of any kind has learned the bitter lesson of suppressing memories and discussion of its past; Benton’s murals are intended to provoke thought.”

Benton clearly felt that the state government’s support of the Klan was something that should not be whitewashed.

He applied the same approach a few years later in his murals in the Missouri State Capitol: They open with a scene of a fur trader selling whiskey to the Indians, and close with a scene of Kansas City’s notorious political boss, Tom Pendergast, sitting in a nightclub with two trustees of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Not everyone in Missouri was pleased.

Interestingly, representations of the Klan by other artists of the 1930s, such as Philip Guston and Joe Jones, continue to hang in museums. No one has proposed that they be taken off view. Something about the fact that Benton brought his paintings out of museums – and into public spaces not consecrated to “art” – seems to have given his work an in-your-face immediacy that still stirs up controversy.

I find it rather sad that the paintings have been taken off view; if it’s the only way to ensure the safety of the paintings, it’s the right decision. But hopefully it’s a temporary one.

At the heart of the matter is the question of whether we should seek to try to forget the dark episodes of the past, or whether we should continue to confront them, discuss them and learn from them.

https://theconversation.com/the-misguided-campaign-to-remove-a-thomas-hart-benton-mural-86431

https://rosamondpress.com/2016/09/28/beauty-and-the-anti-mission-statement/

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/brett-ratner-accused-sexual-misconduct-women-article-1.3603782

https://rosamondpress.com/2015/09/01/recovering-the-lost-magical-mural/

https://rosamondpress.com/2013/07/01/back-to-the-land-bohemians/

https://rosamondpress.com/2016/01/04/the-zorthians-and-kardashians/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconoclasm

 

Iconoclasm[Note 1] is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of usually religious icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons. Over time, the word, usually in the adjectival form, has also come to refer to aggressive statements or actions against any well-established status quo. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes. The term does not generally encompass the specific destruction of images of a ruler after his death or overthrow (damnatio memoriae).

People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called iconoclasts, a term that has come to be applied figuratively to any individual who challenges “cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious”.[1] Conversely, one who reveres or venerates religious images is called (by iconoclasts) an iconolater; in a Byzantine context, such a person is called an iconodule or iconophile.

 

In rebellion against the old religion and the powerful priests of Amun, Akhenaten ordered the eradication of all of Egypt’s traditional gods. He sent royal officials to chisel out and destroy every reference to Amun and the names of other deities on tombs, temple walls, and cartouches to instill in the people that the Aten was the one true god.”[5]

 

https://www.freshsoundrecords.com/charlie-parker-albums/4442-at-jirayr-zorthian-s-ranch-july-14th-1952.html

http://www.iuauditorium.com/about-us/thomas-hart-benton-murals

 

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Art Already Won It’s Battle

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    The attaacks on my families creative legacy keep on comping!

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