This Week's Show •

Black Mountain College: “The Grass-Roots of Democracy”

In 1933, a group of freethinking American educators and academics took a look at their fresh, interwar world — and set about trying to remake it. They set up a campus in idyllic countryside outside Asheville, North Carolina, and Black Mountain ...

In 1933, a group of freethinking American educators and academics took a look at their fresh, interwar world — and set about trying to remake it.

They set up a campus in idyllic countryside outside Asheville, North Carolina, and Black Mountain College was born.

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Our guest, the literary historian Louis Menand, explains that B.M.C. was a philosophical experiment intent on putting the progressive philosopher John Dewey‘s ideas to work in higher education. The college curriculum was unbelievably permissive — but it did ask that students undertake their own formation as citizens of the world by means of creative expression, and hard work, in a community of likeminded people.

The college may not have lived up to its utopian self-image — the scene was frequently riven by interpersonal conflict — but it did serve as a stage-set to some of modern culture’s most interesting personalities and partnerships.

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Josef Albers — he of “Homage to the Square” — served as the head of the painting department and the school’s nerve center from 1933 to 1949. He and his wife Anni — whose beautiful weaving stands out at the ICA/Boston’s B.M.C. exhibition — fled Hitler’s rise and brought the Bauhaus School with them to America. Albers would go on to influence the great names of modern American art in his role at B.M.C., including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Jacob Lawrence, whose 1946 painting, “The Watchmaker” leaps off the wall.

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Meanwhile, the summers saw visitors like architect Buckminster Fuller — who threw together his first, flimsy geodesic dome at B.M.C. — and the dance-and-music pairing of Merce Cunningham and John Cage. All that talent could sometimes converge, as in “Theatre Piece No. 1,” an fabled, but undocumented, mixed-media happening starring Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg, David Tudor and Franz Kline.

Or, again, during the college’s cash-strapped final six years, while the voluble poet Charles Olson served as rector — and built a trailblazing poetic scene feeding into and drawing on the burgeoning Beat generation. Our guest, Globe art critic, Sebastian Smee, told the story of Olson grumpily fishing a delirious Rauschenberg out of icy Lake Eden.

So we’re looking behind B.M.C.’s famous products — the all-white canvases, the silent 4 minutes and 33 seconds, the domes and the poems  — to the effervescent human world beneath it, and for the much it tells us about vision, education, and human growth.

December 16, 2015

The Art of Wildness

The quote, from Henry David Thoreau, often goes: “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” Turns out Thoreau had been misheard. The real line is: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”Our guest Jedediah Purdy, author ...

The quote, from Henry David Thoreau, often goes: “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” Turns out Thoreau had been misheard. The real line is: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Our guest Jedediah Purdy, author of After Nature, says Thoreauvian wildness is exactly what our post-natural world requires. Purdy likes a new term, the anthropocene, to describe a geological age of our own making — one in which no place is untouched by human activity. And so, Purdy says, this new age needs a new program, beyond the Paris mandates, the carbon offsets, and clean-tech investments. More urgently, we need a radically different sensibility.

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In other words, we should learn to listen better — cultivate a deeper, more direct way of understanding ourselves and the landscape, toward a more participatory, more global politics. As Purdy says, “We’ve got to create that circuit between inside and outside in this wrecked world that we’ve made, if we’re going to be moved to participate in its healing and its improvement and its change.”

Along with John Luther Adams, the minimalist composer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean, and Janet Echelman, the world-renowned sculptor and urban designer, we’re re-imagining the environmental crisis in the wake of the accord in Paris. The economists had their turn. Now we’re asking: What would the artists do?

enviro artLeft: scale models of Janet Echelman’s artwork at her studio in Brookline. Right: Chris with John Luther Adams outside John’s apartment in Harlem.

Music From The Show: John Luther Adams

  • Illimaq (with Glenn Kotche) (2015)

Special thanks to Veronica Barron for her readings from Thoreau’s journal. Thanks also to Anne Callahan. Feature image, of Janet Echelman’s “As If It Were Already Here,” a temporary installation over the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, by Michael J. Lutch.

 

This Week's Show •

‘The Changing Same’: Race in America

Orlando Patterson has spent his career puzzling over the "immutable force" in American race relations. Is it the ongoing, grassroots cultural revolution we see and hear in the world of jazz and hip-hop? Or the eternal racial gap — in health and wealth, in incomes and outcomes — documented by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander? Patterson is optimistic.

As a scholar and a father, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has spent his career puzzling over the “immutable force” in American race relations. Is it the ongoing, grassroots cultural revolution we see and hear in the worlds of activism and hip-hop? Or the eternal racial gap — in health and wealth, in incomes and outcomes — documented by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander?

Even in the wake of the Justice Department’s grim report on Ferguson, the Jamaican-born Patterson is an optimist.

The result of all that thinking is The Cultural Matrix, an anthology of essays about the complex world of scarcity and violence that black youths bear and bring to light in their unmatched “cultural capital” — rappers, artists, athletes and fashion plates who fill seats in American arenas and export a world-leading look and sound.

Patterson admits that our prisons are much too black considering who commits the crimes. Both inner-city neighborhoods and black suburbs are overpoliced. (The small city of Ferguson, for example, seems to run on a combination of racial bias and extractive economics. Its city manager stepped down on Wednesday.) And this week we were reminded that frat boys still veer into antebellum politics when they think no one is looking.

Patterson has crunched the numbers and says both sides of the racial divide have “20-percent problems.” Twenty percent of whites are hardcore racists. And twenty percent of African-Americans live lives “disconnected” from the values of the society at large — that means more crime and violence, drugs and weak family ties.

So this week we’re asking, in a wide-open way, just what — if anything — is to be done to reconcile and reengage two cultures after the revelations in Ferguson, to reclaim and enrich the gains made at Selma 50 years ago. To Orlando Patterson’s mind, we’re doing better than ever before.

Hip-Hop’s Case for Hip-Hop

The people who produce this culture are both alienated and deeply American. Hip-hop’s embrace of materialism is exactly what you would expect of American materialism. It comes from a people who are steeped in a desire for material things but are denied those things.

Jelani Cobb, historian and journalist

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We’re including a Spotify playlist to be thought of as hip-hop’s case for hip-hop. These songs are New York Times-approved: they’re recognizable as psalms, jeremiads, laments, and exaltations present in other kinds of music.

There’s very little of the wanton celebration of violence that Orlando Patterson finds (and maybe plays up) in the hip-hop canon. There’s materialism, set against

o maybe this is “respectable” music, in the bad sense of politics of respectability. But we know that it’s popular music, with mainstream acclaim, and it tells a forty-year story of musicians’ introspection.

Photo of the hip-hop collective Odd Future. Credit: Terry Richardson.

By the Way • August 4, 2014

Ai Weiwei, China’s Artist/Enemy #1

Not perhaps since Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet Gulag has there been a dissenting artist who got to be as famous as the government that hounds him. But Ai Weiwei’s situation is one-of-a-kind.He’s a scathing ...

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Not perhaps since Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet Gulag has there been a dissenting artist who got to be as famous as the government that hounds him. But Ai Weiwei’s situation is one-of-a-kind.He’s a scathing oppositionist who argues with me that China’s moral, natural, aesthetic, philosophical and family foundations have been “completely destroyed.” At the same time he is a celebrity, the virtual mayor of an industrial district in Beijing that’s become a thriving village of modern painters, sculptors, studios and galleries.

At one cheerful turn in our gab, he’s reminding me about the Chinese gift for breaking rules, for thinking outside the box, for double thinking, even under Communism: “Yeah, that’s the culture. Chinese are quite intelligent, witty, and create their own liberal space. Even in very extreme conditions, they still can achieve some kind of happiness or self, some kind of confidence, so that makes Chinese culture very different from others.”

Images courtesy of the Hirshhorn Gallery (copyright Ai Weiwei). 

Ai Weiwei is China’s official scare-word and favorite non-person. He’s what Solzhenitsyn called a “second government.” But let’s remember: the embattled democrat and artist of ideas was a star consultant in the design of the “bird’s nest” stadium built for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He sees himself naturally as a leader and a patriot. He’s mastered what people say is a very Chinese use of paradox and contradiction. He refers to his testing of the limits as a kind of performance art.

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We met his wary sort of humor and warmth on the way into his walled garden. He parks his bicycle at the gate with a basket full of fresh flowers as a greeting each morning to the government spies who ‘mind’ him and who, it turns out, took our picture on the way out.

Ai Weiwei SpyFor almost an hour the conversation flew around a big table in the traffic of Ai Weiwei’s studio. Maybe the worst disaster in China, he said, is the flood of migrant workers out of farm villages into cities where they have dangerous jobs, small pay, no benefits and no residency rights – no rights to city schools, for example, for their kids. “This is just modern slavery” for the migrants, said Ai Weiwei. For the broken families left behind, it’s a desolation.

He says our friend the novelist Yu Hua is “absolutely right” about the continuity between Mao’s brainwashing Cultural Revolution and the booming Market Revolution today. The key links, he concurred, are violence, lying propaganda, and a tiny monopoly of political power. Just off the high-speed train from Shanghai, I confessed I was dazzled by the smooth ride at 300 kpm and by the orderly green abundance in the farmlands. “Wouldn’t this government be good for – say – Egypt?” I asked. But he’s heard the line that China is developing faster than Brazil, or India, or Egypt, and he’s not impressed. “How do you give young people hope, imagination and creativity,” he asked. “Those are the inner structures I think a lot and worry about.” As we wrapped up, he said I’d made him sound like a complainer, just a critic. We could have talked about the weather, he said, “or food, or sex.” Next time we will.

And what did I take away? Mainly gratitude to this brave man for his stubborn, almost fearless attachment to the soul questions: he’s reminding us all what it costs to stand out as an individual, and for a society to stay free, alive, critical, human.

May 15, 2014

Chasing the Dream: Arts School

Show biz is center stage next in our higher ed series: Two venerable private art schools in Boston's Back Bay—Emerson College and the Berklee College of Music—are booming, if you can believe your eyes. Both have built major gleaming signature buildings in the Back Bay. Emerson has a satellite campus in Hollywood. Berklee is teaching in China and has a campus in Valencia. More students are chasing the dream and mastering a craft, under a load of debt, with maybe fewer job prospects. Where's the line between chasing a dream and betting on a bubble?
Dealing in Dreams
Chris Cooper & Marianne Leone: Becoming Actors
Art-School Advice: To Go or Not To Go?

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Guest List

• Roger Brown, president of Berklee College of Music.

• Lee Pelton, president of Emerson College.

• Chris Cooper & Marianne Leone Cooper, local stars: he an Academy Award winner, she a Sopranos regular and memoirist.

Show biz is center stage next in our higher ed series: Two venerable private art schools in Boston’s Back Bay — Emerson College and the Berklee College of Music — are booming, if you can believe your eyes. Both have built major gleaming signature buildings close to downtown. Emerson has a satellite campus in Hollywood. Berklee is teaching in China and has a campus in Valencia. More students are chasing the dream and mastering a craft, under a load of debt, with maybe fewer job prospects. But where’s the line between chasing a dream and betting on a bubble?

Harvard’s Helen Vendler, the preeminent poetry critic, is pushing the arts, period. At Harvard and everywhere, she wants to advise admissions officers about the value of creative talent. Would T. S. Eliot, Buckminster Fuller, Matt Damon, and Adrienne Rich have a tough time getting into Harvard today, as in fact they did back in the day? Today, Vendler says, “We need to mute our praise for achievement and leadership at least to the extent that we utter equal praise for inner happiness, reflectiveness, and creativity; and we need to invent ways in which our humanities students are actively recruited for jobs suited to their talents and desires.”

Who’s dreaming here? There’s a reason so many students chase finance: it pays, and many young people leave school in serious debt. At what cost to the students? And to expressive arts? And to our national culture and our reputation?

This week our reading list takes the form of advice from the artists, and a provocative speech from our guest, Lee Pelton, “Can Higher Ed Save Itself?

Below, Duke Ellington and Herb Pomeroy at Berklee College of Music in 1957.

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Podcast • January 22, 2014

D.T. Max on David Foster Wallace’s Boston

It was David Foster Wallace’s fine biographer D. T. Max who remarked to me months ago that the Boston dimensions of Wallace and his masterpiece Infinite Jest had not been taken in. Spot on, I ...

It was David Foster Wallace’s fine biographer D. T. Max who remarked to me months ago that the Boston dimensions of Wallace and his masterpiece Infinite Jest had not been taken in. Spot on, I realized. The Wallace I met and interviewed (fumblingly, I’m afraid) in 1996 when Infinite Jest appeared seemed lost somewhere between his midwestern beginnings and the oceanic anxieties, addictions, hunger and general weirdness of our times. But Max prompted me to read Infinite Jest all over again, and of course he’s right: the book is a map of the hospital hilltop in Brighton; of Prospect Street in Cambridge between Inman and Central Squares; of Harvard Square and McLean Hospital; of the fashionably seedy precincts, then and now, of Somerville on the edge of East Cambridge. So I asked D. T. Max — the New Yorker staff writer who contributed that memorable obituary profile — who Wallace was after all, and what persuaded Max himself to undertake a serious biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story.

David is the author of his time who has the fairest chance to be read 50 years from now… I really feel the way David touched the themes of the 1990s – themes of addiction and excessive entertainment in American culture have become even more outstanding and  more relevant to most of us, and when you reread Infinite Jest today – it’s really a novel that’s fundamentally about television and video, but you read it today and you think you’re reading a novel about the Internet.

D. T. Max with Chris Lydon at M.I.T., Spring 2013

 

Podcast • January 22, 2013

Coffee Hour on Cairo: A Collective Work of Art

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Barbara Massaad (32 min, 15 meg) Revolutions are not born of chance but of necessity. A revolution is a return from the fictitious to the real. It happens ...

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Barbara Massaad (32 min, 15 meg)

Revolutions are not born of chance but of necessity. A revolution is a return from the fictitious to the real. It happens because it had to happen…

Victor Hugo, in the thick of the people’s revolt in Paris in 1832, in Les Miserables, the prized Norman Denny translation, Penguin edition, p. 720.

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Mark Fonseca Rendeiro and I are comparing impressions here of our “conversational immersion” in Cairo toward the end of last year. At the two-year mark, the Egyptian “revolution” is still young by the measure of the 18th Century models in France and America. To have felt the paroxysm of people power in Tahrir Square again last month is to know that nothing about the upheaval in Egypt is “over.” Charles Dickens prepared us, of course, to see flashes of paradox in these “best of times” and “worst of times” when history comes unhinged. We saw chapters of a very dark story, the evidence of horrific injuries and cruel losses of life, and revelations of deep old distortions in Egyptian society, also in American policy. We also got close to a lot of thrilling stories of the shit people won’t take; of blind courage and human intuition of the moment to act, to put their dignity and their lives on the line.

The rockets of big news as soon as we got to Cairo were astonishing: the mighty renewal of mass protest in Tahrir Square; the Israeli descent, guns blazing, on defenseless Gaza; the gruesome, preventable train-bus collision that dragged 51 Egyptian children to excruciating death; President Mohamed Morsi’s reach for dictatorial power; then the popular ratification of a pot-luck constitution… We’d come looking for reflections and connections and found them, too. Mark puts it forcefully here. American-born, with lively roots in today’s Portugal, he’s an esteemed solo practitioner of digital journalism, based in Amsterdam. In Egypt he came to realize “I was amongst family and people I could relate to — and a struggle that doesn’t seem so alien to me.”

Here’s the kernel of it for me. I went looking for artists to reflect on events in Egypt. I came back thinking of the ongoing mass revolt in Tahrir Square as, in itself, more like a work of art than anything else. It marks a moment of desperate insight into “the real” (in Victor Hugo’s sense above) and contagious courage in facing it. I was making a connection (before Greg Buchakjian mentioned it) with Picasso’s Guernica. It’s not a peaceful picture. It is a sustained cry from a tortured imagination of blind fury, doubt, agony and decision. It represents an inspired stab in the dark — not by Picasso in the case of Tahrir Square but by a million or more people scared reckless. It was something more than a political event: more like a communal birth, or death, an organic explosion. It seemed to speak for the whole species, a resolution “to act,” in Tony Judt‘s phrase, “upon our intuitions of impending catastrophe.” I kept thinking: what if a million goats had shown up in Tahrir Square? Or a million earthworms? Or a million Glossy Ibises? We would still be looking up in wonder. We’d know: they’re saying something! They’re on to something we haven’t seen clearly and they don’t spell all the way out. But in truth, as Mark says, the brave mobs in Tahrir Square are our close cousins, voicing pain and fear that billions of people know — under tyranny, in extreme poverty, under a mortal threat to their habitat and ours, to our common future as human beings. We will not forget that uncanny resonance of Tahrir Square — the aura of a collective work of art.

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Podcast • January 1, 2013

Khaled Hafez: Art and Revolution in Egypt

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Khaled Hafez (12 min, 5.6 meg)CAIRO — Khaled Hafez — charismatic painter and multi-media artist, in his regular Friday salon or master class with most of a dozen ...

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Khaled Hafez (12 min, 5.6 meg)

CAIRO — Khaled Hafez — charismatic painter and multi-media artist, in his regular Friday salon or master class with most of a dozen students and colleagues — strikes me off the bat as one of those best friends I’ve never met before. “Aha,” I’m thinking: “This is the man I came to see.”

Khaled Hafez with a few of his studio colleagues in Cairo.  From left, Fatma Sabry, Osama A'Moneim, Taghrid Al Sabban and Ahmed El Shaer.  Mark Rendeiro Photo

Khaled Hafez with a few of his studio colleagues in Cairo. From left, Fatma Sabry, Osama A’Moneim, Taghrid Al Sabban and Ahmed El Shaer. Mark Rendeiro Photo

We called this venture in North Africa “Arab Artists in a Revolution” for all the obvious reasons: that novelists, architects, poets, musicians and painters might each tell us some original truth in the turmoil, something beyond politics and the news cycle. Suddenly Khaled Hafez is driving the point several jumps ahead. Here’s what I’ve been seeing, what you can see in the slide show below:

Art, imagination and expressive freedom still set the pulse of Tahrir Square two winters after the revolt that broke a 30-year dictatorship. That 18-day siege, at grave risk to lives and limbs of hundreds of thousands of citizens without a leader or a plan, makes sense only now as a kind of collective artistic breakthrough: one giant stab in the dark by people at the end of their wits, at the edge of both madness and inspiration. Further, the art and artists that crucially defined the event — in graffiti, Facebook photos and slogans, videos, urban murals still freshened continually overnight — are a peculiar fusion of digital media and Egyptian tradition: we’re seeing tomb paintings at Twitter speed. I was afraid of discovering mere local adaptations of Western hip-hop, rap, comedy, and other imported forms, but how little I knew. Ganzeer’s “wounded cat”— a version of the common Cairo street cat, but equally of Egypt’s sacred symbol of freedom and wary survival — is but one genius instance of a tremendous revival of an Egyptian aesthetic. It is context of all the public cartooning, painting as narrative, pictographs and ideograms, storytelling art in which brush-strokes are not highly refined and painterly process is not the point at all. The art of this revolution, derived straight from mankind’s first paintings and oldest “viral” story-telling tricks, may be the means of keeping the emergency fresh through President Morsi’s ups and downs and long afterward.

Podcast • November 7, 2012

Nadia Khiari’s “Willis in Tunis”: Born Again in Revolution

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Nadia Khiari (7 min, 5.1 meg)TUNIS — Nadia Khiari is considering my question: what’s the artist’s job in a revolution? She was a successful French-schooled painter when the ...

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Nadia Khiari (7 min, 5.1 meg)

TUNIS — Nadia Khiari is considering my question: what’s the artist’s job in a revolution? She was a successful French-schooled painter when the “Jasmin Revolution” caught fire in Tunisia in January last year. Her graffiti and political cartoons have gone viral on the Web since then, in the voice of her cat, “Willis in Tunis.” She has stopped painting altogether.

“For me it’s not a job. It’s a freedom. Like I’m being born. Before the revolution, I was a zombie. I think, but I cannot express myself. So I didn’t feel like I was alive. With the revolution I was born, like a baby. My first screaming was my drawing. And now for me its a revolution in my art, totally. I can finally express myself and say what I think and criticize the government. For me I can finally do my passion: cartoons.”

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis” – Born Again in Revolution from BicycleMark on Vimeo.

“Willis in Tunis” claws at the Islamist Ennahdhu party that dominates the new parliament elected last fall. Nadia doubts the government’s sincerity and its competence, but not that the revolution is still moving. “It’s not finished, it’s the beginning… We all have to learn what is democracy, how to have democracy in our own families — the father, the mother, the children, and then in the country. We lived 50 years in a dictatorship, so we will not learn in one year what is freedom of speech, what is freedom of mind, what is freedom of women. We are building it. It will take time. I am optimistic.”

Nadia is making connections (as Amin Maalouf did) between families and nations in the inner life of this “Arab Spring,” coming up on its second anniversary. “I know in my family, I had restrictions. My education was strict, but I knew that my family loved me. In this situation now the government wants to put restrictions, but I don’t think they love me…”

Will Tunisians fight for their freedom if it’s tested? “Yes, sure. You know, freedom is something so incredible. We all discover it. From one day to the other we were totally free and we could speak in the streets, in the cafe, of political things, and criticize the government and everything. And it is so good. So it will be very, very difficult to take it back. I don’t think — if they want — they could close our mouth…”

We thank her, and she shouts “Banzai!” as if to say, Hurrah for the Revolution.

Podcast • April 3, 2012

Daisy Rockwell and the Iconography of Terror

Daisy Rockwell is making sport with the icons of terror, rattling the cage of images we’re in. She’s a painter who tweets — who’s becoming famous and controversial for her artful irreverence online and her ...

Daisy Rockwell is making sport with the icons of terror, rattling the cage of images we’re in. She’s a painter who tweets — who’s becoming famous and controversial for her artful irreverence online and her written commentary in The Little Book of Terror. In her studio in Lebanon, New Hampshire, I’m looking and listening and feeling, finally — Bravo! Shame on us if we can’t take the joke.

Daisy Rockwell is a portraitist whose subjects are dead, generally remembered for mug-shot images. One of her takes on Saddam Hussein is a painter’s improvisation on a news photo of the late Iraqi dictator in the hands of American dentists. “He wasn’t actually wearing that clownish nightgown; I just put that in there. But the rest of it is truthful,” she says, reconsidering “a masterful piece of propaganda” in the original that said: we’re giving him the best dental care in the world! with the coded message that we’re torturing him. He’s getting a root canal, she supposes, “with a little too little anesthesia.”

Her painting of Osama Bin Laden’s death mask draws on her fascination with the gruesome beauty of medieval Italian paintings — of crucifixions and beheadings. “I was interested in the idea that pictures of people in death are seen differently depending on who’s looking: to some people it might be triumphant blood lust, to others it’s a scene of martyrdom.” Daisy Rockwell’s last glimpse of OBL suggests a Russian icon — if not of a saint, perhaps of a wan old man waving a helpless goodbye at a killer force of US Navy Seals who will riddle him with bullets and dump him in the sea. It’s a commentary on overkill.

For many Americans it has taken the horror story of Army Sergeant Robert Bales in Afghanistan last month to focus the point that we ask such different questions about “our” killing sprees and “theirs.” When one of our own (“Our Bobby” back in hometown Ohio) runs amok and wastes 16 unarmed Afghan villagers, our serious media show us his high-school yearbook and query whether a good soldier was unhinged by drink or grief or too many tours of duty, or “just snapped.” A raggedy-bearded Muslim terrorist, or suspect, can be classified by his picture alone as a religious maniac, a hater, a personification of evil. Daisy Rockwell’s modest project is to apply concentrated curiosity, imagination and a certain bleak humor to every face she studies. “I look as hard as I can at somebody. I have to get to know them. My research findings are the painting. What you see is what I got out of it.”

In the sometimes fierce reactions to her work, it’s is part of the story that Daisy inherited both her name and a gift for iconic imagery from her grandfather. Norman Rockwell is remembered for enshrining mid-century American contentment and small-town goodness in the brilliant anecdotes he painted on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Daisy is dug in against the grain of a different era, maybe a different country. Looking at her story-telling brushwork, I feel both continuity and defiance. But then Daisy suggests with a laugh that we knew all along that Norman Rockwell — the man his analyst Erik Erikson said “painted his happiness, but did not live it” — was not quite as simple as the stories he told.

There’s more continuity than even I would originally have thought. I paint portraits. I’m interested in the Zeitgeist — that kind of thing… Norman Rockwell is hugely symbolic in American culture. His name is an adjective. People say: ‘oh, they have such a Norman Rockwell family.’ In fact I was in the locker room of the gym shortly after Christmas and I heard a woman say: ‘Every year I invite my family over the holidays and I expect Norman Rockwell’s family. But instead they come.’ And then she said on second thought as she walked away, ‘but then I expect his family was just as bad.’ … I’m not being a disloyal grandchild by painting terrorists. I’m just looking at the imagery we’re being presented and questioning it.

Daisy Rockwell with Chris Lydon in Lebanon, New Hampshire. March 26, 2012

Norman Rockwell’s Post cover ‘Freedom from Fear’ 1943