A Utah-based artist has published a painting on his website that shows a grim President Obama holding a copy of the U.S. Constitution in flames. Apparently it's causing a bit of a stir. Here's the caption I would put on the illustration:
"A concerned President Obama, former constitutional law professor, points to the document's destruction."
That's close to being the exact opposite of the description illustrator Jon McNaughton put on his painting, since reports say he wants Obama to be soundly defeated for reelection in the fall. But mine certainly fits the picture that he painted.
The painting is junk (yes, junk) not because its style is realist or anti-Modern or the image is pandering or inflammatory (you should pardon the expression). The primary reason McNaughton's painting is a flop is simply that conflicting interpretations can be credibly applied to an image whose only function is to illustrate one idea. The artist has been quoted as saying that he "wanted to get the message across as clearly as I could." He failed.
For David Bohnett, the technology entrepreneur, philanthropist and chairman of the L.A. Philharmonic, Wednesday is a big night. With his guest Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the L.A. Phil, he'll be attending a White House state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron.
We hope Bohnett remembered to pack his tux, though this wonky blog post from Washington Post tells us this isn't technically a state dinner, which is reserved purely for heads of state (that would be Queen Elizabeth), but rather an official dinner. Either way, we remain impressed and jealous that Bohnett will be serenaded by a live performance from the PM-selected British folk group Mumford & Sons and Obama favorite John Legend.
The full guest list for the dinner -- which will be held in a tent Wednesday night on the South Lawn -- has yet to be revealed but a few invitees have gushed their exciting news to the press, including Damian Lewis from "Homeland" and Hugh Bonneville, the earl of Grantham from "Downton Abbey" fame. Bohnett, Borda and the other guests will be dining on a British-American menu, including the main course, Bison Wellington, made from buffalo tenderloin from North Dakota.
President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget, released Monday, calls for a 5% increase in spending for three cultural grantmaking agencies and three Washington, D.C., arts institutions.
Obama aims to boost outlays from $1.501 billion to $1.576 billion, encompassing the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Gallery of Art.
The arts and humanities endowments each would get a 5.5% boost, to $154.255 million -- nearly restoring cuts announced in December. But if Congress approves the president’s proposal for the fiscal year that begins in October 2012, the NEA and NEH will still be well short of the $167.5 million each was set to receive before two separate rounds of cuts instigated by Congressional Republicans during 2011.
Obama is proposing $231.9 million for IMLS, a $439,000 reduction.
The Smithsonian Institution, by far the heavy hitter of federal cultural spending, would receive $856.8 million -- a 3.7% hike for its operating budget, which would rise to $660.3 million, and a 12.3% increase in capital expenditures, to $196.5 million. The biggest capital expense would be $85 million, to continue construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Actor Al Pacino, pianist Andre Watts, visual artists Will Barnet and Martin Puryear and art philanthropist Emily Rauh Pulitzer are among the winners of the 2011 National Medal of Arts, to be bestowed Monday by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.
Also announced Friday were winners of the National Humanities Medal -- including classical music scholar Charles Rosen.
The ceremonies will be streamed live Monday at 10:45 a.m. (Pacific) on the White House website.
Pacino, famed for wide-ranging film and stage roles that include the sympathetic gay bank robber of “Dog Day Afternoon,” mob boss Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” trilogy, and Shakespeare’s Shylock and King Richard III, is being cited for his “signature intensity” and as “an enduring and iconic figure, who came of age in one of the most exciting decades of American cinema, the 1970s.”
Watts, who is not expected to attend the ceremony, according to the White House, is being recognized as “a perennial favorite with the most celebrated orchestras and conductors around the world,” his performances marked by “superb technique and passionate intensity.”
Barnet, a New York City painter and printmaker who turned 100 last year, was cited for “nuanced and graceful depictions of family and personal scenes” that are “meticulously constructed of flat planes that reveal a lifelong exploration of abstraction, expressionism and geometry.”
“Smash” Midnight, Thursday Bravo; G4; Oxygen; Style; midnight Thursday/Friday USA; and 12:30 a.m., Thursday/Friday E!; 10 p.m., Saturday NBC: A replay of the pilot episode: Successful writers Julia and Tom team up with producer Eileen to create a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe; Ivy, a seasoned chorus singer, competes with a new actress, Karen, for the starring role.
“Michael Feinstein's American Songbook” 9 p.m., Friday KOCE: Lost and Found: An undocumented song is located; unpublished song by composer Jerry Herman.
“Michael Feinstein's American Songbook” 10 p.m., Friday KOCE: Best Band in the Land: Popular songs promote patriotism during World War II; history of big bands of the 1940s, USO shows, V-disks, and war-bond rallies.
“Movie: Brooklyn Boheme” (2011) 10:30 a.m., Saturday Showtime: Historian Nelson George paints a portrait of the black arts movement that exploded in Fort Greene from the mid-1980s through the '90s.
“Soul Mates: Dr. Maya Angelou & Common” 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., Sunday BET: Hip-hop artist Common; Angelou honored by President Obama.
“The Artist: The Making of a Hollywood Love Story” 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Sunday NBC: The story behind the love letter to film fans.
“Land of the Dragon” 3:30 p.m., Sunday KCET: Architecture of China : Modern skyscrapers stand next to preserved buildings that are hundreds of years old. (Part 1 of 2)
“Real Life 101” 4:30 p.m., Sunday KCAL: The Salvador Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Good Evening Ev'rybody: In Celebration of Louis Armstrong” 7 p.m., Sunday KVCR: At the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival, legendary musician Satchmo performs songs that include “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello, Dolly.”
“BET Honors 2012” 9 p.m., Monday and 10 p.m., Wednesday BET: At the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Spike Lee, the Tuskegee Airmen, Beverly Kearney receive honors for contributions to their respective fields; host Gabrielle Union.
“Smash”10 p.m., Monday NBC: “Callbacks” Ivy and Karen work to please the director as they pursue their dream role; Julia and Frank struggle with the adoption process; Eileen works to finance the musical.
Should replicas of destroyed sculptures be in a museum show?
-- Compiled by Ed Stockly
Photo: Maya Angelou. Credit: Jose Luis Magana /Associated Press
A baldly racist depiction of First Lady Michelle Obama that appeared Tuesday on a right-wing website is based on a 1775 portrait of Marie Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty (1740-1786). The full-length painting hangs outside Paris in the Palace of Versailles.
The Internet image grafts Obama's face onto Gautier-Dagoty's lavish depiction of the French queen, dressed in full regalia. It also replaces the draped left arm of the young monarch, then barely 20, with a muscular black arm and shifts the position of the right hand to place it in front of a world globe.
The caricature of Obama as a profligate queen relies on the racist stereotype of an "uppity Negro," which emerged among slave masters in an earlier American era. Obama, born into a working-class Chicago family whose roots are traced to the pre-Civil War South, graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, prior to holding several high-level positions in the academic and private sectors.
The racist image appeared Tuesday on the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit; the slur was later called out by Media Matters for America. A post by Gateway blogger Jim Hoft paired the picture with a clip of the first lady's guest appearance on a forthcoming episode of "iCarly," a Nickelodeon sit-com. In the script, Obama commends the cast for their support of military families. Responding to a cast member who mistakenly addresses her as "your excellency," the script has Obama jokingly reply, "I kinda like it."
The doctored painting also turned up in August 2010 on the right-wing Instapundit website, where it apparently originated.
Even in Alaska, Sarah Palin's popularity has plummeted. In October the Wall Street Journal reported that the number of people in her home state holding a positive view of Palin had fallen to 29%. Ever since her 2009 resignation from the governorship, halfway through her first term, Palin's full-time job has been self-promotion. She's got books, personal appearances and reality TV shows to sell. So the polling collapse is no doubt nerve-racking.
What to do? The Republican presidential-nomination circus has sucked all the publicity air out of the room, and Palin has virtually disappeared from public view.
Well, kicking a dog in public will certainly get you back in the limelight. That's what happened this week when Palin complained that the illustration on the official White House Christmas card featured Bo, the Obama family's Portuguese water dog. It's doubtful whether dog-bashing will do much to make people like you more, but ink and blog posts are guaranteed.
The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities each will see a 5.6% budget reduction in fiscal 2012 under a spending bill passed Friday in the House that's expected to prevent a feared government shutdown.
Under the bill, each agency would have $146.3 million to spend during the budget year that began in October, down from $155 million. It's the second cut this year for the two grant-making agencies, which began 2011 with budgets of $167.5 million. The combined cuts now total 12.7%.
Americans for the Arts, the national advocacy group that lobbies to maximize arts spending -– or at least to minimize arts-spending cuts -– said that $146.3 million is what President Obama had penciled in in his original budget proposal for the NEA and the NEH, representing a compromise between the $155 million suggested by the Senate and the $135 million proposed by the House during earlier subcommittee negotiations over the budget.
The Senate passed the spending bill Saturday morning, and it now moves to President Obama for his signature.
When the Obamas wanted an artist to create their annual holiday greeting card, they turned to someone whose work they knew and trusted. Mark Matuszak is an artist, illustrator and concept designer based in Los Angeles who has worked for the first family before, creating illustrations for the White House interior design.
Matuszak said in a phone interview Thursday that he was contacted a few months ago by the White House social secretary, who asked him to create this year's holiday card.
"They wanted to do an inside shot, something home related," said Matuszak. One idea was to focus on Bo, the Obama family dog. "So we thought, let's put Bo in front of a fireplace."
Matuszak said the holiday card is the White House's first to be completely digitally designed. (In the past, he said, presidential holiday cards were based on photos, watercolor paintings or other analog forms.) The artist said he researched images of Bo and then created the original design using Photoshop.
The image, seen above, places Bo in front of the fireplace in the White House library with a poinsettia and other decorations. The inside of the card features the presidential seal along with a holiday greeting: "From our family to yours, may your holidays shine with the light of the season."
The card is signed by the President and first lady, their daughters, Malia and Sasha, as well as Bo, the family's Portuguese water dog.
Matuszak said he has worked as a concept artist in various fields throughout his career. Originally from Pennsylvania, the 47-year-old artist resides in the Hollywood Hills. Here's a full view of the Obama holiday greeting card...
"The View" 10 a.m. Thursday, ABC: Harry Connick Jr. and a performance from "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever."
"Great Performances" 7 p.m. Thursday, noon and 6 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: "Jackie Evancho: Dream With Me in Concert": Jackie Evancho's solo concert supports her first full-length album, "Dream With Me."
"Rick Steves' Europe" 7:30 p.m. Thursday, KLCS: Rome: Baroque, After Dark : A tour of Rome includes a pilgrimage to Michelangelo's Pieta, St. Peter's Basilica and the Borghese Gallery.
"Great Performances: Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park" 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: The Italian tenor performs classical favorites and his popular signature songs.
"Christmas in Washington 2011" 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Friday, TNT: Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and The Band Perry perform in the annual holiday concert at the National Building Museum in Washington.
"Great Performances: 'The Little Mermaid' from San Francisco Ballet" 9 p.m. Friday, KOCE: The San Francisco Ballet performs Hans Christian Anderson's classic fable.
"Absolutely Irish!" 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Sunday and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, KCET: Traditional Irish music from the Irish Arts Center in New York. With special guests Mike Rafferty and Jo McNamara.
"Dudu Fisher: In Concert From Israel" 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, KCET: Singer Dudu Fisher performs Broadway tunes and Israeli songs.
"Live From Lincoln Center" Noon Sunday, KOCE: More than 150 dancers and musicians of the New York City Ballet perform George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker."
"Soulful Symphony With Darin Atwater: Song in a Strange Land" 2 p.m. Monday, KCET: Artistic director Atwater conducts an 85-member orchestra in compositions exhibiting styles ranging through gospel, jazz and symphonic music.
"American Masters" 10 p.m. Monday, KOCE: "Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter": Designers Charles and Ray Eames influence major events and movements in America, from modernism to the rise of the computer age.
"Victor Borge: Comedy in Music!" Noon Tuesday, KOCE: A collection of the pianist/comic's skits features footage from "The Andy Williams Show" and "The Perry Como Show," as well as a performance from the Dwight D. Eisenhower presidential inaugural celebration at the White House.
"Grand Canyon Serenade" 9 p.m. Tuesday, KOCE: A visual tour of the Grand Canyon is set to classical music by Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Dvorak.
"Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant" 7 p.m. Wednesday, KTBN: Holiday celebrations include Christmas music, contemporary inspirational songs by the Chancel Choir and Orchestra and a children's revue.
"Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" 9 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo: "The Big Show" (season finale): The finalists present their collections at Phillips de Pury to see who will be the winner.
"Gallery: The National Museum of the American Indian" 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, KVCR: The unveiling and dedication of the first Smithsonian museum dedicated to American Indians.
-- Compiled by Ed Stockly
Photo: San Francisco Ballet dancers in "The Little Mermaid." Credit: Erik Tomasson / PBS