Rights of Membership At The Art Students League

SKUNK: Markand Thakar

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Well folks, the last meeting at the Art Students League was, as usual, much more interesting than watching the grass grow.

Aside from the self-serving, long-winded, tedious, uninterrupted speechifying by members of the Board and administration, we were treated to the self-serving, long-winded, tedious, uninterrupted speechifying by a few of the members. One was a life-long student, known for his bellowing voice spouting what sounds like inanities. One was an instructor known for his self-promoting support of a democracy-doesn't-count admistration - much like that of Mussolini's that had the trains running on time. And one was a superannuated, physically-larger (but not as rich) doppelganger of our self-righteous, ego-centric, wealthy mayor.

The superannuated doppelganger was the only member present who had something to say that made sense. He complained that, although he was running for office as a member of the Board of Control, he was not able to obtain a list of the names of the League's membership - which, if the Board had no fear of being unseated - this from positions that can not offer any reward other than that of being an unpaid, working member of the Board of Control of the Art Students League of New York.

This is, of course, idealism. But without idealism, there'd be no Art Students League - nor would there be any reason for an intelligent individual to attempt to be an artist. According to the League's Constitution, it expects that all but four members of the Board would be artists - with the remaining four required to be current students. The League is supposed to be an organization comprised of real artists and students who are intent on becoming real artists. With few exceptions, anyone with the intellect allowing him or her to be capable of being an artist could surely take home a better income if involved in just about any other field. So, since money shouldn't be the reason, why are the members of the Board so fearful of allowing other members of the League to have access to the membership list - thereby enabling them (and all members are qualified to be elected to the Board) to have access to the membership for their votes - which is a basic requisite for a democratically functioning organization - which the League is organized to be?

Surely it can't be due to the many multi-tens of thousands of dollars that are charged to the League through their and the administration's use of credit or debit cards - or due to the equally mysterious miscellaneous, petty-cash expenses - that causes the Board to insist on holding on to their non-paying jobs as Board members. There must be another reason - one that can stand the light of day for their refusing to give a list of the membership to a person running for office at the League - and for the accountant no longer detailing the petty cash (that's not that petty) that should show up on the Treasurer's Report.

Moreover, in the face of these puzzling expenses it does cause one to question the logic for the administration's tacking on special fees to be paid by the members for attending the members' sketch class -- fees that have never been seen in the past. Surely they aren't being assessed in order to finance the lucrative miscellaneous expenses or salary increases for the admistration.

Should the superannuated doppelganger really want to return the League to its former status as America's major art school and organization, it is suggested that he and his lawyer (who he attempted to seat at the meeting) make a thorough search of the financial doings there - in an effort to satisfy his apparent distrust of what's going on there. He may very well find that their shortcomings are simply those exhibited by all politicians: incompetence, an involvement in the great American hobby, greed - or a lack of true interest in the welfare of their constituents - in this case the League's membership: students, artists and instructors. This, SKUNK believes is the case, rather than anything illegal

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Photographers Are Smart

Recently, I had cause to allow a painting of mine to be photographed - so that it could be reproduced on a canvas, at 25% greater than its actual dimensions. This was being done so it could be displayed in a bar that I currently frequent. It's possible to place original works in many public spaces and not worry about the work being stolen or damaged. But in the kind of bars that I prefer to frequent: those that allow for the clientele to freely circulate, the possibility of damage is far too great to risk displaying an original work. Accordingly, since the bar in question is owned by two acquaintances who have undertaken the task of maintaining the bar in the East Village pretty-much the way it has been since the 1980's, I allowed a painting of mine: Rocky Mountain Flood Gates, to be photographed and then enlarged to a point that it could respectfully replace a relatively small copy of Picasso's great painting, Guernica - that had once hung on its most prominent wall..

This is when SKUNK came to the realization that photographers were very smart people. In a recent issue of the New Yorker, I came across two full page photo-portraits - and each had the name of the photographer prominently placed at the bottom of the page. In the same issue there was a full page painted portrait of Polanski - and no attribution (name of the artist) could be seen. At the same time, in an issue in the New York Times, a photo of Hoving, who had recently died, was shown as he, from an angle, looked at a large painting of a nude.

The photographer and Hoving were named - but not the artist who did the painting which gave the photo its importance.

The moral of the story is - that photographers are, if not just smarter, more astute in furthering their profession than artists. So, between the lack of respect shown towards artists, art students and instructors at the League and the denigration of artists in favor of photographers - perhaps it would be wise to drop one's brushes and buy a camera.

Painint: Rocky Mountain Flood Gates
Rocky Mountain Flood Gates - Markand Thakar 1929.
(At a bar called Sophie's - in East Village)

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