Archives for posts with tag: People

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All the Internet chatter about Cecilia Gimenez and her botched restoration of a beloved 19th century fresco of Christ’s face, made me think of a related topic — art forgery. I’ve read that many expert art restorers have sidelines as forgers, and I guess the same skill set does come into play. Readers of Patricia Highsmith‘s Ripley books (I’m a huge fan) will remember that sociopathic killer Tom Ripley ends up partially supporting his lavish lifestyle through an art forgery scheme, which plays a major part in Ripley Under Ground (1970).

I love all the books in the series, but as an art lover found Ripley Under Ground particularly engrossing. Patricia Highsmith is an amazing writer — from the first word, the stories just flow, flow, flow. I’ve tried to read her work slowly and carefully to figure out how she achieves her effects, but always get so caught up in the story and characters that I forget I was trying to analyze her craft.

Another interesting discussion of art forgery occurs in the Orson Welles documentary F Is for Fake (1975), which features Elmyr de Hory recounting his exploits as an art forger. The movie pops up on YouTube from time to time and it’s well worth watching.

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Unless you’ve sworn off the news during the past few days, you’re familiar with Cecilia Gimenez, the 81-year-old attempting to shave off a few Purgatory points by doing some good works — in this case, restoring a 19th century fresco of Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.

For the record (and this is why I’m not showing how she ruined the icon), this blog assiduously avoids discussions of religion or politics — that’s not our territory. But I couldn’t resist commenting on this story — there are so many levels and layers to it.

First, it’s a fine example when your children ask, “What does it mean when someone says ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’?”

Second, it shows the value of getting regular eye checkups. I have to wonder if Cecelia Gimenez has cataracts. Before her cataract operation, my mother could not distinguish yellow from white or brown from purple. She had the front door of her house painted a Barney purple, thinking it was “umber” (true story, and I have the photos to prove it!).

Third, I’m wondering if the other parishioners stopped Cecilia Gimenez before she was finished with her work. (You know how messy works-in-progress can look!)

Finally, I feel this story expresses the importance of art education — and why we need to support funding for the arts (hey, that sounds political).

Cecilia Gimenez refuses to repent for her sins (mortal? venial?) and appears belligerent, arrogant, self-satisfied, defiant, and convinced her work is beautiful. Wait a minute. She sounds like most of the artists I know. Welcome to the club, Cecilia!

Articles about this art restoration debacle have swept the Internet — but my favorite is a piece at hyperallergic.com called “Octogenarian Restorer Strikes Again.” The brilliantly written article imagines what Cecilia Gimenez could accomplish if allowed to restore some of the world’s art treasures, including Andy Warhol‘s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor  (below), Munch’s “The Scream,” Van Gogh‘s self-portrait, Vermeer‘s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and Leonardo‘s “Mona Lisa.”

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I have always been a Kurt Vonnegut fan — he was one of the first writers I really, truly, completely loved. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the first thing I did was run out and buy a new copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, then go home and read it from cover to cover without moving from my spot.

For whatever reason — and there were many — this was my response to the horror. I wanted to see how a great artist had dealt with horror (in his case, his presence at the firebombing of Dresden during WWII) and how he had been able to express what had happened.

And then, a miracle. I learned that Kurt Vonnegut would be in Chicago (where I then lived) to give a lecture at the public library (he was in town to accept a literary award) just a few weeks later.

Yes, I was in the same room with Kurt Vonnegut — and he was as wonderful, witty, and warm as you’d imagine. Of course, people in the audience asked what he felt about what had happened on September 11th. I don’t remember exactly what he said. I was overwhelmed with emotion at the time — and could only think of what he’d written in Slaughterhouse-Five:So it goes.”

Thank you, Kurt. Thank you. Thank you. For me, “So it goes” is not a call to complacence, it is a call to live noble lives, despite it all. We will try to follow your fine example. God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

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As we remember Patricia Neal, who passed away on this day in 2010, I’d like to mention that Neal is included in Great American Catholic Eulogies, a wonderful, uplifting book that celebrates the lives of many renowned Americans. Writers and artists featured in the volume include: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Andy Warhol, and Andre Dubus. Award-winning journalist Carol DeChant selected and introduced the eulogies and celebrated author Thomas Lynch wrote the foreword. Find out more about Great American Catholic Eulogies here.

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This Grey Goose Frame Shop window display featuring Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still reminded me of Patricia Neal, who starred in the 1951 movie. Today marks the two-year anniversary of Patricia Neal’s passing. I shot the photo through my passenger window while at a stoplight on LaBrea Avenue.

During a phone interview shortly before her death, Neal recalled working on the film and her admiration for director Robert Wise, even though he chided her for laughing during her rehearsals when saying the famous line: “Klaatu barada nikto.” Neal assured Wise she would deliver the line with solemnity during her performance — and managed to pull it off (though she burst out laughing as soon as the director called “cut”). What a great actress! What a great movie!

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Today marks two years since the passing of Patricia Neal, an Oscar-winning actress I was fortunate to interview  about some of her Hollywood leading men (including Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan). The phone interview occurred just a few months before Neal’s death from lung cancer, but she was warm, witty, and wonderful — and I had no idea she was ill at the time. I feel honored to have been the last person to interview this amazing artist, a true original who will live forever in her brilliant work.

I thought of Patricia Neal yesterday when I drove past the Grey Goose Frame Shop on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, where the windows included a display featuring images and figures from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 1951 film in which Neal starred early in her career.  We had a good laugh over her dialogue in the movie (“Klaatu barada nikto”), which she told me she had trouble saying with a straight face. We will always miss you, Patricia!