write your editor
Post #302 • June 18, 2004, 3:55 PM • 10 Comments
Omar Sommereyns' review of the "three painters" show at Dorsch ("Three's a Crowd," June 11) was brought to my attention because the artists -- Alex Di Pietra, Lucas R. Blanco, and George Bethea -- are, or were, my students. The most common criticism of Bethea's paintings is that they are too much like those of Matisse and the Fauvists of the early 20th century. There are, in fact, strong similarities, including Bethea's sure-handed and highly evolved use of bright, rich, eccentric color.
The criticism of Bethea's paintings by Sommereyns -- he calls them "nauseatingly imbued in radiant color," "tacky, often slapdash oil compositions" -- is strikingly similar to the criticism Matisse and the Fauves got 100 years ago. What bothers me is not that this critic can't see -- we are used to that, especially in Miami -- but that he seems ignorant of, or at best indifferent to, these obvious parallels.
Mr. Sommereyns and I have been communicating privately, and it happens that he is entirely aware of modern French painting and has seen much of it in person. He saw the parallels between Bethea's work and Fauvism, but didn't remark on them largely because of space constraints (his 300-word piece was edited down to 209) and because he felt the reference would be lost on Street's target audience, which is not an unreasonable assumption. It was remiss of me not to suggest those reasons myself in the course of standing up for him - out of my three pieces last week, I lost fifty words off of two of them, and in general I try not to refer to other artists unless nothing else will do.
The 300-word review is a new format to me; I was used to writing whatever length I wanted online and for Accent Miami, and at the Miami New Times I had up to 800 words or so. A full arts feature at Street caps at 600 words. At half that, it is nearly impossible not to sound glib, if not downright snide. 200 or 250 words, from a critical standpoint, is either haiku or a drive-by shooting, depending on your viewpoint.
It's consummately self-serving of me to suggest it, but if you'd like to see more art criticism in the papers down here, you should be writing letters like Professor Bannard's to the editors of Street, the Herald, and the New Times. Editors estimate their readership of a given topic by how much feedback they get. If they got a bag of mail or the electronic equivalent about everything they ran, they would run more. Please consider it.