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In Defense of Art & Artists


In Defense of Art & Artists

Mark Vallen

On August 6, 2015, a highly praised public mural funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities was defaced by a vandal or vandals. Unashamedly, a leading left-wing activist wrote a vile article celebrating the willful destruction of the artwork because it depicts eleven U.S. presidents from Eisenhower to Obama. Then, one of America’s leading “radical” websites published the filthy screed.

What the hell is going on here? Please allow this working artist to fill in the details.


I must confess I didn’t read the article on CD, about the defacing of this mural, I did see the picture. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Vallen. But I defend the right of any web site to publish differing opinions.

A later thought, If this is acceptable, then all such acts are acceptable. I think of the destruction of the Afghanistan Buddhas, the axing of Michelangelo’s Pieta,…


This all sounds pathetically precious… blaming whoever did this as hoodlums and vandals without knowing their thinking. Maybe the author could reflect more on the countless works of art and irreplaceable ageless treasures destroyed in US wars championed by the figures on the mural…
As I understand it, graffiti artists have some sort of respect for each others works. I guess a non-critical display of war criminals just pushed someone too far…


Well…when we’re talking about art, anything goes. For some moments, I thought that the red splotches were part of the painting - some colored leaves stuck on the presidents’ clothes as they strolled through some foliage in the park. This reminds us that our presidents were eco-minded; nothing thrilled them more than a rendezvous with nature.

The red color also serves to warm a painting otherwise dominated by greens and blues, besides echoing the red coat of Mama Ayesha. This could be a psychological cue: no matter who you are, even if you’re POTUS, there’s always a bit of mama in you.

A skeptic might insist, however, that if Vallen’s “vandal” (curious: both words start with a “V”) was serious, then he/she, for the sake of harmony - it’s after all a realist painting - should’ve painted the splotches carefully, and not leaving it to the viewer to guess whether they’re leaves or, umm, splotches. Here, however, we have to invoke what might be termed as artistic license: what’s more dramatic than to give a painting by, say, Holman Hunt, the vigor of a Pollock? Some people might call the splotches “a pot of paint in the public’s face (or crotch),” but the vandal might reply that it took the knowledge of a lifetime to be able to paint like that. Americans are very good at that kind of retorts.

It’s a sunny evening and I’ve nothing else to do …


An excellent comparison to the destruction of the Afghan Buddhas. What is noticeable is how so many people seek to excuse almost anything if it is someone they like doing it or some cause they adhere to. Some things are wrong no matter who does them or to whom.

To hear people excusing this pathetic act is so damn depressing. We’ve cheapened and debased ourselves to the point where we seem unable to respect even a work of art. Whoever did this made us all losers just like them.


I believe an article of the theft of Greece’s Elgin Marbles or the massive theft of the priceless artifacts of Egypt’s Great Pyramids might just be A more important story for the Art World-
Although I don’t condone the paintball vandalism, just maybe there might have been more prolific Americans’ to picture on the side of A restaurant in D.C.- MLK comes to mind…


Now I recall that statue of the ruler of Iraq, that one that got pulled down by the US Marines, you know, the one of that chap Saddam Hussein…that too was art (not the pulling down, but the statue). It took someone a lot of work to make that.That too, was vandalism. Did the author of the article complain? Noooooo!

As for the Elgin marbles; hell, if we Brits hadn’t stolen them they would have been privatised and sold to millionaire bankers by the Germans, either in 1939-45 or now. They are kept in the British Museum for all to see and celebrate Greek culture, preserved from decay by the smog of Athens…


…the building of a crude church by Charles V, I believe of Spain, into the Alhambra, a magical piece of Moslem art.


Where is the Sam Husseini article that this author refers to? It was here on CD yesterday… It can’t be found in the archives either…

When all other avenues of effective public expression of our dissent are stifled and censored - newspapers, websites, apparently on this website, and public wall-murals - do you think any genuinely radical critical public-art message would be allowed on any wall in any US city? Recall what happened to Diego Rivera’s work at Rockefeller Center in the 1930’s, among many other examples. So, what other recourse do we have except what this paintball shooter did? “Make you own art” Yeah, that’s the good capitalist “free enterprise” answer! Frick used to tell the steelworkers working in hellish conditions and pay the same thing. Don’t like it here? Open your own steel mill! Give me a break! Who will ever see such dissident art or be allowed to see it beyond some obscure art space in those run-down pre-gentrification-hipster parts of town?

And to compare this tacky mural what will be painted-over in a few more years when the restaurant closes or the property changed hands, with the Michaengelos work or 2000 year-old UNESCO world heritage site is just ridiculous.

But back to the removal of Husseini’s article - its removal, coincident with the posting of this article criticizing the very same article - with a level vehemence I’ve never seen allowed here on any other topic - is positively Stalinist-Orwellian! Is CD going to airbrush-out people’s faces out next? I had thought CD had changed their ways from the bad old days, but I was made for a chump. I know that my $50 a couple times a year was not much compared to CD’s rich trust-fund-baby donors affiliated with the Democratic party, but it will be no more contributions from me. It does seem that CD has managed to acquire the sort of conservative, comfortable, geriatric, privilege-soaked liberal-elite commenter-ship it wanted all along anyway. That’s it for me folks.

I’ll come back here later today and see if my post is still here - I’m not optimistic.


Furthermore, in a clarification, Mr. Huseini re-posted something he wrote this back in 2009:

…I chatted with the owners of the restaurant, Mama Ayesha’s nephew and his son. They basically said that the DC Arts Commission funded and called the shots on the mural. This is the collapse of art – where government entities in an alleged democracy decide what art gets funded for the greater glory of our esteemed leaders…

So with this in mind - can this mural be considered “art” at all - or just government propaganda?


Do you support Commondreams removal of Hussenni’s article coincident with the publishing this article coincident with it?

What if the property (and artwork) owner decided he or she didn’t like it and not only put some easily reparable paint ball spots on it - but sandblasted or painted it over altogether (in the manner that Rockeller did to Diego Rivera’s beautiful mural at the Rockefeller center). Would this be a violation of the sanctity of art? Why not?


Writer tries to establish the artistic merit of this mural by citing that it was “funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities” and that the painter was “award winning”. As if therefore the painting’s automatically due everyone’s respect.

To me it’s an oversized Hallmark greeting card image of a string of vapidly smiling monsters in suits. To me this is not something I respect as “art”. It’s more like a rubber-stamp applied to a document in an institution.

And writer tries to establish his own qualifications to tell us “what the hell is going on here” by calling himself a “working artist”. And he says the guy who shot up the mural is a “vandal”.

The world is full of people who consider themselves “working artists”. (I’m one too.) In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the guy who shot up this mural considers himself a “working artist”. If he spray-painted his damn name on the thing, or just splashed paint on it randomly to mess it up, I’d consider that vandalism. But he didn’t. It’s obvious to everyone he meant to shoot those genocidal presidents in the balls: a political statement.

To present these presidents on a wall in public with their empty smiles was also a political statement. To me it’s one of denial, a big ugly lie.

So now the wall has become a visual debate. It’s in the public domain, you know? So we should expect public participation and response.

Comparing Cortez’s mural to the Pieta or Afghan Buddhas… umm… At my house we’re snickering and snorting…


Thanks, good comment.


Commondreams.org is “radical”???


I can see the original article at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/08/07/shooting-war-thug-presidents-paint-balls, which I found by searching CD for articles by Husseini. It’s dated 7 Aug and the comments link works.

But indeed if I click on the More News button on the front page, and then scroll through the listings back to Friday August 7, the article does not appear there. So I have to say, EXCUSE ME COMMON DREAMS, BUT WTF R U DOIN??

If you are “censoring” (hiding) Husseini’s article because of the objections of Vallen, I think that is a real disgrace. I’d say “Please say it ain’t so”, but I don’t think we ever get CD editorial responses to comments…


It is also provided as a link within the vitriol-filled current article itself. So they will use that as defense against regarding it as “censorship”.

CD used to have a long history of deleting a lot of commenter posts that were “too left”. It reached its peak in 2008 when any kind of criticism of the senator and presidential candidate Obama resulted in post deletions and summary bannings without explanation. Then, when someone would comment on the disappearance of this person or that following a critical comment - they would be “disappeared” too. I went through a goodly number of user ids back in those days.

But such behavior slowly would down, particularly 2012 onward. With the introduction of this new comment system, those days seemed to have come to an end, and I let bygones be bygones and even started sending donations again…


I’ve investigated further and I now see the original Husseini article is in the archives accessed by the More Views button. So sorry I doubted you, CD, and I’m relieved to see the article has not been hidden away. Apparently I did not quite know what I wuz doin.


As of 10:00 EDT, I still don’t see it. It was originally put up late Wednesday. The other guy’s commentary is in its place.


Here’s what I see: on CD home page, almost all the way down on the right hand side; More Views (note: not More News).
Clicking that link shows me a page headed “Views”.
Scrolling down I see as first (bottom) entry for Weds 12 Aug, Mark Vallen / In Defense of Art & Artists.
Scrolling much further down, back to Fri 7 Aug I see Sam Husseini / On Shooting the ‘War Thug’ Presidents in the (Paint) Balls
Both entries are links, and clicking either leads me to the article, and each article has a link to its comments.

If your experience is different I have no idea what else to say!


So delete your comment then