Thursday, November 15, 2007
Awards and Opportunities
The recipients of the 2007 Medal of Arts have been announced and Andrew Wyeth heads the list. The actual ceremony takes place today. Obviously, Mr. Wyeth, the greatest living American artist, deserves every accolade possible. I’m surprised that he hadn’t already received a Medal of Arts, but better late than never. However, because of the current political situation in America, I wish Mr. Wyeth would have reconsidered accepting the award from this administration.
My distaste for the Bush administration is crystal clear if you’ve been reading here long enough. Nobody, including Mr. Wyeth, is obligated to agree with my opinions or follow my suggestions. Nobody’s offering me an award, so it’s not mine to refuse. However, in light of Mr. Wyeth’s long history of relationships with African-Americans and sensitive portrayals of the many he counted as personal friends since childhood (collected in the book and exhibition Close Friends; shown above), I wish he would have taken this opportunity to make a statement about the administration’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of New Orleans, and the continued abandonment of that city and its poorest residents, most of whom are African-American. Mr. Wyeth’s paintings comprise one of the most eloquent affirmations of the humanity and nobility of African-Americans in the face of the long, sad story of race relations in America. By refusing the Medal of Arts on the grounds of the denial of that humanity in the mismanagement of the Katrina disaster, Mr. Wyeth would have added one more glorious chapter to that life-long statement. I don’t know Mr. Wyeth’s politics and could go on at length about race relations and politics in America (starting with the travesty of the Southern Strategy, which the Bush campaign also deployed), but this is beyond politics. In denouncing the diaspora of New Orleans’ poorest residents—the African-Americans that helped build the culture of jazz that made New Orleans so unique—Mr. Wyeth could have paid honor to the memory of those close friends in grand, noble style.