Mrs. Jackson is responding to a blog posting written by Roger Kimball; in his post, he sizes up the audience response to his New York Studio School lecture on “New Figurative Painting” which took place two weeks ago.
Below is Jackson’s response to Kimball’s post:
Dear Mr. Kimball,
You do make me laugh...
Now, I know that you know why you face the questions that you face when you do what you do, but I just wanted to add my art school experience to the knowledge bank called ’Roger’s brain’. At both an all-girl’s finishing school art program and later at a real art school, I would regularly watch professors twist themselves up into pretzels trying to compliment girls and boys who could not draw or paint realistic figures at all. Invariably, these students were advised to go the abstract route. The few that could really draw were allowed to continue on in the realistic art realm. The abstract students knew their limitations but were convinced by both their own desires as well as by professors who needed them to continue on in art school so that payroll could be met. We realistic students also knew the limitations of these students and on most days were too polite to mention it.
What has been lost on most art schools and a few generations of their students are little things -- like Picasso could actually draw very well. Picasso just chose to act like he couldn’t draw. Also, until the last 25 years or so, those who studied art were generally from higher income families. Photography students especially. Since artists tend to paint what they know, photographers tend to shoot what they know; plus people tend to buy what they like, and subject matters tend to be expensive items. As a case in point, think of the very talented brothers, well, talented in my opinion, Fairfield and Eliot Porter.
What amuses me most in your “cigar is just a cigar” bit--besides the remark about not leaving the lady alone in the vegetable aisle--is that it brought to mind a bible-study experience in my former Episcopalian days.
The female priest was a newly-minted one as well as a 60’s era graduate of Katharine Hepburn’s alma mater, Connecticut College. We were studying The Book of Ruth. Ruth, as you may recall, is both listening and following Naomi’s advice to have a kinsman Boaz help them in their impoverished state. Naomi tells Ruth to go to the threshing floor and sleep at Boaz’s feet. This is where the priestess popped out with “In seminary, I learned that when feet is mentioned in the bible it means [I’m sorry I do not know you well enough to type or say this word in your presence so please use your enormous brain to figure it out] g-------a.” Or in nicer language, wedding tackle.
I was stunned. But since I had learned well at the feet of The New Criterion (pun intended), I asked if she was serious. She said “Yes.” I said “So you are telling me that Naomi instructed Ruth to go and lay at the wedding tackle of Boaz?” She said “Yes.” I recall saying something along the lines of “You mean God wants women to use sex to get what we need?” She said “Well, this falls under the catagory of doing what you need to.” Again, more astonishment on my part. Now, being a woman there were tears welling up in my eyes by this point, as I thought this such an violation. I asked her what she thought St. Paul meant when when he said in the New Testament, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News.”
She ended class.
We became Catholics.