Arm yourselves, friends: get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. This is a long post.
This past Wednesday, I went to the Studio School on East 8th Street in New York to discuss the work of Gustave Courbet, the 19th-century French Realist painter. The other speaker was Michael Fried, a celebrated art historian who presides over the humanities center at the Johns Hopkins University. Professor Fried is the star of the first chapter of my book The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, though in the interests of truth-in-advertising I should say that by “star” I mean “object of criticism and ridicule.” Indeed, Professor Fried, though one of the most illustrious academic art historians in the contemporary firmament, is also one of the most preposterous. He is also one of the most intelligent--and, as I discovered, most boorish--which only adds to the drama.
The evening did not begin auspiciously. When I was asked to participate in the program a few months ago, I agreed with the proviso that Mr. Fried speak first. He occupied such a prominent place in The Rape of the Masters that I felt he should be given a chance to respond to the criticisms I made, after which I would in turn reply to his comments. But when I got to my office that afternoon, I found a faxed list of ground rules stipulating that the order of the speakers would be decided by coin toss and that neither speaker would mention the work of the other during his presentation--a stricture that was doubly ridiculous: logistically, since it came the very day of the event and I had already written my talk; and substantively, since the whole reason for asking us to speak together was on account of my criticisms of Professor Fried’s work.
I called the organizers to say that I could not agree to those rules, especially as they had been sprung at the last moment. They said fine, we’ll work it out, come along at 6:00 p.m. Mr. Fried was not amused. “I’m out,” he said, much to the chagrin of the dean of the school who was preparing to face the couple of hundred people who had toddled along to witness the festivities. He just couldn’t abide “philistine” exchanges in which he might actually be called to account for his ideas. More mollifying talk from the dean. I agreed to go first. Grudgingly, Mr. Fried accepted. It was clearly painful for him to contemplate appearing alongside so declasse a figure as I.
Well, it all went as I expected. I spoke first, nattering on for about 30 minutes, 10 minutes over budget, a figure Professor Fried complainingly inflated to 40 minutes when he got up and proceeded to talk for just over an hour. I would estimate that audience reaction ran about 4 or 5 to 1 in Professor Fried’s favor, a ratio I am used to when speaking at universities, but which surprised me at the Studio School. One new prejudice on display that I hadn’t seen before was the contemptuous deprecation of PowerPoint presentations in favor of slides. Mr. Fried several times indulged in sarcasm about my use of PowerPoint, though not, I noticed, during the 3 or 4 minutes when one of his slide carousels broke down and the audience sat in the darkened hall watching squares of bright white light flash on and off on the wall in front of them. Both technologies, I think, are grossly inadequate for displaying works of art. There is really no substitute for the original. But if you want to provide people with visual memoranda of art works, are slides really preferable? Some say the colors are more accurate. Maybe. It probably depends on the care with which you select the digital image. I did not exercise particular care because the point of my talk did not depend on such discriminations (I regret, though, that one of the images I used was reversed--a mistake that Professor Fried commented on early and often).
At the center of the The Rape of the Masters are seven case studies of how contemporary academic art history has gone wrong. Professor Fried occupies an honored place in my rogue’s gallery, for with him, as I show, art history has gone horribly wrong. This is not to say that Professor Fried is not learned in his subject: indeed, he knows an immense amount about Courbet, Adolf Menzel, and the other artists on whose work he has lavished his attention. He is also capable of sensitive aesthetic discrimination, as he showed on at least one occasion in the course of his talk when discussing Courbet’s great painting “The Artist’s Studio.”
But in the end, whatever artist he discusses, Professor Fried is really much more interested in himself: in his pet, vaguely psychoanalytic theories about artists and their relationship to their art. It all seems especially silly when applied to an artist like Gustave Courbet. Courbet is one of those painters who excelled in power rather than elegance. He was largely--I was going to say “self-taught,” but that is not quite right. He didn’t go in much for formal schooling of any kind. But he had many art teachers. He found them on the walls of the Louvre, in galleries in Holland, and, to a lesser extent, on his several visits to Germany in the early 1850s, where he encountered the work of the Realist painter Adolf Menzel (1815-1905). For Courbet, as for so many artists, imitation was an integral part of formation. By copying, he became who he was. Particularly important were the Spanish masters Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) and Francisco de Zurbaran (c. 1598-1662) and some classic Dutch painters, especially Frans Hals (c. 1582-1666).
As the great German critic Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935) remarked, Courbet’s art is “unimaginable” without the example of how those earlier painters deployed the color black. A glance at some of Courbet’s best-known paintings--The Artist’s Studio (1855), The Burial at Ornans (1850), his many paintings of river caves and chasms--instantly shows what Meier-Graefe meant. Courbet tended to paint from dark to light, and blackness for him, as for his mentors, signified the ground, not the absence, of pictorial drama.
Courbet scandalized the taste of his time by his uncouthness--pictorial as well as personal. In part, perhaps, it was a calculated maneuver. Meier-Graefe remarked that Courbet’s “subtlety was his brutal boorishness. . . . In Paris this unpolished fanatic was like a bear in a nest of bees.”
Clement Greenberg echoed both Meier-Graefe’s praise and his reservation. Courbet, he wrote in 1949, was “a very great artist” whose “great fault was his refusal to be cultivated.”
Courbet painted very rapidly, using lots of paint, often abandoning the brush for the palette knife in order to sculpt the surface of his pictures. The physical turbulence of Courbet’s work offended many critics in his own day, and even his admirers noted that his work varied widely in quality. One contemporary remarked that “M. Courbet produces pictures in almost the same manner as a tree bears fruit”--meaning organically but also automatically, that is, without thought. Meier-Graefe sounded a similar note when he observed that Courbet produced in “a vegetable fashion, bringing forth good fruits one year and bad the next, without any obvious reason for the variation.”
Courbet painted in a wide variety of genres. He did portraits. He made thrilling landscapes and seascapes. He painted nudes, from the prim and proper to the frankly lubricious. He painted what might be called proletarian genre pictures--The Stone Cutters (1850), for example, a work that in its day was famous--notorious, rather--for its unsentimental portrayal of laborers repairing a road.
He made sculpture. He painted hunting scenes, including this famous one of a dying stag.
One pleasant thing about Courbet’s painting is that, however fraught it might be with visual drama, it is eminently straightforward. I mean, here you have two chaps fixing a road, there a funeral ceremony in a French village, there a nude or a hunting scene. You know where you are. Courbet, in accordance with his efforts to paint realistically, produced art that was accessible, generally unproblematic, easily understood.
Or so I thought until stumbling onto what Michael Fried had to say about Courbet. I believe that Professor Fried first turned his attention to Courbet in the mid-1980s. In 1990, he published Courbet’s Realism, which enlists the painter in Professor Fried’s longrunning preoccupation about art that he says is “theatrical” versus art that he says is “anti-theatrical.” (I have more to say about this in The Rape of the Masters.)
Let me say straight away that Courbet’s Realism is an amazing performance. I mean, did you know that Courbet’s art was fundamentally an “allegory of its own production”? I didn’t, but that’s what Professor Fried says. Would you have guessed that Courbet’s realist paintings provide “an archetype of the perfect reciprocity between production and consumption that Karl Marx in the `General Introduction’ to the Grundrisse posited”? Or that Courbet had latent feminist, indeed, “feminine” tendencies?
Although Professor Fried concedes that Courbet was “a representative male of his time” (in other words, “a chauvinist,” as he later puts it), he nonetheless argues that “the measures he was forced to take to defeat the theatrical meant that the art he produced is often structurally feminine.”
What, you may ask, is “structurally feminine” art? What, for that matter, is a “structurally masculine” art? Do such categories properly belong to art at all? Or is such rhetoric merely an anachronistic imposition of late-twentieth-century ideology onto defenseless nineteenth-century painting?
Professor Fried has a lot to say about how Courbet’s paintings eliminate “the basis of the distinction between seeing and being seen on which the opposition between man as bearer and woman as object of the gaze depends.” And his discussion is full of meditations on “the metaphorics of phallicism, menstrual bleeding, pregnancy, and flowers.”
But ask yourself this: what would Courbet have to say if someone told him his painting strove to “eliminate the distinction” between the sexes? Or that it was concerned with “the metaphorics of phallicism, menstrual bleeding,” etc.? The scattering of grain in The Wheat Sifters (1853-1854), Professor Fried tells us, “can also be seen as a downpour of menstrual blood--not red but warm-hued and sticky-seeming, flooding outward from the sifter’s rose-draped thighs.”
Unfortunately for this interpretation, Courbet clearly, indeed cleverly, painted grain, not blood. It is one of the triumphs of that painting that he is able to make his pigment seem so light and airy; pace Professor Fried, it impresses the viewer not as something that floods outward from the sifter’s thighs but that floats down from the sifting pan she holds out before her. Look and see.
Here as everywhere Professor Fried operates with a formidable criticus apparatus. It is hard not to be impressed by his bibliography. Almost a quarter of the book is given over to notes: long, arcane notes, notes that wander and digress, notes that include lengthy passages from Hegel and Marx and Walter Benjamin in German, Jacques Lacan in French. Professor Fried has read a lot, and he doesn’t let you forget it. But what happened to Courbet?
Many of you will know the children’s books “Where’s Waldo?” Reading what Professor Fried has to say about Courbet, I sometimes feel that he has given us a textual version of that game: “Where’s Gustave?” Courbet is there, but you really have to look. (Here is where PowerPoint came into its own.)
It is amusing to contemplate what Courbet would have thought of Professor Fried’s interpretation of his work. It would have been especially nice to have had his reaction to Professor Fried’s interpretation of The Quarry, a hunting scene that Courbet painted in 1856, not long after finishing The Artist’s Studio.
Courbet himself was in a transitional phase. Behind him were some of his most ambitious genre pictures and portraits. Ahead were many more nudes and portraits and above all a tremendous body of powerful landscapes and seascapes. The Quarry bespeaks that moment of meditative reassessment: the task at hand successfully completed, future tasks to come. It was at this period, as Courbet’s biographer Jack Lindsay notes, that he “developed a power to define varying atmospheric effects, linked with the kind of country that produced them. In carrying further the attempts to translate specific light-qualities, he formed the bridge between Corot and the men of Barbizon, and Pissarro and Monet.”
In the context of Courbet’s other hunting scenes, The Quarry (which now hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts) occupies a middling rank. The juxtaposition of the figures--a delicate play of lights and darks--communicates a rippling harmony of color and mood. Meier-Graefe found something “hard and dull” about the overall effect, though I suspect most people will be struck chiefly by the painting’s atmosphere of recuperative though vivacious calm.
It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? The title that the picture bore when it was exhibited in the Salon in 1857 gives an admirable summary: “The Quarry: Hunting a roe deer in the forest of the Grand Jura.” What more can one add?
Here we have an ordinary hunting scene that depicts a moment of rest after a successful hunt. In the left foreground, we see the vanquished deer--the “quarry” of the title--hanging from a branch, its head lolling sideways on the ground. To the right, receding deeply into a shadow, the tired hunter--generally acknowledged to be a self-portrait--leans back dreamily against a tree. Further to the right, the piqueur, the master of the hounds, sits in a brilliant slip of light blowing a hunting horn. In the right foreground, two dogs, also brightly illuminated, frisk playfully. One thing I learned from Professor Fried was that the picture was composed in stages on separate pieces of canvas. The hunter and the roe deer occupy one segment, apparently the first painted. The closely modulated browns and whites--moving from the shadow-enveloped hunter out to the lucid, scrutinizing clarity of the deer--articulate one movement, the strophe, of the painting’s emotional substance. The antistrophe is marked by the second major segment, which includes the more allegro figures of the piqueur and the frolicking hounds. Courbet finished the picture with strips of canvas on the extreme left and the top of the picture.
I bother to provide this recapitulation of what is before your eyes because when we move on to Professor Friend’s discussion, one’s grasp of the particulars of Courbet’s painting is likely to become shaky under the weight of Professor Fried’s interpretation.
Among much else, Professor Fried indulges heavily in a favorite tactic of contemporary academic criticism: namely, the principle that holds that whatever a work is ostensibly about, at bottom it is self-referential, being primarily a symbol of the activity of its own creation. The overt subject of the work may mislead one into supposing that it is really about something else, something quite tangible in one’s physical or emotional experience--a hunting scene, for example. But an adroit practitioner of the new academic criticism easily overcomes such “extrinsic” objections.
One powerful aid in this task is the word “symbol” and its fashionable variants: “metaphor,” “metonymy,” “synecdoche,” “trope,” etc. Like the philosopher’s stone, recondite use of these terms can transform the base material of reality into the gold of “intertextuality.” Professor Fried provides us with many wonderful examples of the procedure. We do not have to read far in his interpretation of The Quarry before we are told that the piqueur is really
another of Courbet’s characteristically displaced and metaphorical representations of the activity, the mental and physical effort, of painting. The man’s strange, half-seated pose . . . may be taken as evoking the actual posture of the painter-beholder seated before the canvas. The hunting horn, held in his left hand, combines aspects of a paintbrush (I’m thinking of the horn’s narrow, tubular neck) and a palette (its rounded shape . . .) while strictly resembling neither, and of course a horn being blown is also a traditional image of the fame Courbet forever aspired to win by his art.
Gosh. One only wonders what Professor Fried has against the dogs: why aren’t they, too, figurations of “the painter-beholder”? Isn’t their playfulness there in the painting’s foreground a symbol of the playful dialogue of the creative mind at work--doubled to represent the simultaneous interplay of the productive and critical faculties, tokens of the artist’s awareness of his intractable animality, etc., etc. It’s easy to spin out this stuff once you get the hang of it.
Operating on the principle that if something is not shown, it is more present than if it is, Professor Fried has no trouble populating the canvas with all manner of objects and significances that Courbet somehow forgot to include. Is there no gun depicted in the painting? No problem: “In place of the missing musket there is the piqueur’s hunting horn, previously described as symbolizing the painter’s tools (and therefore linking those tools with the absent weapons).” Therefore?
But what about sex? It is the rare example of trendy academic criticism these days that does not include a large dash of talk about sex, the more outlandish the better. But where in this forest scene could one conjure sex? A tired hunter, self-absorbed piqueur, two dogs, and a dead deer may not seem much to work with. But Professor Fried does not disappoint. “I for one,” he confides, “am struck by the implied violence of the exposure to the hunter’s viewpoint of the dead roe deer’s underside, specifically including its genitals.”
Now I think one has to admire not only Professor Fried’s brass but also his well-developed sense of just how far he can intrude upon the reader’s credulity without making concessions to common sense. “The last observation may seem excessive,” he allows.
For one thing, I am attaching considerable significance to a “side” of the roe deer we cannot see as well as to a bodily organ that isn’t actually depicted. For another, the hunter isn’t looking at the roe deer but faces in a different direction. But I would counter that we are led to imagine the roe deer’s genitals or at any rate to be aware of their existence by the exposure to our view of the roe deer’s anus, a metonymy for the rest. . . . I would further suggest that, precisely because the roe deer’s anus stands for so much we cannot see--not simply the roe deer’s genitals and wounded underside but an entire virtual face of the painting--such an effect of equivalence or translatability may be taken as indicating that the first, imaginary point of view is more important, and in the end more “real,” than the second.
I pause in admiration. The imaginary point of view is more important and in the end more real than the point of view discerned with one’s eyes: this sums up Professor Fried’s method. Take a look at the image of the painting again. There is more. In a long footnote to this passage, he tells us that
My suggestion that the Quarry calls attention to the roe deer’s undepicted genitals and to their exposure to the hunter or at least to his point of view invites further discussion in terms of the Freudian problem of castration. . . .
etc. etc. But I leave that invitation for another occasion.
I believe that Professor Fried’s speculations about the hidden sexual current in this painting by Courbet’s painting are absurd. But in many ways even more absurd--because it touches directly on the core of Courbet’s painting--is the end to which Professor Fried’s complex hermeneutical apparatus tends. In Professor Fried’s hands, Courbet emerges as an artist whose work is fraught with all manner of “metaphysical meaning” and aspiration.
But the truth is that in the repertoire of Courbet’s beliefs, there is nothing that can even remotely be described as a “metaphysics.” Few painters can have been more overtly anti-metaphysical than Gustave Courbet. In part, that is what the usual description of him as a “Realist” intends. Courbet himself put the matter with admirable clarity in 1861 in a letter to his students.
I . . .believe [ he wrote] that painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist of the representation of real and existing objects. It is a completely physical language that has as words all visible objects, and an abstract object, invisible and non-existent, is not part of painting’s domain. Imagination in art consists in knowing how to find the most complete expression of an existing object, but never in imagining or in creating the object itself.I think that Professor Fried provides a good example of what happens when an intelligent fellow becomes addicted to “theory.” At first you hardly notice the ill-effects. There’s the usual academic fondness for jargon and “big ideas,” but that’s a common occupational hazard and by itself is not necessarily a cause for concern. Gradually, however, what began as a certain woolliness and verbal ostentation becomes an extravagant flight from reality. You look at an ordinary hunting scene and start hallucinating about “undepicted genitals,” the “Freudian problem of castration,” and unpleasant aspects of animal carcasses that you can’t even see except from “an imaginary point of view.” Ever the gentleman, Professor Fried himself pronounced what I said as “unmitigated horseshit.” A wounding remark, that! At the end of the evening when our host ask if there wasn’t at least one thing we could agree on, I said that we both liked Courbet’s Artist’s Studio. Professor Fried bitterly remakred that there was nothing he agreed with Roger Kimball about. Well, I will try to bear up under the obloquy.
The title of the event at the Studio School was “Courbet Seen Twice.” But in many ways, the real subject revolved around the subjects of art criticism and art history. What, after all, are their proper goals? Why do we bother to teach them?
I think that there are essentially two opposing answers. One answer--my answer--is that we teach and study art history to learn about art. I have more to say about that in my book The Rape of the Masters, for which I now offer an official plug.
The answer furnished by the academic art establishment, however, is that we teach and study art history in order 1) to show how clever one is and 2) to subordinate art to a pet political, social, or philosophical agenda.
There is, by the way, no gainsaying the cleverness. Professor Fried’s interpretation of The Quarry, for example, is far more clever and ingenious than my own. Even after reading Professor Fried, I believe that The Quarry is a hunting scene, not “a displaced and metaphorical representation of the activity, the mental and physical effort, of painting.”
The question is, Which is the better approach?
In one of his essays on painting, Henry James observes that “There is a limit to what it is worthwhile to attempt to say about the greatest artists.” I believe that is true of all art. The great occupational hazard for an art critic or art historian is to let words come between the viewer and the experience of art--to substitute a verbal encounter for an aesthetic one. As Clement Greenberg observed somewhere, art is “a matter of self-evidence and feeling, and of the inferences of feeling, rather than of intellection or information, and the reality of art is disclosed only in experience, not in reflection upon experience.” The chastening truth is that most good art reduces the critic to a kind of marriage broker, a middleman between the viewer and the work of art. Often, the best thing a critic can do is to effect an introduction and then get out of the way.
There are several reasons for this. One reason has to do with what we might call the deep superficiality of aesthetic experience. The experience of art, like the experience of many human things, is essentially an experience of surfaces, of what meets the eye. When it comes to such realities, the effort to look behind the surface often results not in greater depth but in distortion. The philosopher Roger Scruton touched on this truth when he observed that “There is no greater error in the study of human things than to believe that the search for what is essential must lead us to what is hidden.” This is the deep truth behind Oscar Wilde’s quip that only a very shallow person does not judge by appearances.
It has to be said that few people familiar with contemporary academic art history will really be shocked by Professor Fried’s hermeneutical hijinks. Such “readings” are a dime a dozen today, too common to shock. But if such performances lack the ability to shock, they nevertheless retain the power to taint, to adulterate, to besmirch, our experience of art, to rob us of the pleasure we take in art. Just think of what Professor Fried has to say about The Quarry or The Wheat Sifters.
Indeed, one of the first things that strikes you about much academic art history and art criticism today--and one of the saddest things, too--is its grim, dour, humorless, pleasureless quality. Professor Fried hated it when I said this, but it is clear that, however they might have started out in their careers, many of the most celebrated academic art historians really don’t like art--and they don’t want you to, either. And when such interpretations are given the imprimatur of academic eminence, when they are given prizes and force-fed to students, they obtain wide currency and the appearance of legitimacy. It would be one thing if the absurdities I chronicle in The Rape of the Masters were fringe interpretations promulgated by fringe figures. But we are not dealing with the fringe but the mainstream. The figures I discuss are among the most honored and influential practitioners of art history on the contemporary scene. You don’t get more academically eminent than the J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University and director of the humanities institute at that distinguished university.
But does it matter? Who cares about what a bunch of pointy-headed academics are doing? Maybe it is a good thing they are congregated in the university, odd beasts in that cloistered menagerie. At least there we can keep our eyes on them and limit the damage they do.
It would be nice to think so. Unfortunately, though, it is impossible to take such a laissez-faire approach. What is happening in art history is merely one front in a larger war, a war over the shape and moral content of our civilization. What we see in art history is not only a betrayal of a discipline: it is also an assault on a culture.
Consider the prominence of outlandish sexual themes in so much contemporary critical work. In one sense, it is simply part fallout from the toxic legacy of Freudianism. But the important thing is to realize the extent which the sex card is deployed as a weapon by these academics. You can’t read two pages of this stuff without being told about how the work in question “challenges” or “transgresses” traditional moral norms. The real enemy is the received social and moral sensibility out of which the work emerged and in which it has its original meaning. Thus it is that the shocking sex stuff is always part and parcel of an effort to “destabilize” the hegemony of “white patriarchal capitalist” society, etc.
Indeed, a useful study might be made of the way in which the normalization of previously tabooed sexual attitudes and behaviors has been at the forefront of cultural radicalism since the 1960s. Sex is merely the first bridgehead, the easiest point of entry, for an ideology dedicated to revolutionary social change.
It is in this sense that much of what travels under the banner of sexual liberation is really part of a campaign for de-civilization. You see it at work as much in the coarsening of pop culture and the increasing vulgarization of formerly “polite society” as you do in the anemic if frenzied sexualization of academic language in the humanities. What it marks is not the triumph of the erotic but the defeat of reticence and modesty--reservoirs of hesitation and scruple that are preconditions of any vital and humane erotic life.
Let me end with Lenin’s famous question: What is to be done? As I mentioned earlier, my aim in The Rape of the Masters was primarily negative: to equip the reader with a nose for balderdash and absurdity. My hope is that readers will henceforth find it easier to identify, laugh at, and to reject the rot that has infected the academic study of art history. That exercise in mental housecleaning is valuable in itself, providing as it does a measure of resistance to the de-civilizing tendency of politically-motivated interpretive hyperbole.
There is also a subsidiary benefit, having to do with intellectual back-stiffening. In other words, I hope that The Rape of the Masters will provide some inoculation against academic intimidation. The claims made by the critical marauders I discuss in this book are so outlandish, and they are typically expressed in language that is so rebarbative, that many people are stunned into acquiescence or at least into silence. It pleases me to think that The Rape of the Masters will help counteract that anesthesia, prompting more people to object to the objectionable.
And this brings me to the positive aspect of my argument. Although The Rape of the Masters is hostile to the depredations practiced by criticism upon art, it aims at the same time to encourage the beneficent, pleasurable, civilizing elements that have traditionally been accorded to our encounters with good art.
I want to leave you with two observations. The first is from the 18th English philosopher Joseph Butler: “Everything is what it is, and not another thing.” It is such a simple observation: but just think of how much absurdity could be avoided by heeding it.
The second observation is from the 20th-century Austrian art-historian Otto Pacht: “Where art history is concerned,” Pacht wrote in one of his books “in the beginning was the eye, not the word.” Again, how much absurdity could be avoided if art historians took Pacht’s admonition to heart?
In my view, it often happens that the most a critic can do is to remove the clutter impeding the direct enjoyment of art. True, that clutter sometimes includes the debris of ignorance or insensitivity, and in this respect art critics and art historians can provide useful guideposts that make it easier to see the work for what it is. But at bottom, their function is a humble one: to clear away the underbrush that obscures the first-hand apprehension of works of art.
Of course, this modest task has an ambitious corollary motive: namely, to help restore art to its proper place in the economy of cultural life: as a source of aesthetic delectation and spiritual refreshment.
Update 1.9.2006 As part of my continuing missionary efforts to aid the unfortunate, I presented Professor Fried with an incscribed copy of The Rape of the Masters just before we parted. It was suitably enveloped in a brown paper wrapper to save Professor Fried any embarrassment. Alas, this well-meaning gift was returned today, replete with a note assuring me of Professor Fried’s utmost “contempt” for me and rejoicing in the opportunity that our encounter at the Studio School afforded him to “wipe the floor” with me. Well, well. I begin to sympathize with all those Jesuits who were dispatched to faraway savage lands to educate benighted souls. Uphill work. And no thanks from one’s intended beneficiaries, either.