Monday, April 4, 2011

The Salon Strikes Again?

two tahitian women
Paul Gauguin, Two Tahitian Women, 1899

A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Salon by Nick Bertozzi, a graphic novel about a group of artists and cognoscenti--including Picasso, Apollinaire, Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, and Erik Satie--who drink a special absinthe that allows them to enter paintings. The absinthe was discovered by the deceased Paul Gauguin, whose 14-year-old Tahitian mistress is using the absinthe to come out of his paintings and kill artists and collectors. The plot may sound silly and far-fetched, but was something I found to be powerfully metaphorical. As I argued in my review, Gauguin's mistress is wreaking vengeance against the Parisian art world and their sexual and colonial objectification of her, which led to her becoming a junkie whore and dying. The fear of their subjects coming back to haunt them as Anna did leads Picasso and Braque to create cubism, which effectively relegates objects to a two-dimensional surface.

Strange Concurrence

So imagine my reaction when I read this report (via the Washington Post) about a woman who attacked Gauguin's Two Tahitian Women at the National Gallery last week, screaming, "This is evil!"

Lack of Evidence

The Washington Post article implies the woman attacked the painting because of the figures' semi-nudity, but I have my doubts. After all, this is hardly the only work of art in the museum that depicts nude people. Why not attack something closer to the entrance? Secondly, why haven't we been told the woman's name? Very suspicious. Even court records have not been made available. Might it be because she's a member of The Salon????!?!?

An Associated Press article reports the woman, "told police the post-Impressionist artist was evil and the painting should be burned," the exact method Salon members used to destroy Gauguin's paintings in Bertozzi's novel ! ! ! !

Expert Opinion

Memory, who blogs at Stella Matutina and reviewed The Salon said of the book, "Me, I think it’s real, but alternate interpretations are certainly possible." When questioned about the Two Tahitian Women assault, she declared the attackeress was, "clearly a Salon member. Or at least someone who's read and been unduly influenced by the book."

I have to say, after reading the book, I can see how it might convince someone to link Gauguin's paintings with evil. Do we need to ban Bertozzi's dangerous vision of modern art in order to protect Gauguin's work? Or do we need to ban Gauguin's art to protect ourselves???? Unfortunately, I think the cat's out of the bag as far as Gauguin's paintings are concerned, so the mysterious woman's attack was essentially pointless.

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