October 8, 2009

The Obamas selected a work of art that's an outright copy of Matisse — done by an African-American woman.

Michelle Malkin shows the 2 pictures side-by-side and reprints this bilge from Art in America:
A good place to begin thinking about Alma Thomas’s ravishing late work might be the moment in 1964 when, close to paralysis and bedridden, the 73-year-old artist found herself staring at the hollyhock shadows she had known her entire life and calculating how to use them in her paintings. A year earlier, she had seen the late Matisse cutouts at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Matisse’s work had prompted her to paint an acrylic-on-canvas version of his collage The Snail (1953), in which nearly all the original colors were reversed. Thomas named her painting Watusi (Hard Edge), after Chubby Checker’s dance hit “The Watusi.” As well as marrying high modernism with the popular culture of black America — then entering the American mainstream — the title she chose noted Matisse’s debt to African art.
You know, the dance hit, which is actually titled "Wah-Watusi," was by The Orlons. It's not a Checker hit (though he may have covered the song). The Orlons are black too though, so it's as if it doesn't even matter to Art in America, as it makes up its inane explanation of what the old woman was doing.

Anyway, it's really sad to see this sentimental stretching to identify African-American artists. There are plenty of real ones, and mistakes like this make it seem as though there are not and that patronizing — which really ought to be called racism — is necessary.

157 comments:

John said...

You are right Ann. It is horribly patronizing and racist. It is treating her like a child. But, it is really no different than all of the media swooning about how Michelle Obama, not an unattractive but average looking woman, is so glamorous and beautiful and another Jackie Kennedy. But, liberal paternalism is just a soft re-expression of Victorian white supremacy.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Well, when I suggested the other day that we all make our own copies of modern art, I never knew you could make money doing it. Boy, do I feel stupid.

blake said...

The poor dear could hardly be expected to come up with something original.

Slow Joe said...

A lot of Obama defenders are saying this was a study of Matisse... only no one actually said that when it mattered. It's just ad hoc.

Not that I mind. Matisse's painting was awful, and the copy is just a copy of an awful painting. I know to someone out there it's art, but I think it's an attempt to look artsy.

Oh well... if you absolutely must prove your multicultural bona fides, you're going to pick some crap.

I'd love to see what Bush picked. My unfair side guesses Thomas Kincade's garbage, but I know he was a bit more well read... maybe he picked something cool?

Fred4Pres said...

Ann, Ann, Ann, you are obviously a painting colorist. The pictures have different colors. They are not the same.

Now excuse me I am going to re-read The Color Kittens again.

John said...

If I had to guess for Bush, I would bet that he took something Western like Remington or CM Russell, which for my money is a lot cooler than this.

Fred4Pres said...

Slow Joe: Are you refering to Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light™? Our greatest American living master?

blake said...

Dogs playing poker.

You know, for irony.

Lem said...

Oh common.

Its not a copy copy.

wv absumati - i bet its something to do with cow mats

John said...

"Slow Joe: Are you refering to Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light™? Our greatest American living master?"

Sadly, that statement may not be ironic but in fact true. But, that says nothing about the quality of Kinkade's work and everything about the unbelievable crap that passes for art now days.

Althouse Ann said...

You're saying this woman isn't original? Racist.

John said...

If the "more cowbell" poster isn't hanging in the Whitehouse, it should be.

Ann Althouse said...

I'll bet Bush picked western cowboy stuff.

ricpic said...

Watusi by Alma Thomas is quite good, if you can forget it's a complete ripoff of late Matisse.

Tooting my own horn here: that was my 12:37 comment on The Artwork Obama Has Chosen For The White House thread before Malkin revealed the hoax. Sometimes an education in useless things pays off.

blake said...

Cowboy dogs playing poker.

John said...

I'll bet Bush picked western cowboy stuff.

Thank you for agreeing Ann.

chickenlittle said...

That was prescient ricpic.

MadisonMan said...

I don't know much about art -- I love the way Calvin and Hobbes rip into the pretension of modern artists -- but can someone explain to me why a copy (sort of, if you ignore the changes in color) of a bad painting is any worse than the original bad painting? And why this matters one iota?

I'll be back later to read.

Penny said...

Alma Thomas stood on the shoulders of Matisse who she believed stood on the shoulders of blacks before.

So what.

The important thing is that Alma painted, enjoyed herself and hurt no one.

MadisonMan said...

..and I bow in your general direction ricpic

Penny said...

Oh, and this from wikipedia:

"...she was the first graduate of Howard University's art department.[3] In 1934, Thomas became the first African American woman to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. She was also the first African American woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[4]"

I think it totally appropriate, if not wonderful, that the first black president of our country has selected one of her paintings to hang in the White House.

Henry said...

Michelle Malkin's Twist is the best response. Salvador Dali would like it. This is funny, people. Lighten up. Art is theft!

chickenlittle said...

I like these side-by-side comparisons-every bit as much as comparing Led Zeppelin songs to earlier versions.

Lem said...

ot

the Cards just gave away a game.

shame.

Photog714 said...

Ah, well ... the Obamas can always regift their "art" treasure to the Brits.

Penny said...

"Art is theft!"

Damn straight. Same as a thoughtful comment on a blog site.

Were that original thoughts a dime a dozen. If that were so, I suspect our country would not have a 10% unemployment rate, for example.

Slow Joe said...

Penny,

That's a really cool history.

I sure as hell wish Obama could do something without embarassing everyone. He's made this fine woman look like a pathetic idiot for cribbing such a dumb painting.

I am SURE she painted something creatively at some point that wasn't this garbage. Why didn't Obama pick it? How unfortunate for everyone.

I agree with those that say this is just a funny thing. It's silly. No one's life is affected by this. There are really awful things Obama's done, such as increase the deficit three times beyond what Obama himself said was crisis level when a Republican was president. I'm glad we can laugh about this, but what a jackass.

Perhaps this artist lived her life this way... getting extra credit for her work than it merited. I hope not.

blake said...

Wait, I thought property was theft.

Lem said...

remember this one?

and this one?

wv - impensos - even wv agrees

chickenlittle said...

Art is theft

Interesting. So where does that leave art thieves?

chickenlittle said...

BTW, I didn't steal my current avatar-I'm just borrowing it. :)

Henry said...

blake wrote: Wait, I thought property was theft.

That was Proudhon's conceit but Marx pointed out that the idea is self-refuting. So art must fill the void.

AJ Lynch said...

If even the Matisse version is art, I have no taste.

fred said...

'Tis indeed a sad commentary on those with higher education degrees that they need discuss, put down, get snarky over such trivia simply because John Galt or John McCain did not win the last election.

ricpic said...

Thanks chickenlittle and MM.

MM, if Thomas had made a copy of a Matisse for her own edification, fine and dandy. But she made a copy, actually she skewed the original Matisse around 90 degrees, and then palmed it off as her own work. Clearly with great success.

Let me ask you a question. If one of your children had submitted written work in school which contained plagiarized passages and had received high marks for it and had then been caught -- what would be your reaction? I'm pretty sure I know what your reaction would be, and with good reason. Well, is what Thomas did any less wrong?

Mian said...

I think it totally appropriate, if not wonderful, that the first black president of our country has selected one of her paintings to hang in the White House.

Loaded with well-thought-out portent, I'll admit. I would be curious to see what kind of art the Obamas had in their home before O hit it big. Anyone care to guess?

Diamondhead said...

It appears the Obama vetting apparatus has gone off the rails completely.

Henry said...

then palmed it off as her own work

That's not the case.

Paul said...

Does anyone really think Obama knows or cares anything about art?

Puleeze.

The only image for which he has any feeling for is the one that confronts him when shaving.

Every piece of art he displays as well as the books he shows off and pretends to read are all politically calculated props.

Slow Joe said...

fred,

I don't understand what you're saying. You seriously think if Mccain was president and did this exact thing, Althouse wouldn't possibly poke fun at it?

I think that's projection. The right, which if it includes Althouse is a huge tent, had no problem making fun of Bush or Bush 41 or Reagan.

Obama goofed and it's hilarious. This painting, whether it really was a 'study' or presented as original, is idiotic. That's worth some laughter.

Slow Joe said...

Henry, were you familiar with this painting before today?

what's your evidence she never presented it as her own work? Something a shill said?

Mian said...

I would be curious to see what kind of art the Obamas had in their home before O hit it big. Anyone care to guess?

Alright, I'll answer my own question. They had an original Rezko.

Lem said...

Althouse said..

You know, the dance hit, which is actually titled "Wah-Watusi," was by The Orlons. It's not a Checker hit (though he may have covered the song). The Orlons are black too though, so it's as if it doesn't even matter to Art in America, as it makes up its inane explanation of what the old woman was doing.

Urban dictionary wasa-wasa.

Related maybe?

The Drill SGT said...

John said...
If I had to guess for Bush, I would bet that he took something Western like Remington...


As I recall, he had a bronze Remington Cowboy on Horse statue in the oval office or at least in the public Presidential spaces.

With so much good art, and a fair number of good AA artists, why a direct copy of a bad Matisse?

I would have gone for some early O'Keefe's or Ansel Adams Originals

classic American

Invisible Man said...

This is a whole new level of nuttiness Ann. So your saying the Obamas are racist because they choose an artist who happens to be black who sold them a piece that looks like Matisse. Your riding the crazy train now. Maybe they were just fooled by a con artist, but what race has to do with this I don't know. I'm glad that your marching orders from Malkin are leading to such important and far-reaching conclusions.

Slow Joe said...

Invisible Man, you're the one posting the nutty stuff, but I have to ask: do you really think Obama would have picked this painting if a white dude had painted it?

Because... THEY COULD HAVE.

They are obviously racist. There's no question about it. But that's what this post was about, and you're just trying to change the subject from this funny point.

Lem said...

'wasa-wasa' its a latino/spanish derogatory way of saying 'white people'.. i think.

wv - fusickf - wv is white

Beth said...

I'd love to see what Bush picked. My unfair side guesses Thomas Kincade's garbage, but I know he was a bit more well read... maybe he picked something cool?

Maybe, but who knows? Certainly not from reading this blog, as Althouse never paid such picayune daily attention to the Bushes.

Paul said...

"With so much good art, and a fair number of good AA artists, why a direct copy of a bad Matisse?"

Because they are a couple of rubes putting on airs and of course fumbling everything they try their hand at.

Like running the country for instance.

wv dalimet --- Dali met these poseurs and laughed in their faces.

Fred4Pres said...

fred is not Fred4Pres, we are different guys.


Now this is art! I espeically like Joseph Beuys, which pretty much sums up trying to explain art.

I am all for Obama getting some African American art he likes in the White House (why not). I am all for Obama getting some modern art he likes. I mean, he has his pick of the federal museums and they have great stuff for him to pick from. But not because they are symbols, but because he likes them and they speak to him.

I mean, seriously, does he really like Mattise, let alone the Mattise "study"? Probably not. Some staffer picked them.

Come on Mr. President, reveal yourself. Pick something that you really dig. Here's some really good stuff to pick from (some are not in federal collections, but I am sure Obama has pull with the Art Institute).

EDH said...

It's a breaking news story that Harry Connick, while on live Australian TV, objected to a black face "Jackson Jive" routine that appeared on Hey Hey It's Saturday.

Here's exactly what he said...

"Thanks Daryl - and I just wanted to say on behalf of my country, I know it was done in humour ... but we have spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart," Connick Jr said.

Yikes!

wv - "laserigg" = laser lightshow to the music of Iggy Pop and the Stooges

Pogo said...

Way cool.

So all one need do to create My Very Own Artwork By Me is to rotate it 90 degrees and change the colors.

Hey!
I just wrote a book called The Da Vinni Code, very similar to that unmentionable book, but the cover is green and the characters have slightly different names.

But I writed it.

Gerard said...

".... a piece that looks like Matisse."

Invisable man... It doesn't look like Matisse." It IS Matisse with a much more rotten color sense and twisted 90 degrees and signed off on as an original.

Now some wags who leaned the phrase on the back of a Cheerios box may say "Art is theft." But that's glib BS.

More sophisticated blatherers may mumble the "appropriationist" twaddle.

Both will be wrong. This is just copping, copying, and theft.

I'm willing to bet real folding money that once you start looking at the rest of the Thomas output you'll see this kind of plagiarism over and over again.

They don't do it just once, ever. Depend upon it.

The whole sordid little story is a metaphor with everything that's wrong with affirmative action.

Lem said...

Keith Haring.. J M Basquiat..

Henry said...

I assume the 2002 Art in America article didn't reveal anything anyone didn't already know. I'm sorry but that's a pretty safe assumption unless you think Art Critics are blind and dumb.

Do you think Salvador Dali passed this off as his own original? Gee, why ever not?

Why would the Hirshhorn own an obvious study? Maybe because the artist's entire body of work gave the study historical interest.

Look, it's kind of a goof that this image got picked, but it's no create conspiracy.

Methadras said...

Leftists are buffoonish in their absolute need to inject themselves and to project themselves as people of substance and meaning when in actuality they are small minded, trite people who don't even have a sense of their own capacities to be original. Instead leftists are left to their own mediocre devices that are steeped in shallow thinking and sloganeering rendering their ideology about as effective as toilet paper.

Gerard said...

Oh, and while we're about it... here's something to think about when the standard, glib "modern art is easy" hogwash is spewed.

To reconstruct Matisse's The Snail, strap yourself in a wheelchair, give yourself crippling arthritis, wrap your hands around large scissors and cut large sheets of paper to specific shapes... paper you have previously painted specific colors in gouche... then make those shapes into a harmonious and pleasing shape... echoing the shape of a snail... and attach them to a mounting square that is about ten feet on a side.

Got that. Get cracking.

BTW have about six decades of great work in all mediums behind you when you do this.

Then we'll talk.

That vision and that effort is what Thomas was stealing.

Henry said...

Gerard,

Take a look at Manet's Olympia.

And Titian's Venus of Urbino.

Édouard Manet, what a fraud! This is just copping, copying, and theft.

I'm willing to bet real folding money that once you start looking at the rest of the [Manet] output you'll see this kind of plagiarism over and over again.

They don't do it just once, ever. Depend upon it.

The whole sordid little story is a metaphor with everything that's wrong with affirmative action.


Lest you accuse me of plagiarism, I'm quoting you, there in italics. Except for one edit.

Slow Joe said...

Beth, the popular culture pays this level of attention to Obama... that's why blogs are covering this and didn't care what bush put on his wall.

Bush wasn't the next messiah... he wasn't 'the one'. You're blaming althouse for covering the president of the united states too much... that's just silly.

Are you that crazy person that defends LGF? Those guys are the real racists. Charles posted the N word on some blog, I think, to prove that blog was racist. Maybe I have you confused with someone else.

I think lots of people are interested in the hysterical obsession with Obama. It's worth noting that he's just another goofball like the rest of us, and his art selections, for example, are stupid.

Cedarford said...

JOhn - But, liberal paternalism is just a soft re-expression of Victorian white supremacy.

Well said.

But it is worth remembering that the Victorian belief that whites were superior in any sport and any intelleect and in any field of talent than any other race does not make the converse true....

That there is absolutely nothing that whites generally tend to do better, are smarter at, or show basic talent in. Or that such flat egalitarianism applies to every other race and ethnicity and only "resources and nurture" count.

I am unaware of a campaign by the NY Times or progressive Jews to build roads in white parts of America, Europe, or in Asia..and then equip white and Asian kids in the sneakers they lack so they are in a position to be "nurtured" to compete with black American or Jamaican sprinters...or slow muscle fiber gifted E Africans in long distance running...

=======================
It does amount to a charade when the game of low expectations and lavish praise on minor accomplishments results in award ceremonies becoming jokes or "distinguished" scholars like claimed Native American Ward CHurchill and black hacks like Freeman Dyson who are anything but scholars of real merit...

My son when he was in HS went to an "awards ceremony" for his schools "top scholars" - which the school concocted up for the 3 highest GPAs in students in 15 classes that ranged from CP down to special ed.

He was upset that his best friend missed the "cut" in the 3 top tier classes even though the friend is brilliant....and had to pose next to the "top scholar" wearing a hockey helmet with drool hanging off his mouthpiece because that kid was "2nd top scholar" in special ed.

I explained ...It's just teachers and authorities trying to be inclusive and inspire the less-smart..."
"Well, it's just stupid!"
"Yeah, you're probably right".

Henry said...

Ironically, the rest of the Manet output does contain lots of borrowings -- from Raphael and Velazquez among others. Good thing the Obama's didn't select anything from him.

lynnieo8 said...

Oh come on, stop with the "what did Bush pick" jokes. Laura is a classy lady and I'm sure the art that adorned the walls of their residence was equally as classy.

blake said...

Not even close, Henry.

The lounge and that pose are like a fruit bowl.

Pogo said...

Yeah, Henry, copying a pose but nothing else is exactly the same as copying the entire image.

Exactly the same!

Anyway, why the asturm and drang over a stupid copied painting?

Because it's a perfect metaphor for Obamanation.

blake said...

No one's saying that art isn't derivative. Manet knew his audience would know what he was referencing.

This is more than derivative. Especially if passed off as original, as seems to be the case.

Beth said...

I hadn't noticed Althouse cribbed this from Malkin when I first read it. No wonder it's such an inane post. Garbage in, garbage out.

Beth said...

Slow Joe, are you that crazy person obsessed with LGF? You keep coming up with the weirdest comments about Charles Johnson.

Gerard said...

Henry,

I'm quite aware of Olympia and the Venus of Urbino. However, if you actually look at them both they are painting in a tradition and in a conversation if you will.This is common and expected.

Manet is not, however, making a copy of the Titian and rotating it 90 degrees.

You can find out a lot about art history by looking at both these paintings and many articles have been written about the relationship.

But these two paintings and their relationship have nothing to do with this issue, which is one of copying.

At the very least, it's a poor example of the point you seem to be struggling to make.

Penny said...

"'Tis indeed a sad commentary on those with higher education degrees that they need discuss, put down, get snarky over such trivia simply because John Galt or John McCain did not win the last election."

I don't know who you are, Fred, but it's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance.

Slow Joe said...

Beth, I apologize for the threadjack. I just wondered if you were the one I recalled, who kept defending whoever the wierdo is who runs LGF. Kilgore or Charles or something. Some guy who liked to post the N word a lot, is all I know for sure. There's no doubt that's true, because I saw it. LGF is a ugly place, and I found it relevant that you would attack this blog if you were the person who finds those hideous methods appealing.

Forgive me if I mistook you for someone else, but no, I really don't bring them up much.

Pogo said...

Beth, I thought you taught lit?

If a student enters a term paper purchased from an on-line paper-writing service, but adds her name and rotates it, are you cool with that?

Simon Kenton said...

Perhaps it is of interest that Ward Churchill did the same thing in his career as a "native artist;" the indefatigable Malkin caught that too:

http://michellemalkin.com/2005/02/25/another-bizarre-twist-in-the-ward-churchill-saga/

Skyler said...

Okay, so her tastes in art tend towards yucky. So? She wasn't elected, he was.

Criticisms of her taste in "art" only distract from real problems. It's not worth anyone's time to get into political rants about this. I mean, if gossip columns or art magazines want to talk about it, fine, but Hot Air should be not wasting electrons over something so irrelevent.

wv: no kidding, "stantive" as in talking about B. Hussein's wife's taste in art is not stantive, it's not even substantive.

peter hoh said...

Here's a painting that the Obama's should get.

Henry said...

specially if passed off as original, as seems to be the case.

What is your source? I've done some Googling and the only background information I've come up with is the Art in America article. Nevertheless that article, from 2002, explicitly states the Matisse source for Thomas' work. It's bizarre to assume that the source was ever anything other than explicit.

So Thomas did a study of a Matisse work. She played around with the colors, gave it spin, and then went on to other things. The study is in a museum collection because of the other things.

The fact of the study itself is a commonplace. All artists do studies of other artists' work. One of the works in the 2003 Metropolitan show on Manet/Velazquez was Delacroix's Saint Catalina, Copy after Alonso Cano.

Paul said...

I have to laugh at the Obamabots efforts to twist themselves into knots trying to defend an affirmative action president's selection of an affirmative action artist's work.

Too funny! Their obsequiousness is really something to behold and it affirms the conservative's observation that the left are always looking for a maximum leader to submit to. They are afraid of freedom and free thought.

So the real teabaggers are the lefties.

Another case of their projection.

Skyler said...

Ricpic asked, If one of your children had submitted written work in school which contained plagiarized passages and had received high marks for it and had then been caught -- what would be your reaction?

I'd think, man, we've got vice presidential material here!

Patm said...

"Every artist is a cannibal/every poet is a thief/they all kill their inspiration/then sing about their grief"
--Bono, "The Fly" from Achtung,Baby

Synova said...

I think that the human mind has a never-ending ability to mess us over. Because of that I'm reluctant to assume that many cases of copying are something more than images retrieved unconsciously.

Either than or I underestimate how many people making a deliberate copy wouldn't bother to disguise it.

Paul said...

Hey peter who's that white dude taking Obama's place in that painting!!!

Beth said...

Pogo, I haven't made a single comment about the painting - and I don't know enough about it to comment. Does the artist have a body of work and if so, then is it racist pandering to have one of her works in the White House - even if this work is a bad choice? Was this meant to be a study or homage?

As for what I commented on here, I can't help but note that lately,. Althouse combs the dregs daily for petty observances about the Obamas. I think she's pandering to the worst in her commenters. That's her schtick; sometimes it's original, sometimes she's lazy and pulls from hacks like Malkin. It's my pleasure to occasionally point it out. Just as I also enjoy defending those things that I like about her blog, such as I did in the Sullivan thread earlier today.

Henry said...

Gerard, the Titian / Manet angle is certainly overkill for Alma Thomas -- perhaps the Dali Mona Lisa I referenced earlier is more appropriate. I'm not making any brief that Thomas is a great artist, but I'm baffled as to why anyone who knows art would assume that copying a master is evidence of a criminal mind. Why assume bad faith?

Synova said...

"I am SURE she painted something creatively at some point that wasn't this garbage. Why didn't Obama pick it? How unfortunate for everyone."

She must have done.

Patm said...

"Blogger peter hoh said...

Here's a painting that the Obama's should get. 10/8/09 9:57 PM

That is awful. As a Christian and a conservative, I still think that's the most awful schlock I've ever seen.

Penny said...

"I would be curious to see what kind of art the Obamas had in their home before O hit it big. Anyone care to guess?"

GREAT question!

I have to guess that Michelle did the decorating, because generally, that's how it goes.

She's a strong, black woman, aware of her southern agricultural and slave roots, yet she grew up on the south side of Chicago in a hard working, loving family.

My guess is that she selected art focused on people instead of place.

Maguro said...

I would hope that a wise Black woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not be able to arrange colored rectangles on a white background better than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Beth said...

Pogo,

I'm getting a laugh out of the idea of a rotated paper, though.

Just an aside, some writing classes might ask a student to emulate a writer's style in creating some exercises. I recall in music theory composing Bach-style chorales. Studies are not odd, and not plagiarism. My instinct here is that this whole thing is being presented out of context - that would be typical of Malkin.

Beth said...

Slow Joe, don't apologize to me. It's not my thread.

Ralph L said...

Laura is a classy lady and I'm sure the art that adorned the walls of their residence was equally as classy
She showed her choices on CSPAN last year. The picture that stood out was a portrait of her daughter, the others were merely pretty. If you remember, Obama liked her Oval carpet enough to keep it.

Ann Althouse said...

By the way, I don't think *the artist* is the one who did anything wrong. It's fine to copy art to learn something from it. You see people in museums doing that all the time.

The problem is overpromoting her ... for reasons that are not about the art.

Beth said...

Good point, Althouse - I agree.

I'm sure that's Malkin's point, too.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The two paintings with the Watusi rotated to be exactly like the Matisse reminds me very much of the visual tests that I took as a pre Air Force entry exam in the late 60's.

Spacial relationship testing to see if you can recognize and match shapes when unfolded or rotated or flatened from their third dimensions. I was pretty good at it. (They wanted me to be a navigator until they figured out that I was 'girl") My brother was even better at this recognition because he is color blind.

I guess the colors of the painting and the colors of the artists made many people blind to the deception.

Too bad. Because anymore, unlike King's dream, it is all about the outside of your skin and not the content of your character.

Also. I don't see anything remarkable or especially artistic about either of these two works. A third grader with some paste and paper could do as good. His Mommy would be proud.

Beth said...

So the museums who have shown her work are overpromoting her?

Ralph L said...

Artists make copies of other works all the time. Did she intend this to be considered an original work? It's possible someone found it in her closet after she died.

Penny said...

Blogger Patm said...

"Every artist is a cannibal/every poet is a thief/they all kill their inspiration/then sing about their grief"
--Bono, "The Fly" from Achtung,Baby

Whoa, tough, but true, Bono.

Now would you like to write about how artists and poets and singers are EVERYMAN and each of us?

NO? Too literal, too nasty, you think?

MadisonMan said...

ricpic, I think a more apt comparison would be if an artist took a better known painting -- say, the Mona Lisa -- and did it in neon colors. Is that copying, or art? Both? Neither? (Is it original? Probably not)

Plagiarizing is -- as I tell my students -- passing off someone else's work as your own. Is that what has happened here? I'm not sure.

Penny said...

Blogger Synova said...

"I think that the human mind has a never-ending ability to mess us over. Because of that I'm reluctant to assume that many cases of copying are something more than images retrieved unconsciously."

Exactly, Synova. Except of course when it is, in fact, stealing.

Course that is precisely why we have ambitious lawyers to do our bidding to unconscious jurors.

Henry said...

@Madison Man: Here you go.

Invisible Man said...

The problem is overpromoting her ... for reasons that are not about the art.

Yessss Ann, because that never happens for non-black people reasons. It's never happens because people are rich, from the South, pretty or even white at times. But that I guess is the natural order of things here. Like Rush, you only care if a black person might get preferential treatment. No need to question why the Joe the Plumbers or Sarah Palin's might be enhanced because they resemble their audience. It's just those sneaky black people we need worry about.

Slow Joe said...

Beth, you are powerless to stop me from apologizing to whomever I like.

I apologize for attempting to engage in a discussion with you. You have been unresponsive to attempts to discuss this, and don't seem to have much of a point beyond bashing Althouse for reading Malkin's blog or posting funny things about the President. Apparently, posting embarrassing things about the president is not acceptable to you.

But to me and every sane person, the President should be under full scrutiny. We all know Obama picked this painting to send a message. Penny explained it well. Althouse or I or anyone has every right to analyze if he crafted his message poorly.

Which he did, of course. Obama made this story, and keeps doing oddball things like this. You can't help but notice that there are a lot of examples being talked about, but you conclude that's because we're all so horribly unfair.

I think it's because you're a nut from LGF's place, but I can't recall if you're that person. You didn't deny it, but you hardly are obliged to answer up. All I know is that anyone who likes that site enough to defend it as much as that Beth did is obviously thrilled with constant rambling petty attacks. So THAT person criticizing Althouse for talking about the president's dumb pick would be a liar.

Ralph L, I haven't seen anyone show that she passed this off as original, and I haven't seen anyone show that she didn't. I think Althouse's point is that this is a very bad choice. If Obama liked the picture itself, pick the original (which looks a lot better). If he wanted to promote an inspiring black artist... pick something that wasn't a copy of a white man's work.

The real message is that this laziness undermines black achievements. It's a REAL thing for Obama, a huge black historical figure, to not even bother to pay attention to that. All the black artists in the world, and this is what he picked? LAME.

Beth said...

Okay, so the issue isn't plagiarism. Not apparently. From what I can understand, Althouse is arguing that this is a case of promoting an artist because she is African-American, not because of the value of her work. That would be a fair complaint. But is it accurate? I have doubts. The artist has a body of work, which has been displayed in museums and private collections, and which has been the subject of critique and discussion. There's nothing to indicate she passed this work off as anything other than what it is, a twist on a study of Matisse.

How is this overpromoting her? How is this racist, or patronizing?

Althouse is trying to put a twist on something inane that Malkin picked up from some Freeper poster, and I think it's petty. That's the upshot. And I stick to "garbage in, garbage out." I'm open to new information, of course.

David said...

Alma Thomas seems to have been an altogether admirable person. She was born of well to do (not rich) parents who made sure that she got a good education. She found what she cared about and worked her life in the field, mostly as a teacher. She worked with poor children through her art. She graduated from Howard and Columbia and supported herself financially for her entire lifetime. On retirement she focused hard on creating her own art, and was quite productive after the age 65.

I am not a very good art critic and much of modern art leaves me cold, all except the very best of it, which I find quite exciting. Most of it seems derivative of a few great trailblazers, which can probably be said of nearly all art at nearly all times.

My guess is that most of what she did was derivative. She was a trailblazer in living but not in art. I think this is enough to get her displayed in the White House, if that is what the Obamas want to do. It's unfortunate that one of the paintings they selected was so obviously copied with minor alterations from someone else. It seems to me that Alma Thomas deserves a better reputation than that.

former law student said...

You know, the dance hit, which is actually titled "Wah-Watusi," was by The Orlons.

Chubby Checker's version of the Appell-Mann song appears on his "It's Pony Time" album, released in 1961. The Orlons covered it.

Beth said...

Slow Joe, I apologize. It's clear you have no obsession with LGF. However could I have been so mistaken?

Slow Joe said...

Invisible Man,

do you really miss the point?

While it's slightly annoying if Obama set out to pick a black artist, that's pedestrian.

What's sad is that his effort to pick a black artist wound up picking something that the black artist wasn't the creative mind behind. It's so transparent and pathetic. What's this got to do with Rush Limbaugh? Or Althouse being racist?

If this is your idea of a defense of Obama, you aren't up to the task. Obama is showing that black people can be great artists. That's true, of course, but not based on his argument, which is to display a white man's work that a black person copied. It's counterproductive in many ways.

blake said...

Here's a painting that the Obama's should get.

Peter! Is Honest Abe singing "Mammy" in that picture?

wv: inosis

A disease there's a lot of which going around.

blake said...

George Washington Carver, anyone?

Slow Joe said...

Beth, LGF is racist. And dishonest. As I proved. I have a problem with racists like Charles who surreptitiously post the N word in an effort to prove that others are racist.

I don't deny that I am interested in discussing that. I think those people are really creepy and deserve to be laughed at. And I think it's a great way to totally undermine anything you have to say. You defend the most transparently petty blog I know of, but criticize a thoughtful criticism of the president as an obsession (which seems to be your favorite word). I'm hardly obsessed with that jackass... I just thought I noticed one of his flunkies making an ironic remark. I obviously got your attention! I found it relevant to your 'point'.

I don't read this blog much (today is an exception, for sure), but I think I remember you right as the Charles groupie. Get used to it. Your name is mud, just like his.

peter hoh said...

I would like to apologize for my superfluous apostrophe. Beth, have any punishment you care to mete out?

former law student said...

The Chubby Checker version was simply called "Watusi."

I'm a bit surprised Althouse finds a transformed version of an existing artwork to be suspect as art. After all, she recently posted all about the Richard Prince artwork consisting of framing a photo of Brooke Shields and giving it a title.

Further, did Althouse not know that Andy Warhol did not originate either the Campbell Soup can or the Brillo scouring pad box? His blatant copies are yet considered "art." Similarly, Oldenberg did not originate the typewriter eraser, nor did Lichtenstein create comic printing techniques.

Beth said...

Malkin cites another reader who posted on this back in July, saying "I have been on a rant about this for three days!"

Really????? Ranting about this for three days?

Batshit crazy. Talk about overpromoting something.

AJ Lynch said...

"The Da Vinni Code" coming soon to the affimative action film theaters nearest you!

AJ Lynch said...

Beth actually said:

"There nothing to indicate she passed this work off as anything other than what it is, a TWIST on a study of Matisse..............
.......Althouse is trying to put a TWIST on something inane that Malkin picked up from some Freeper poster, and I think it's petty. .."

LOL. I guess there are good and bad twists.

Beth said...

Slow Joe, I sometimes read LGF. I know that Johnson often posts on the subjects of white supremecism here and abroad; I don't know the context of some of those but I generally find his take reasonable, and he provides evidence for his points. I haven not seen anything like the "n word" posts you describe, but I did note several years ago that his comments section had some truly nasty commenters, and for a good long while I didn't visit the blog - perhaps that's what you are talking about? You've made some statements that don't conform to what I've observed, and you don't link to anything to support them.

It seems to me that you desperately want a target, someone to take on your frustrations about whatever it is on LGF that's gotten you riled up. I'm not that person, so you'll have to find someone else. Why not email the blogger? Or start your own blog about it?

Ralph L said...

The Matisse cutouts I remember seeing in the 70's at the National Gallery were much more interesting and beautiful than either of these.

Beth said...

Peter, you are absolved under the email and blog posting exception to apostrophe rules.

I never bother to edit typos in blog posts or informal email. There's not enough time to enjoy life and worry about whether a finger hit the wrong key in an informal conversation.

Beth said...

Ralph L - could you sketch one for us, so we can share the memory?

Beth said...

Twist it back one more time, AJ. It's an endless loop.

former law student said...

I'm afraid it's time to trot out a transformed version of the old cliche:

I could see Ms. Maglalang, from the art-poor Filipino culture making such a mistake (as not understanding that a transformed version of an artwork is still an artwork), but not "you, Althouse, an art major..."

Ralph L said...

Cut 1

Cut another 1

reader_iam said...

Off topic, but it's been an--in.ter.esting week, artwise, for those of us who while they enjoy, love and even appreciate, over time, to whatever degree, art and the art world, have no expertise (seriously) therein.

For example, we've got: "What must Mona be thinking? Art lovers around the world are probably headed straight for the nearest Starbucks to muse over the whole thing."

We've got: "He 'just had to say one word to stop the whiff of French fries from wafting past the Mona Lisa's nose. He chose otherwise,' they say."

We've got: "Possibly not since 1919, when Marcel Duchamp drew a moustache on a postcard of the Mona Lisa (his title, L.H.O.O.Q, is a French pun that roughly translates as "She has a hot ass"), has there been such a threat to Leonardo's portrait."

There's more, of course, this week, and not just about Ronald's burgers in the Louvre's bowels. It's a big wide world out there, and the universes contained inside it even larger.

So far, my instinct is to pay attention to this centuries-older (assuming attribution of time and person is correct) quotation:

Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.

The truth is, I don't really know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to how great (or even mediocre) visual artists think, where and how it's OK to crib and when it's not, or even how to define those terms within their shared context (construct[s]).

I do understand, however, in other ways (contexts, constructs, etc.) that to which good old Leonardo was trying to point.

/OT

/rambling, out-loud, tangential musing

former law student said...

looking at images of Ms. Thomas's later work, on the web, I can see the painting of Matisse's color cutouts did indeed kickstart it.

Perhaps when Althouse turns 70, she too will hit her artistic stride.

reader_iam said...

All that said, what's so wrong with giving serious consideration to the concept of weighing the lines between, for example, homage, tutelage, allusion,derivation, extension, and so forth? Including a broad interpretation of "so forth" which might, of necessity, require investigation into originality and authenticity, among a whole number of other factors. Or, of necessity, might not.

Gary Rosen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Kite said...

Beth: Althouse is the archetypical centrist independent voter. She voted for Obama. Iirc, she voted for bush in 2004.

If Obama has lost Althouse this early it is worth noting.

I get the impression Althouse is ashamed of Obama. Maybe a bit strong, but maybe getting there.

Not a good place for a president to be before his first year is out.

As a contrast, last week the Canadian prime minister, who is from the west, conservative and has been portrayed as scary, and at best a temporary replacement while the Liberal Party (Natural Governing Party of Canada) get their act together so they can be trusted with power once again, got on stage at a charity gala and sang a beatles tune. He got a standing ovation. A meaningless gesture, but the reaction from the crowd, media, opposition, all seemed to represent a change in how the man is viewed.

In other words, these minor events are meaningless outside of the context of how Obama (or any politician) is viewed. But within that context, the reaction is instructive.

Derek

Alex said...

I'll just preempt LE Lee. Come on Ann, more red meat for Althouse Hillbillies????

Alex said...

Invisible Man - you are the racist here. So is YOUR President.

peter hoh said...

Alex, who is your president?

Alex said...

peter - MY President is currently residing in Crawford, TX.

reader_iam said...

John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
George H.W. Bush
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Barack Obama

The list of the Presidents of the United States since I was born (a.k.a. "my" presidents during my lifetime, whether I voted for them or not, either due to ineligibility prior to voting age or regardless of how I chose to vote when I was eligible.).

amba said...

Hey, by copying a (dead?) white male Western artist, Thomas was expressing respect for the Western canon! Isn't that what you want assimilating minorities to do? To pay homage to the superiority of Western values? Oh wait, Matisse himself was imitating "primitive" art ... round and round we go ... If you look at it that way, the whole thing becomes prematurely postmodern!

bearbee said...

What museum/dealer loaned the piece and, as art experts (do i presume too much?), shouldn't they have known it was Matisse copied?

Michael Hasenstab said...

Probably a good choice since Obama is a copy of Jimmy Carter.

master cylinder said...

cant wait to see what you rubes have to say about the peace prize...Isnt it fun when everyone thinks THE SAME thing you do? Gosh Obama fucks up Every day in every way...this is GREAT!

Pogo said...

Mannie Garcia’s photograph of Obama was converted by Shepard Fairey to the ‘Progress’ and ‘Hope’ posters.

This seems par for the course in the new ethics. Spread the wealth around, what's mine is now yours.

My son is in art school. They were told that unless they changed a work by at least 30%, it was considered a violation of copyright law. True? I dunno. Perhaps Alma Thomas made explicit reference to Matisse on the work (by title or comment) regarding Matisse. If so, that should be mentioned.

But if my son handed this in at art school, they'd have flunked him.

AllenS said...

He'll be able to nail his Peace Prize Award to the wall, so he's got that going for him.

rdkraus said...

When I look at those two works, mostly I think, "Matisse should be ashamed of himself." Man, talk about an athlete retiring too late.

Really tarnished his early legacy with this stuff. If this was the first Matisse you were exposed to, why would you bother to look at anything else?

Why didn't Thomas at least copy one of his great works?

Shanna said...

I love Matisse, but that's not one of my favorites. Of all the things to copy, and all the things to buy.

bearbee said...

Spread the wealth around, what's mine is now yours.

Yeah, but at some point won't it cycle around become mine again?

BTW, WH could have gone to Ebay and purchased some contemporary AA folk art.

Can't beat $15.

former law student said...

Of all Matisse's paper cutouts on this web page, The Snail stands out for not having curvy cutouts:

http://www.henri-matisse.net/cut_outs.html

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There's nothing to indicate she passed this work off as anything other than what it is, a twist on a study of Matisse.

Yep. A 90 degree twist.

How is this overpromoting her? How is this racist, or patronizing?

If this woman truly has a body of work (I don't care enough about her to look right now) then they might have tried to pick something that wasn't an obvious rip off of some one else's work.

The BIG question is why doesn't the President have competent staff to advise him on some of these issues??? Are they all ignorant Sophomoric frat boys and Pom Pom wielding cheerleaders?

They have no comprehension of international diplomacy, insult the Queen of England and give retarded gifts that embarrass the United States. Couldn't they have consulted an art expert or two to help them not make such a stupid stupid mistake?

No they don't and no they won't....after all "THEY WON" so they don't have to do jack shit to try to be competent.

And now.....he gets the peace prize!! I'm speechless.

Michael said...

What kind of art did the Obamas own before?

A number of Shepard Faireys, I believe.

George said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

This reminds me of the reports that I was assigned to do when I was in elementary school; I would find an article in the encyclopedia and just rearrange the words and sentences.
How original.

And does anyone recall ward churchill's 'winter attack'?

paul a'barge said...

It's a picture of the lining of Andrew Sullivan's rectum.

ZZMike said...

Take the original Matisse. Rotate it Left. Now you get "Watusi".

The key word here is "left".

This "Artist" didn't even try to rearrange the blocks.

Jackson Pollock's paintings are wretched - but the fact is, he was the first one to use that technique, and anybody who copies it is just a scribbler.

TMink said...

DBQ asked: The BIG question is why doesn't the President have competent staff to advise him on some of these issues??? Are they all ignorant Sophomoric frat boys and Pom Pom wielding cheerleaders?

The only way I can make sense of it is that someone asked for work by a black artist. That was what mattered, and that was what they got. Maybe it had to be a black woman artist.

If race and gender were the only criteria, you can make sense of why it does not matter that the work was a fake. That the painting was worthy as art was not a criteria. So good and great art by black women was not considered. It was not about the art, it was about affirmative action.

Trey - whose word verification was "herdment"

LordSomber said...

Whether or not the art has been plagiarized, picking the artwork based on the artist's skin color is abhorrent.

David said...

If two people posted this block of text and called it art:

BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

there would be no reason not to prefer the piece posted by a blond if you like blondes or the piece posted by a brunette of you like brunettes.

Given that he chose this kind of art in the first place, I see no wrong on Barack Obama choosing an Affirmative Action painting over a Dead White Male canvas.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Henry said...

Take a look at Manet's Olympia.

And Titian's Venus of Urbino.

Édouard Manet, what a fraud! This is just copping, copying, and theft.


While Manet's work is derivative of Titian's there is little immediately similar besides the pose of the reclining nude and a female servant in the background.

Thomas, on the other hand, simply reversed the colors that Matisse used and rotated the work onto its side. Manet's work may be derivative, but Thomas' painting is a copy.

Musicians say that artists steal and hacks copy. When Bob Dylan performs All Along The Watchtower live, the arrangement owes much to Jimi Hendrix' cover of that song. Dylan acknowledges that Hendrix took Dylan's work and put his own stamp on it.

Thomas has done very little original work here. Graphic artists have used standard themes (still lifes, landscapes, nudes) from time immemorial and borrowing a theme is not plagiarism if there is some original artistic vision.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

I do machine embroidery. Many, perhaps most, of the embroidery designs I create are a copy of an existing graphic or photo. Still, there's some artistry involved. Let's say I'm embroidering a picture of a car. I import a photo of the car into the software and then create the design with the different stitch elements I have available. Also, my color palette is limited and the level of resolution is relatively gross - a piece of thread is much larger than the smallest dot a 300dpi printer can make. So there's some artistry involved in getting those relatively limited tools to come up with something that looks quasi-realistic.

While I regard some of my embroideries as art, even if they are my attempt to copy an existing image into a different medium, a couple of jobs I did were actual copies of existing embroideries. A motorcycle club wanted me to reproduce their colors patches. The main patch was a pretty elaborate embroidery and I had to reproduce it exactly. I had to create pretty much a stitch by stitch copy of someone else's work.

I'm proud of the result but I think of it as making a good copy, not creating an original embroidery.

ShadowFox said...

Ann, with you art background I would have thought you knew better than to step in this morass. One comes to expect a degree of idiocy and ignorance from Malkin. Perhaps you've been watching too much reality TV, but I simply cannot understand why you would follow up one idiocy with another.

Mocking art criticism is a popular sport--among the people whose combined IQ would not even qualify them for the gas chamber. But so is mocking people with interest or aptitude in science, creative writing or anything even remotely smacking of intellectualism. Judging from the perverse glee that the 100+ lemmings you're leading off the cliff, education cannot fix inbred anti-intellectualism.

Alma Thomas may not be the sort of refined high art that you may desire to be on display in the White House. But have you taken a walk through Guggenheim lately? Or simply crossed the street from your office and browsed the UW galleries?

No one is asking you to like the piece. You can complain about its derivative nature (what does that make your blog post if you are simply riffing off Malkin's idiocy who is borrowing her art criticism from the Free Republic? derivative stupidity?) But you must put the art and the artist in historical context. Most modern art is either conceptual or contextual. This is clearly a contextual piece. There are clear reasons for not only reversing colors in the composition, but also in changing the angle--it should be ironic to anyone with a background in art that Malkin specifically chose to rotate and realign the piece to make her point of similarity, completely missing the context--and the message--of the painting.

Finally, Ann, have you no shame? I really wish you'd pick your sources more carefully.

As for the rest of you glib idiots--go fetch!

ShadowFox said...

Now, for you "original" contribution on the subject--the Orlons. The Orlons had a hit on their hands in Wah-Watusi--it made #2 in 1962. Yet, by the following year it already had a number of released covers, including Chubby Checkers (Jan 1963) and The Miracles. Yet, no one seemed to mind, at the time, that a popular song got even more popular cover.

In fact, The Vibrations also had a hit, recorded in 1960, that was called The Watusi. Might there be some connection there as well?

But there is another odd connection between Chubby Checker and The Orlons. Orlons did some backup vocals for Dee Dee Sharp in 1962-64. What a coincidence! Chubby Checker recorded a number of songs--and performed even more--with Dee Dee Sharp in 1963-64. Does that mean anything in particular that would indict Chubby Checker on plagiarism charges?

Let's see... who covered that song, anyway...
"Covered by: Chubby Checker, Annette Funicello, The Isley Brothers, Smokey
Robinson & the Miracles and The Ventures"

Finding all that info took about 4 minutes with Google and YouTube (including recording of several versions). But you thought you had a winner with The Orlons.

But all of that is not even important. Why? Because this is not what the art description says. It's not talking about the music--in fact, it specifically refers to "Chubby Checker's hit dance number". Also in 1963, Ray Barretto released El Watusi. Barretto most certainly did not originate the dance style, but he certainly helped to popularize it. Let's see... The Orlon's version was still on the charts in June-August 1962... Checker sang it in January... Barretto released his in April... AHA! Chubby Checker must have invented the dance moves!

Can't really blame you for not remembering the Watusi as a dance, not a recording--it was before your time. Too bad--according to Wiki (and the OED) it was "almost as popular as the Twist". (The Twist? You mean, Chubby Checker's?)

Oops! It was before my time too, but, somehow I know about it. Simple cultural literacy... Stop watching reality TV, Ann--it's melting your brain.

And another thing... If we are going to complain that a cover version of one song or another is cited as being influential, then we should erase much of Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Clapton discography--because all they did is cover blues songs until they had material of their own. Yet, somehow we talk about their songs and their influence, hardly mentioning the originals in this context (except, of course, when specifically discussing the influence of black artists on the American and European music scene in the 1950s and 1960s).

Maybe I am just grumpy today, but this kind of crap really pisses me off.

ShadowFox said...

More details: Chubby Checker with Dee Dee Sharp had a number of hits together in 1962-1964, including a #3 early in 1962. That was Slow Twistin on Dee Dee Sharp's album It's Mashed Potato Time. The backup vocals on that album were done ... by The Orlons.

The Orlons The Wah-Watusi album was released as Cameo 218 in June 1962, with the title song hitting the charts on June 9 for two weeks and staying on Hot 100 for another twelve. Also on the same album were The Orlon's own covers of Mashed Potato Time, Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)--songs that they've already done on Dee Dee Sharp's album.

Checker's version of Wah-Watusi--a b-side of Cameo 221--was released on January 18, 1963. The Puerto Rican version by Barretto was released April 27, 1963 and Barretto became associated with the dance ever since.

Now, can we stop whining about the primacy of The Orlon's?

Ann Althouse said...

ShadowFox, you are googling and babbling. The fact is: It was not before my time. I completely remember it. The hit song was by The Orlons, not Chubby Checker. My point is simply to show the lameness of Art in America.

Ann Althouse said...

And what irks me is racial bullshit. There are such deep layers of it here.

ShadowFox said...

You are right about the racial bullshit--but that was brought in by Malkin. Given contemporaneous and historical accounts of the painting the pseudo-duplication was intentional--it's really irrelevant whether there was an ethnic angle to it or not. It was taking one kind of art and turning it into another. But it's still art.

If you read Malkin, you don't get that message. In fact, the attempt is to do just the opposite--but Malkin is an ignorant moron. What's your excuse?

Anyone can go into a gallery and scratch his/her head over the kind of "art" that's displayed there. One could even look at Matisse "original" and think, "OK, it's a deconstructed snail. So what?" Or look at any of Miro's painting or sculptures and say "WTF?" The reaction of a classicist toward more modern art might be even stronger.

The point is simple--everyone's an art critic. And when the critic is ignorant, the criticism is correspondingly clueless. It does not take a postmodernist to have a reasonable analysis of Thomas's painting.

As for the Orlons, you really should compare their song to the Vibrations' Watusi before complaining about someone's faulty music history. Even then, you're still missing the point--the song was by the Orlons, but they did not originate the specific dance. And the description of the painting refers to the dance, not just the song. So if Thomas heard it from Chubby Checker, she is perfectly justified in the claim that that's what she was responding to.

On top of that, you also must consider the nature of this period in music history. There was a lot of borrowing and sharing. You could have two people perform the same song differently at the same concert. Or a cover could have had a far greater impact than the original. And a lot of these people traveled and recorded together. In this case, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons and Chubby Checker were clearly in the same place at the same time shortly before the Wah-Watusi was released. Who is to say who borrowed what from whom? And, at the time, they did not care.

You are looking at both the art and the music from today's perspective, forgetting that not just the cultural norms, but the very milieu is different.

Kuhn made the same point about the history of science--if we were criticizing Aristotle from today's perspective, we would have thought that he was an idiot. In a sense, he was googling and babbling--he took many works of others and condensed them into a single body of work. And his perspective on science--and natural philosophy in the broader sense--was quite advanced for his time. We don't fault him for not knowing anything about Newtonian mechanics, for bizarre teleology, for thinking that 1 is not a number (let alone 0). But if a contemporary student tried to write something conceptually similar, we would laugh at him.

Admittedly, there is far less geographic and temporal distance between us and Alma Thomas and Chubby Checker. But the principle is the same. We do look at art from historical perspective, but, before you do that, you must also see it as the artists saw it and you can't do that with contemporary sentimentality.

Dan Quayle went into the Santiago airport, saw a somewhat anatomically correct folk statue, pointed at it and started laughing like a naive pre-pubescent. Malkin is doing the same thing--the Beavis&Butthead school of art criticism. I expect far better from you.