Letters for the week of February19-25, 2003 

Excusing it all with art; seeing it all through spirituality; melting it down like junk; and confusing it all with politics.

"Touching Our Private Parts," 1/29

Frank Moore's artistic license
Frank Moore is in possession of a magic word, which I suppose makes him a shaman. By strategically invoking this word, he simultaneously gives himself incredible license, and places his actions beyond reproach. Just a little three-letter word: ART.

Eben Dodd, Oakland

For a non-reverend, he's mighty spiritual
Will Harper's article on Frank Moore was excellent. It was both well-written and truthful. However, I should explain that in all the years I have known Frank I had just assumed he was an ordained minister since he had founded the Church of Inter Relations and had such a wonderful knowledge of things spiritual.

The one thing Mr. Harper left out of his article that is worth mentioning is that Frank's Love Underground Visionary Revolution Station (Worldwide computer/radio) does not have only musical programs and Frank's own special program. I have my own show, Lunatics, Lovers and Poets (those are the kinds of people I interview), on which I also play audio books, usually by black authors, and public forums. The last forum I presented was last Friday in San Francisco at the Socialist Action Bookstore with Mumia Abu-Jamal's newest attorney, Robert Bryan. Frank has let me keep my show for four years even though he could have a larger audience with a musical instead. Frank has a social conscience. Catch my show Sundays, 12:30 p.m. at www.luver.com.
The Reverend Tom Sanders, Berkeley

"Let's Take the Public Out of Public Art," 1/22

Behold the power of public art
Years ago, around 1983 or so, I wrote an article for the Express about hauling toxic waste on a flatbed. Front page. About the same time, my same trucking company used to haul big outdoor sculptures, also on flatbeds, a line of work that reached its zenith with the 12th International Sculpture Conference and Exhibition which took place in, of all places, Oakland. All of those pieces between Laney College and the Slough were placed there then, for example. The Oakland Museum under Paul Tomidy did a really bang-up job of getting this together. So there you'd be, with a full size tractor-trailer load of outdoor art, a crane or two at the ready, dodging the cars going by while you got 'er all rigged and ready to place on the plinth over there. The art of hauling, and the hauling of art. Great stuff.

One thing I remember very well is that there were always lots of onlookers, and amongst the onlookers checking out the handling of these large improbable objects, there were always one or two and sometimes a few more assholes yelling stuff like, "Hey, where you goin' with that stuff? Gonna take it somewhere and melt it down and make somethin' useful out of it?" A truck driver is in an interesting position in that case. On the one hand, he's right in position to be the canonical redneck (after all, he's a truck driver) and agree with the asshole that the art is just the silliest bunch of effete intellectual crap on this Earth. On the other hand, after you haul enough of it, and get to know the artists and the general idea of what it's all about, you understand that it's a lot like sex -- AGSB, all good, some better -- and you just kind of appreciate it for whatever it is.

So now comes this loudmouth asshole who gets to write for the Express, saying just about the same stuff that I used to hear whilst unloading monumental abstract minimalist art on the plazas and parkways of Oakland. I'll tell you what I used to like to say to those loudmouth assholes who would hassle us while we were doing our job: "Hey, listen up, Bubba," I liked to say, "I may not know what I like, but I sure as hell know what art is. Now why don't you just shut the fuck up?"

And, lastly, the article, in the same issue of the Express, about the baangs and the gamers was ONE OF THE BEST WRITTEN ARTICLES I'VE EVER SEEN ANYWHERE ("Baang! You're Dead," January 22). Your writer really got in there and got down, just told the story and let 'er rip generally, with nary a false note nor a flat spot. Really good. Y'all keep that up, hear?
Richard Katz, Berkeley

Stick to politics, Bubba
Although I've read and admired several of Chris Thompson's articles on East Bay politics, he is in way over his head trying to criticize contemporary art. Why a journalist with a good understanding of political science would suddenly decide to become an art critic without having ever spent an hour in an art class or museum is a mystery to me. As an artist, I would not presume to analyze the inner workings of city hall. What makes Mr. Thompson think he's qualified to expound on art and architecture?

There is, of course, no lack of precedent for politicians who have decided to become critics. Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson's screed is all too reminiscent of the complaints about "degenerate art" as voiced by a certain German dictator who once fancied himself an artist because he painted little watercolor landscapes. There was once also a Russian dictator, or several of them, who enjoyed throwing practitioners of "decadent Western abstract art" into Gulags. While Mr. Thompson is no dictator, and I would not like to accuse him of being sympathetic to dictators (or even to Jesse Helms), he would certainly seem to share their taste in art.

As for erecting grandiose statues of such dubious heroes as Huey "the Murderous Crackhead" Newton, Bruce Lee, and Henry Kaiser, I'll leave it to your imagination as to how welcoming their stern bronze visages would be staring out from your local park or plaza. Although I, for one, would not mind seeing monuments memorializing Isadora Duncan and Gertrude Stein, I doubt that either of these groundbreaking advocates for the avant-garde would really appreciate being associated with the sort of retrograde art product preferred by Chris "You-Call-That-Art?" Thompson.
Doug Cover, Berkeley


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