Memo to Michelle

To: Michelle Malkin, Seattle Times op-ed writer

Re: "politically correct censorship"

Dear Michelle,

Loved your attack on the local media last Tuesday for failing to be outraged by the two paintings by Leigh Thompson hanging in the window of Art/Not Terminal gallery at Westlake and Lenora. Goodness knows the paintings were offensive: So offensive that you should have realized you were playing into the artist's hands by even writing about them. Nuns forcing a boy to service the Pope? Christ on a penis crucifix being similarly worked over by a woman? Michelle, Michelle: Can't you spot a publicity grab when you see one?

Two grabs in fact: First, the artist's pathetic gross-out attempt; then that by conservative activist Linda Jordan, whose press release charging the media with ignoring same through "politically correct censorship" set Malkin off in the first place.

See end of article for related links.

Malkin's reporting is as questionable as her sense of when she's being manipulated. The May 3 "protest from local Christians" referred to in her editorial consisted of about five people, including Jordan but not including Christian activist Mark Reddington, who didn't show up for his own demo apparently because the outraged crowds didn't materialize.

As for the other media's silence about the whole matter, there's a simpler explanation than self-censorship. It's called "taste": the quality exhibited by the KIRO news crew who came to film the demonstration-that-wasn't, took one look at the "art" in question, packed up its gear, and went home.

Art Town applauds its brand of practical art criticism and recommends the same approach to Times editorialists: When a genuinely challenging artist like Andres Serrano shows at the Greg Kucera Gallery, cover it by all means. When sophomoric crap goes on show—stuff so devoid of craft that even fellow members of the co-op exhibiting it are embarrassed, ignore it.

Invisible friends

If politics makes strange bedfellows, the World Wide Web makes for even stranger fan clubs. Note the case of local graphic artist Art Chantry, who is now the subject of a Web site out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The site, complete with snazzy animated photographics, articles on and interviews with Chantry, and a virtual catalogue raisonné of his graphics, is the work of Keith Finch, who became interested in Chantry working on a class project at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "I started reading interviews with Art [in the design trade mags] and was just fascinated with his views on the role of design in modern culture," says Finch. "I had never heard anything like his proclamation that designers are 'mindfuckers'! I wrote to him, and he was extremely gracious.... So I just kept on digging up stuff... interviews, articles, images...."

Gracious or not, Chantry confesses that having his own little temple on the World Wide Web "creeps the shit out of me," but admits that's probably just because he's such a technophobe he still uses a dial telephone. He's more genuinely disturbed by some of the material Finch dug up on him, particularly "where he got hold of some of my friends and they made weird stuff up because they thought it was funny."

But having all the publicity without the trouble of working for it is worth the hassle, right? Sure it is: Just ask Jodie Foster....

Nonperformance at The Stranger

What's become of The Stranger's once dauntless theater pages? (Not that Art Town reads The Stranger, but these things do get around....) To judge by column inches alone devoted to the subject, you'd have to assume the thriving Capitol Hill fringe scene had all but dried up completely.

What disappeared, unfortunately, is Stranger staff interested in Seattle's liveliest art beat: performance editor Matt Richter, man-of-many-talents Dan Savage, and now critic Scott Augustson. Moonlighting Microsoftie ToniaSteed has stepped in to fill the void, but with no one left at the editorial level to fight for space, her contributions can't begin to do the subject justice.

Face-off in Fremont

Even as the new Seattle headquarters of Adobe prepares to open as the first phase of Weyerhaeuser's humongous Quadrant development on the Lake Washington Ship Canal, a band of graying but impenitent local hipsters has set up a shamanistic counterpoise. Dubbed Wit's End and planted directly across the street from Quadrant at 770 North 34th, it's an avatar of one of the Seattle '60s' most beloved institutions, the University District's Id Bookstore.

Co-owners of the bookshop-teashop-alternative-arts-center co-op include Paul Dorpat, founder of Seattle first "underground paper" The Helix, longtime patrons of the alternative arts Ann and Virginia Wyman, and some two dozen others, but the presiding spirit is the old Id incarnate, Steve Herold, calligrapher, concertina player, and jackleg philosopher. If anyone has what it takes to stand up to the Great Satan of Fremont, it's he.

Related Links and information:

Art/Not Terminal page with archives and current exhibits


some of Andres Serrano's controversial photographs (CAUTION: rated X)


Wit's End Bookstore in Fremont

The Art Chantry page

The Stranger

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