Sunday, February 04, 2007

Art Is Paint On Canvas, Period! (ok,maybe paper)

NYC Parks Dept Backs Down

ecently the Art of Asian Calligraphy was declared art that does not have constitutional protection according to NyC officials. Is this a case of ethnocentrism? In New York City for pity's sake! They have since backed down on this bureaucratic censoring.

Events in the Plaza ( ejecting a tapestry artist) indicate that some in power in
the City of St. Augustine and it's gallery owning Mayor Joseph"I Wanna Make Mom Proud" Boles want to rid artists and artwork out of the Plaza.
The Mayor is on record that he doesn't want to see galleries set up in the plaza. This is what we do, Joe! Give it another name if you like.This ejection of Sala (Link) is a mistake and we ask the city to correct this injustice. The City is giving the perception that rather than rationally discuss a perceived problem they would rather play the role of "bully". This situation must be resolved. Meanwhile here is the story from up North.

Downtown Express
Volume 19 Issue 36 January 19 - 25, 2007

Artists, not cops know what is art"Is calligraphy art? The N.Y.P.D. says no." We suspect our headline last week raised the eyebrows of some of our readers, who like many Americans, place a high value on the Constitution and freedom of speech. We hope the mayor, the Police and Parks Departments also were shocked to read about the consequences of their ridiculous policy.

Our article was about Xu Zi, a calligrapher who sold her work in Battery Park up until last month, when she was shown a police order giving her two choices in effect: alter her art to meet police specifications or stop selling in the park.

Was her work obscene or likely to provoke violent reactions from reasonable people? No. It was the ancient art of calligraphy which Xu Zi began learning from her grandfather when she was a girl. She was asked to leave because a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer, applying a police order, determined that Xu Zi's work was not art.

Had she drawn flowers or some other picture near the lettering, she could have stayed in the park, but she didn't like the idea of the government dictating what kind of art she could do. Our Founding Fathers worried about that kind of stuff too, which is why they wrote the Bill of Rights.

The police order is a reaction to a Supreme Court decision granting First Amendment protections to vendors who sell art. We acknowledge the need for some vendor regulations and the enormous difficulty of setting up such a system while maintaining Constitutional guarantees. That challenge however, cannot be an excuse for allowing people with guns and badges to be the final arbiter for what constitutes art, because that poses a threat to one of our bedrock principles: free expression.

Vendors have created congestion problems in Soho and some parks and a free-for-all is not a solution. But clearly artists selling their own work should not have to submit their work to police to determine whether or not it's art.

Our opinion on the art is as irrelevant as the N.Y.P.D.'s, but it is worth noting that one of the ironies of the policy is that a clear art form, traditional calligraphy, is banned while rudimentary flowers or other drawings of questionable quality with the lettering is allowed. Any rules allowing art will have to accept the good, bad and ugly as well as work that may not seem like art to all.

The police department's Operations Order # 39 must be rescinded immediately and the city's Police and Parks Departments should begin consulting with artists, community leaders, business owners, vendors and First Amendment attorneys to come up with a sensible set of rules. It would be a much smarter strategy for the city rather than waiting to lose another federal lawsuit.

1 comment:

  1. OK...
    I can see if Sala was trying to sell quilts (as in bedding) in the Plaza...BUT SHES NOT.

    Sala creates Mini Tapestries that are sold framed and under glass. I do believe (by law) this qualifies as art beacuse it has NO OTHER USE. I cant see people buying her art pieces...then, on an unusually cold Florida night taking down the frame, breaking the glass and huddling up under a 5" x 7" tapastry for warmth!

    May I so boldly add that I do not believe that the Metroplitan Museum of Art would enjoy our police officers coming into thier show titled "The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork, 1530–1830" and telling them that they cannot display the works!
    A descrption of the show from 2004 says the following....

    "The arrival of the Spanish in 1532 in South America dramatically transformed the Andean cultural landscape, changing societies that had evolved over thousands of years within less than one generation. The arts, however, continued to thrive amid the upheavals, and they preserved an unspoken dialogue between Andean and European artistic traditions. This exhibition of more than 175 works of art focuses on two uniquely rich and inherently Andean art forms that flourished during the colonial period, presenting the finest examples of Inca and colonial garments and tapestries, as well as ritual and domestic silverwork. Their juxtaposition, together with a select group of important colonial paintings and other related objects, drawn from museums, churches, and private collections in South America, Europe, and the United States, documents the creative vitality of the complex Andean culture that developed after the Conquest.
    An international scholarly symposium (Oct 1–3, 2004) will be held in connection with the exhibition." ( Maybe our city officials needed to attend that Scholarly Symposium )

    It's funny, you know, that the above mentioned show, states that it was the arrival Spanish that drastically changed the cultural landscape during that time. Maybe it will take Sala, our friend from Barcleona, Spain to change the cultural landscape of our time here in St Augustine.