A desecration of The Crucifixion? What would Marilynne Robinson say?

O.K. (or not?) The painting shown in the linked article (below) is grossly sacrilegious, for anyone who acknowledges or practices in the tradition of Christianity. Or at least it should be, even for Evangelical Christians, who still support Donald Trump. Here, he’s a stand-in, as the ultimate self-glorifying victim, the worst sort of reality TV-show gag. Somehow, one can imagine him smiling smugly behind a curtain, as the unseen host, as well.
But the image is also a horrible reflection of how American right-wing media and lax social media have facilitated an alternate reality, and distortion of Christian morality.
No question, this situation has compounded the bizarre Trump Cult. The post of the painting arose the day after Christmas. Note the Trumpie comment in the accompanying article about even questioning the crucified redeemer if he critiqued Trump regarding his ties to Russia and moral compromises thereof. And there’s the declaration of lockstep-with-Trump Congressman Matt Goetz.
Or, given the cast of dubious characters floating in the dark clouds behind the cross, there’s the possibility this is a bold provocation of satire.
It all prompted me to wonder, what the great theological-oriented writer and thinker Marilynne Robinson, would think of this painting and situation.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  “Gilead” and other novels and books of essays, may, or may not, be strongly oriented to visual art. However, her current Facebook page cover-photo image of a nature-infused watercolor painting suggests her responsiveness to painted images. And her rich metaphorical writing should allow a poised perspective on the crude symbolism under consideration.
In June of 2020, Robinson read an online lecture she says she first wrote when the “Trump phenomenon” first began to “settle in.” It is titled “Prophecy and the Present Time,” with an apparent subtitle of “Entropy and Decay.” She says she revised it on with the onset of COVID-19, and revised it a third time in considering what might lead us to sins we have repeated in the past.
This reflects Robinson’s unapologetic Calvinism, which acknowledges the inherent “original sins” and depravity of the human spirit, and flesh. Yet, the retired English professor is also a fairly unrepentant liberal, of the most humane sort. 1
Here is a germane passage from “Prophecy” regarding the political legacy of Trump’s administration, including the tragic response of the government and to coin-counting hospital CEOs, to the pandemic:
“Who doesn’t know the consequences of poverty for those who are trapped in it? Should the practice of exploiting them be met with anything but contempt, disgust?
“Here we have the great mystery of polarization laid bare. Shame would have imposed some limits on (such polarization), but in the absence of shame, we must look to legislation in the hope that meaningful laws will actually be enforced…”
But the travesty of the Crucifixion, so disgraced? Probing further, we find Robinson has deeply contemplated Christ’s passion and the human darkness he strove to redeem. And how prophetic was she, before Trump’s election?
In his superly-attuned 2015 essay titled, “Watching the World From Gethsemane: Darkness and the Devastated Self in Marilynne Robinson’s Fiction,” Scott Schomberg comments on the meditations and letter-writing of the central character of Gilead, Congregationalist Minister John Ames, who is dying of cancer in the fictional Iowa town of Gilead:
“Darkness in Robinson’s novels describes something that eludes the language we attempt to give it. Drawn into Gilead and Fingerbone, we move not within static visions of darkness in its most devastating forms—darkness as evil, sinister, corrupt, threatening, darkness as absence, emptiness, ignorance—but into a darkness that astonishes, that blinds with intense brightness. It’s an echo of the psalmist: ‘Darkness is as light to you’ ( Psalm 139:12 NRSV). When Ames describes the decades he spent alone, his long night, he looks back and sees a miracle preparing. Darkness here is like that of a womb.” 2
Lord knows, there is a bitter blend of poignance and pain in such reflection. In Robinson’s latest novel, Jack, dwells on her most problematic character in Gilead, the bedeviled titular man, who struggles with faith and morals, and is atheist more than anything.
But Robinson’s luminous prose is best understood as she understands language.  In her essay collection When I Was a Child I Read Books, she wrote, “I tell my students language is music…the music of a piece of fiction establishes the way in which it is to be read, and, in the largest sense, what it means.”
Even in the most anguished music, say in “the cry” of the wordless black jazz musician emitting the experience of racism, there is vibrational power, to overcome, there in the musical breath, the voice, the word made musical. Her quote about darkness rises from a Psalm. 3.
Amazon.com
Who might Jack best signify? A prodigal son, for sure. Beyond that is another discussion, as I have yet to read the novel. But there is the “miracle preparing,” as Robinson, in her “Prophecy” lecture, characterizes 2020’s  impassioned, globe-wide social protests, against racism and injustice.
A long, dark night of the soul does eventually end, if one survives it. And so has America’s long night, for now.
Such is the glimmer, the piercing ray of hope, Robinson perseveres for.
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  1. In 2012, President Obama presented Robinson with the National Humanities Medal. Here is a message Obama presented to Robinson upon her retirement:
  2. Scott Schomberg, “Watching the World From Gethsemane: Darkness and the Devastated Self in Marilynne Robinson’s Fiction”

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3. Marilynne Robinson, When I was a Child I Read Books, Picador, 2012, 130

Saxophonist Adam Kolker travels in the long shadows of Wayne Shorter

Review: Adam Kolker Lost (Sunnyside)

It’s been a longtime coming, a tenor saxophonist doing justice to Wayne Shorter in an album statement. 1

Kolker embraces Shorter’s almost-mystical genius, beautiful yet elliptical, invariably evident even in his verbal pronouncements.

He traffics in his subject’s tone, manner and visionary values. And he lives up to Shorter’s ideal of originality superseding conventional or inherited aesthetics.

Yes, Coltrane’s astringent tone and passion dwell within Shorter and, by extension, Kolker. Yet Shorter made his own art as compelling and sublime as any preceding jazz. He did this partly by employing shadow and indirection, shapely asymmetry, and by allowing the fissures of ambiguity to open fresh roads to possibility and new definitions of beauty and truth. At times, Shorter can sound as confessional as he does otherworldly.

Adam Kolker, Courtesy Jazz Times

Kolker has learned well. There’s a certain bite to his well-honed tone. So the Lost album opens with ingenious obliquity, with not a Shorter piece, but Gil Evans’ “The Time of the Barracudas,” originally an orchestral vehicle for Shorter’s tenor.

Both Shorter tunes interpreted, “Lost” and “Dance Cadaverous,” are as disquieting as they are strangely engaging. The album’s chosen title, “Lost,”  feels wholly apt, as a tribute not to the man himself but to his long, winding road of quest, or The Way, a Buddhist concept of rather selfless enlightenment, long-embraced by Shorter. 2

(On the other hand, incorporating Shorter’s name into the title would’ve likely helped market the album to its intended audience.)

Though first conceived as an album of Shorter tunes, Kolker offers two of his own beguiling originals, which also betray formal qualities of Monk and Steve Lacy. Kolker also gives two standards, by Jimmy Van Husen and Bronislaw Kaper, Shorter-like re-imaginings.

Kolker has mastered for himself Shorter’s limpid aura of expressive intimacy, seeming to be whispering to you, the lone listener, in superbly burnished tones when he plays his saxophonists. On soprano, Kolker may have more restrained mastery than his elder’s model.

So, this album is far from musical hagiography, or the convention of a complete dedication album of an honoree’s repertoire.

A superb accompanying trio — pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Billy Hart — buoy the music like seamen expertly managing sails in tricky crosswinds. Shorter’s compositions and style are often as oddly tilted in the time/space continuum as they are nuanced.

If not quite a transformative work, Lost sets sail for a distant shore and gives us fresh lenses on Shorter’s still-too-little understood legacy. That Kolker accomplished an historical kind of perspective before Shorter’s passing testifies to this achievement.

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1. To date, the strongest acknowledgement of Shorter’s legacy as album statements have come arguably from pianists, as in the 1983 piano-duo album Shorter by Two, by Kirk Lightsey and Harold Danko. This may partly be due to Shorter’s own comparatively long career, always exemplifying the reach beyond, rather than glorifying the past.

Rickey Ford’s Shorter Ideas is also a worthy covering of Shorter’s compositions.

2 Shorter originally recorded “Lost” on his 1965 Blue Note album The Soothsayer. “Dance Cadaverous” is from Shorter’s 1964 Blue Note masterpiece Speak No Evil.

All praise to Anne Valent and Sharon Lynch, both mothers and Renaissance women extraordinaire

Here’s a Facebook posting from my friend Ed Valent celebrating our two mothers, Sharon Lynch and Anne Valent, as “Renaissance Women extraordinaire.
Thanks also to sister Anne Lynch.
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Sheila A. Lynch, Kere Valent and 13 others
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  • Met Ann

    Anne Lynch

    yesterday and got to talking about our moms and their painting. Then found a picture of my mom with my niece,

    Sheila Koch

    , at an art sale back on May 21, 1977. Both of these renaissance mom’s were amazing women. Raised zillions of children in the bad old days when women’s rights were trampled upon in ways we now think of as ridiculous. Sharon Lynch worked for Inner City Arts Council for a while and produced the chair painting in the style of Jack Beal during the same period my mom, Ann Valent, was riffing on the work of Georges Rouault and Henri Mattisse. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Hey,

    Kevin Lynch

    , can I get a shout out on Cultural Currents?

    4

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    • 20h
  • Loved seeing your eyes Ed!! Though I missed your smile!. Thanks for all the memories. Will share photos of the rafting adventures in the summer! More to come.

Diana Jones sings a “Song to the Refugee,” as if she’s lived that life

Review: Diana Jones Song to a Refugee (Proper Records)

Tennessee-born singer-songwriter Diana Jones revealed a genius for inhabiting, with uncanny authenticity, spirits of the dispossessed, as early as her stunning 2006 song “Pony.” There, she put a young Native American’s poignant, painful reminisces right in the lap of our memories.

Today, the album’s guest artists Steve Earle, Richard Thompson and Peggy Seeger help underscore that she’s the perfect artistic spokesperson for Southern border refugees. Consider the Trump administration’s cruel separation of hundreds of children from their parents, a dilemma the Biden presidency will struggle to resolve.

“The  brutal policy of family separation stands in for every other episode of (The Trump administration’s) cruelty, and transcends them all,” writes James Fallows in The Atlantic. ” ‘We’ve been declared in some respects a state sponsor of child abuse by friends overseas,’ ” John R. Allen, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who now is president of the Brookings Institution, told Fallows. “ ‘Having friends and allies declare this as state-sponsored child abuse is a stain on our national soul that will take a long time to remedy.’ ”

Jones’s Song allows us to feel the torn and bereft families’ experience, perhaps to move us to act:  My brothers name is Leo, mine is Gabriel/ 46 and 47 but the numbers do not tell/ what we wish and what we long for what we love and what we miss/ our papa’s crazy stories and our mama’s gentle kiss/ this is where are.

Here’s the compulsively incantatory “I Wait for You”: I walked for miles across many borders alone/ over oceans to make it here/ when nights are cold I sing lullabies/ the sun refuses to shine/ I sing for you/no work no pride, some wait for years to find…you have all my heart while we are apart/someday I hope you understand/ when I sent for you and you come to me/ and you come to me we will be free.”

Her singing can be at once maternal, sisterly, and autobiographical. At times, you can almost taste desert dust.

Diana Jones. Courtesy The New York Times

“Santiago” carries special poignance:

Here I stand in my hands is a rosary/ all I own and you take it/ a gift for my grandmother I was seven years old… Then came the killing and the fire/ we had to run some did not make it/ a little boy name Santiago stayed by my side/ his mother’s final words were he’s a good boy you can see/ I’ve never been a father but I would like to be

I know of no more artful evocation of a contemporary human experience that may be too alien for ordinary Americans to fully comprehend.

Throughout the album, Jones switches points of view. She also conjures vivid and sometimes emotionally engulfing metaphors, as in “The Sea is My Mother.” Yet, always her limpid, luminous voice sounds like an angel on a desolate shoulder, witness to a forsaken heart.

America, the land famously welcoming “your huddled masses,” this is where we are.

My brother’s name is Leo, mine is Gabriel/ 46 and 47, but the numbers do not tell.

Here’s a sample from the album, the song “We Believe You,” which features guest performances by Steve Earle, Richard Thompson and Peggy Seeger.

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This review was first published in shorter form in The Shepherd Express: https://shepherdexpress.com/music/album-reviews/song-to-a-refugee-by-diana-jones-proper/

Hallelujia! Let the healing begin

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Biden and Harris win for America
Hallelujia!! Let the healing begin
as our democracy regains its footing
ever striving,
as the glorious land of the free…
“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
— Katherine Lee Bates, 1893, from “America, The Beautiful,” a poem inspired by a trip to Pike’s Peak.
Now, a woman of color, Kamala Harris, has made history, as America’s first female vice president-elect.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, author and black leader, 1857.
  • (Top) landscape photo courtesy theeconomist.com (Below) Maroon Bells, Elk Mountain, Colorado. courtesy blog.americanexpedition.us

Herb Adderley, the great ball hawk who flew into my heart

Herb Adderley (26, above and below) intercepts a Raiders pass intended for Fred Biletnikoff (25) during Super Bowl II. He returned the 4th-quarter pick 60 yards for a touchdown, all but assuring the Packers 33-14 Super Bowl win.

Courtesy NFL Past players

My all-time favorite football player has died.1

I sit here in my Herb Adderley Hall of Fame T-shirt after learning the news yesterday. 2

I will only briefly try to do justice to him or my feelings, right now. I will say my heart now feels like a Roman Gabriel bullet pass hit me in the chest.

Herb, of course, would’ve picked off that pass with his hands away from his body, and ran with it — an amazing, gazelle-like athlete. And yet, at 6 feet and 206 pounds, this Packer was a tough, deadly tackler and a tenacious jump-ball “rebounder.”

Herb Adderley breaks up a pass intended for Gary Collins of the Cleveland Browns. Courtesy packers.com

Vince Lombardi picked the Michigan State ball-hawk in 1962 as the first-ever African-American first-round pick. Some think Adderley was the best shut-down cornerback of all-time, comparing favorably to Deion Sanders, who was a very weak tackler. Like Sanders, Adderley was a brilliant kick-returner, being a former running back at Michigan State, who ran a 9.6 100-yard dash.

After Lombardi left Green Bay, Adderley was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. He became a vital cog in its “Doomsday Defense,” assisting the Cowboys to a Super Bowl appearance in V and a win in VI. When race-related challenges arose, Adderley rose as well, as a courageous locker-room leader for the Cowboys.

Along with the Patriots’ Tom Brady, and two Packer teammates, offensive linemen Fuzzy Thurston (Colts) and Forrest Gregg (Cowboys), Adderley is one of only four players in pro football history to play on six world championship teams. 

In his 12 seasons, Adderley nabbed 48 interceptions, which he returned for 1,046 yards and seven touchdowns, an average of 21.8 yards per return. He also recovered 14 fumbles (returning them for 65 yards) and returned 120 kickoffs for 3,080 yards and two scores.

However, my fuller thoughts and assessment of him as a player and a leader are in my review of his great book Lombardi’s Left Side, co-authored with teammate Dave Robinson.

So I’m sharing Pete Dougherty’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obit on Herb, and my review of his book, which is urgently important in these times of heightened racial justice concerns.

Herb Adderly and Jim Otto pose with their busts after enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 2, 1980.

Herb Adderley (left) holds his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust alongside fellow inductee Jim Otto. They played against each other in Super Bowl II (see below) Courtesy Detroit News.

Raiders center Jim Otto hiked the ball when Adderley made the Super Bowl II pick-six (below). Otto is in the foreground (00) as Adderley heads for the end zone. Daryl Lamonica (3) was the quarterback Adderley intercepted. NFL Past Players

Image Gallery of Herb Adderley | NFL Past Players

Here’s a quote for those who wondered about Adderley’s post-Packer career, as to where his heart lay:

“I’m the only man with a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl ring who doesn’t wear it. I’m a Green Bay Packer.” – Herb Adderley

Dougherty obit on Adderley

Here’s my blog article on Herb Adderley and his superb book Lombardi’s Left Side: https://kevernacular.com/?p=3185

As an added bonus, this obit piece from The Athletic includes a brief video appreciation of Adderley:

The Athletic on Adderley

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1 His death was confirmed on Twitter on Friday by cousin Nasir Adderley, a safety for the Los Angeles Chargers. No details were given. He called Herb a “unique soul who has had such an incredible influence on my life.”

2 Technical difficulties prevented me from publishing this post yesterday.

 

 

Gregg August’s “Dialogues on Race” is jazz facing up to racial history and present

Album cover of “Dialogues on Race, Vol. 1”

Album review: Gregg August Dialogues on Race, Vol. 1  lacuessa Records 1

Bassist Gregg August’s large jazz ensemble Dialogues on Race, Vol. 1 exemplifies a dialogue necessary for reform and collective healing. Pointed, poignant poetry – from Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Francisco Alarcon, Carolyn Kizer, and others – adorns his pulsing orchestral canvas, verse sometimes recited, sometimes musically interpreted.

The recording’s heart and backbone is the 1955 murder and immolation of Emmett Till, which sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Marilyn Nelson’s poem “Your Only Child,” honoring Till, appears thrice: sung in jazz style, voiced in a reverential context, and concluding with August’s solo arco bass interpretation. But the album’s guts is “Mother Mamie’s Reflections” – the recorded voice of Till’s mother recounts, with dramatic reverb enhancement, the experience of seeing her son’s mangled and charred body.

Few recent artistic documents have carried such searing power, or been as fearless and ambitious. August’s vivid scoring mirrors the poetry, and recalls one of Charles Mingus’s most ambitious recordings, Mingus’s own personal favorite of his work, Let My Children Hear Music. That title’s eloquent generosity resounds through the two-CD Dialogues, with performances by August’s band mate saxophonist JD Allen, pianist Louis Perdomo, trumpeter John Bailey and others. In a sense, all Americans remain children, waiting to grow into a truly equal and just society.

In the liner notes, August says, “My hope is that ‘Dialogues on Race’ can in some small way serve as an integrated musical bridge to awareness, and maybe even stand as an affirmation against racism and injustice. Admittedly, these are lofty goals. However, through conversation, community and art, I know we can work together towards furthering understanding.”

Recording will be released on August 21, 2020, and available at Gregg August Dialogues on Race

Bassist-composer Gregg August (right) leads his large ensemble in recording of “Dialogues on Race, Vol. 1.” Courtesy Albany Times Union.

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1 Bassist-composer-arranger Gregg August is accomplished in modern jazz, Latin and classical music realms. The longtime member of the J.D. Allen Trio and performs regularly with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and is a faculty member of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute.

A slightly shorter version of this review was published in The Shepherd Express.

Rev. ML King on the importance, the struggle and the power of community

Britannica.com

Many Facebook birthday greetings, which almost made me feel unworthy,  led me to this short speech of Rev. Martin Luther King’s labeled “Beloved Community.”

It’s far more tough-minded than that title might suggest. He speaks plenty to our painful but transforming times.

“Rise up! And know when you struggle for justice you do not struggle alone…”

So thanks to my friends, but do give the Reverend a few minutes of your time, our time:

Let’s commission or buy more historic statues of Civil War or civil rights heroes. Good ones! Great ones!

One of the more complex and fraught cultural issues arising these days is the removal of (largely) Confederate statues. Some are being toppled and at least partly destroyed. I’m all for the long-overdue change in culture, in response to our urgent times. This need is no better addressed than in this recent Op-Ed by poet and author Caroline Randall Williams in The New York Times, powerfully underscored in a dark symbolism, dwelling in the statues’ heroic posturings. Here (via Daily Kos) is a link: NYT Op-Ed on Confederate statues

The Times headline defiantly declared “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Confederate Monument.”

Williams continued with the startling lead:

 I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.

She went on to explain:

I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists…

Poet and author Caroline Randall Williams wrote a scathing commentary recently on the dark underbelly of Confederate statues for The New York Times. Courtesy Nashville Scene.

Amen to that. However, I’m also in the camp of those who think Confederate statues should be moved to museums, and submitted to proper historical contextualization and commentary. And partly given my undergrad degree was in art, with a concentration on sculpture, I have a bias towards preserving public art of historical significance, the good, bad and sometimes even the ugly..

The issue reached a razor’s edge that bled into the absurd recently in Madison, Wisconsin, where I lived and worked for nearly 20 years, as an arts reporter for The Capital Times. So I was greatly saddened see that Wisconsin’s “foreword” statue, long situated on the Capitol Square, was knocked over, and thrown in Lake Mendota. And that the statue of renowned abolitionist and union soldier Hans Christian Heg – a Norwegian immigrant who knew the meaning of being an other, and who died fighting to end slavery – was knocked down and dragged down the street. These were acts of little more than self-righteous ignorance, or worse, perhaps racist subversion.

Several of my friends suspect this was the handiwork of a Neo-Nazis or White Supremacists infiltrating the Madison George Floyd civil rights protests. As one friend shrewdly observed, the guilty party scrawled the phrase “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL” at the top of the deposed Heg sculpture’s base (see below). Here’s the thing. That phrase hasn’t been used by most African-Americans since the 1960s. It suggests this was a bogus and culturally lame attempt to place the blame on Black Lives Matter.

Base of the statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg in Madison, after the statue was torn down recently. Photo by Allison Garfield. Courtesy Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

On a related issue, I cannot agree with student activists who call for the removal of the beloved statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln, at the top of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus. The bronze sculpture mirrors the grand marble sculpture of our 16th president seated in The Lincoln Memorial.

The controversy has to do with what we now call white supremacist comments that Lincoln made before the Civil War during the famous debates with Stephen Douglas. Yes, they are troubling, but history shows that Lincoln redeemed himself through his actions many times over, and indeed was a martyr for the cause of ending slavery. He  inspired Juneteenth Day with his Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves.

Such a leader should be judged by his actions, and such formal proclamations that carry great political weight, rather than by his worst comments, which reveal his racial biases (which we all have, to some degree). Remember too, it was the 1850s, upon which we can misapply our social standards begat by time. We know Lincoln realized that even he struggled at times to stay aligned with the better angels of his nature. And that he always considered slavery immoral and worth destroying with all the Union’s might.

As for what to do about politically historical statues in general, I prefer to think more constructively. If we replace Confederate statues, what should we commission or construct in their stead?

The issue of how to replace them was addressed creatively by six artists in a 2018 New York Times article, when the controversy over a Robert E. Lee statue arose in connection to the infamous Charlottesville clash of civil rights and white supremacists: The New York Times, Aug. 10, 2018, “Monuments for a New Era.”

 

But Madison and other cities could follow the example of Milwaukee, which last December purchased a bronze sculpture by the acclaimed black sculptor Radcliffe Bailey depicting W.E.B. DuBois, the great black writer, thinker, sociologist and civil rights activist. 1 The sculpture, titled “Pensive,” depicts DuBois seated in the same posture as Auguste Rodin’s celebrated “The Thinker,” and even mimics the early modernist Rodin’s rough-hewn modeling. The work was purchased as a gift to the city by Sue and Mark Irgens, and mounted this spring in its new location outside of the new BMO Tower, 790 N. Water St.

Radcliffe Bailey, Pensive, 2013, part of Sculpture Milwaukee 2019. © Radcliffe Bailey, Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki for Sculpture Milwaukee

Milwaukee first experienced the quiet but indeed pensive power of the bronze figure in the 2019 MKE Sculpture exhibit mounted along Wisconsin Avenue. For me, it was the outstanding work in the exhibit, artistically and culturally, and I spotlit it in a blog posting, here:

Bronze sculpture of W.E.B. DuBois is highlight of Sculpture Milwaukee

The work’s conceptual lineage is deep, as Rodin’s original “The Thinker” depicted poet Dante Aligieri’s figure, drawing from the poet’s The Divine Comedy, and conceived as a figure contemplating Rodin’s massive tableaux sculpture, The Gates of Hell commissioned in 1880. The symbolic significance of the tableaux is not lost on our times, nor on DuBois’s, when he boldly stirred American consciousness on matters of race in the early 20th century, directly defying Jim Crow.

But the first of Rodin’s familiar monumental bronze castings of “The Thinker,” as a stand-alone sculpture, did not appear until 1904.

Works such as Bailey’s, completely in 2013, ought to be the standard we strive for in public art, especially on fraught matters as race relations or the Civil War. I would love to see Madison commission or purchase a monument to, say, the epic ex-slave biographer and leader Frederick Douglass, or the heroic Underground Railroad operator Harriet Tubman, or modern civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Or even a work commemorating the death of Emmett Till, which sparked the modern civil rights movement, sensitive as such a rendering might be.

We are in a time of extraordinary social upheaval and transformation, which may feel to too transitory for doubters of social progress. Still, I can think of few better ways we can celebrate such progress and permanently inspire its furtherance, than with bronze public sculptures that embody our history’s embattled nobility and, we pray, our future redemption in freedom and equality for all.

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1 News of the sculpture’s purchase, gifting and re-installation, as reported by Bobby Tanzilo of OnMilwaukee.com: https://onmilwaukee.com/ent/articles/irgens-pensive.html

Here’s the proper streaming and purchase source for Dontre Hamilton documentary “The Blood is at the Doorstep”

In response to my recent blog linked to my Shepherd Express comment on a recent Milwaukee-area protest march against police brutality, streamingmoviesright.com informed me that they held streaming and sales rights for the film The Blood is at the Doorstep. It is not properly free on YouTube as I had indicated. The film is available here: Blood is at the Doorstep

The film by Erik Ljung compellingly and often beautifully documents the quest of Dontre Hamilton’s family in pursuing justice for his unlawful killing at the hands of a Milwaukee police officer, in April of 2014 in downtown Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park.

In a positive review, Hollywood Reporter describes the film, when it played at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017:

“The policeman who killed Milwaukee resident Dontre Hamilton in April 2014, in a public park in the middle of the day, shot him 14 times. He wasn’t the first cop to approach Hamilton as he dozed in the downtown park — others had been there and seen that he was doing nothing wrong. Why an employee at a nearby Starbucks saw the need to call the police about him, and not once but twice, is one of the sorriest aspects in the horrific chain of events that robbed Hamilton’s family of their son and brother. The 31-year-old black man was schizophrenic and, except for the baton that he reportedly grabbed from the officer, unarmed.”

:”Blood” has won numerous awards from film festivals. It also has earned a 100 per cent Tomatometer rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, which has not determined its own critical consensus yet. I don’t believe the film has had widespread theatrical release. All reviews I’ve seen online have been quite positive, including my own review here:

Milwaukee film brilliantly embraces the family of Dontre Hamilton – a search for justice

The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York has conducted a Q and A session (below) with the film director and Hamilton family members, including his mother and brother Nate Hamilton, who is pictured below and in my blog’s current theme photo (in the red jersey), talking with Milwaukee Police Chief, Alberto Morales, Here’s the photo by Jonathan Klett, one of the most recent manifestation’s of the family’s ongoing fight for justice for Dontre’s killing:

Dontre Hamilton’s brother Nate (in red jersey) talks with MPD chief during a recent protest against police bruality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. Photo by Jonathan Klett 

Here is the Lincoln Center Q&A with the Hamilton family about Dontre and the film: