Monday, February 14, 2011

Fine Arts - Visit to Scripps College Senior Art Studios

The Scripps College Fine Arts Foundation had more than 30 members visit the Senior Art Studios at the Art Department on the afternoon of Feb 14, 2011. Treasurer Mike Layne handed out checks for seven expense grants to those students participating. Professors Susan Rankeitas (the blond lady in the center of the following picture) and Ken Gonzales-Day guided the members through the galleries while Professor Nancy Macko was in the studios explaining and greeting. We saw a preview of an animation project by student Isabel Anderson in the animation studio (she is kneeling in front of Professor Rankeitas). Other students were Candace Kita, Shayna Friedman, Sarah Dick, Jordan Mopstein, Suzanne Calkins, Bailey Busch.

The tour consisted of a lot of ladies speaking with and having the various projects explained to them by the students. So it was a very nice afternoon of pleasant interaction and seeing these vivid young imaginations at the work of play, or the play of work.

Also shown below are simply some snapshots of some of the art hanging on the studio walls picked out of my photos of the day for their colorfulness and aesthetics. At the bottom is a very interesting use of cutouts placed in a vacant studio space. Two of our members are standing inside.

After the studio tour, we all met out on the balcony of the Art Department and had delicious cupcakes, cookies, and coffee and bottled water prepared by our Refreshment Committee of Minche Myers and Joyce Lamphere and ably assisted by Jeri of the Art Department office. The students and professors joined us for a pleasant interlude of talk. Professor Day got the Williamson Gallery to open up and many of our members went and saw the Ceramics Annual, the national recognized show currently "up" at the Gallery.

We look forward to visiting the exhibition of Senior Art projects in May at the end of the school year. My personal observation is this has been our most successful interaction with the Senior Art students over the past half dozen years.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review - A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York by Andre Schiffrin

This is a charming memoir by Andre Schiffrin, long-time publisher at Pantheon Books and later The New Press, published in 2007. For me, the memoir breaks down into two parts: the childhood story of leaving France in 1940 and coming to New York and growing up. The second part is Schriffin's intellectual development in America into a strong social democratic and Leftist political intellectual. I will take up the second part in a later blog.

Schiffrin was born in Paris in 1935 to a Russian emigre father and French mother. The father's family had been wealthy oilmen in Baku but the family fortune was swept away in the Russian Revolution of 1917. The father came to Paris and became a successful publisher and then editor at the prestigious Gallimard publishing house, apparently on the recommendation of Andre Gide. The father escorted Andre Gide, the preeminent man of French letters in the 1930s, on his famous trip to Russia in 1936. This was the trip that led to Gide's break with Communism, a much commented upon literary event. Gide did go on to work heart and soul to support the Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

With the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, the elder Schiffrin was dismissed because of his Jewish background in August 1940. This began a one-year odyssey for the Schiffrin family to the south of France where they came under sponsorship of Varian Fry, the famous American who was organizing the flight of Jewish and other endangered European artists and intellectuals out of France. The sponsorship was prompted by Gide's intervention, who sort of hovered over the Schiffrin family as a guardian angel for a large number of years. The family followed the refugee trail to Marseilles, Casablance, Lisbon and finally New York, arriving in August 1941. At critical junctures, Gide had provided support and money.

In 1948, and age 13, young Andre was sent back to France for a long stay. He stayed in Paris and later spent a lot of time in the south of France living in the Gide household. Schiffrin here reflects on the effects of the German occupation and the poverty of post-war France. His father never was able to return to his beloved Paris, mostly due to declining health. But also the exiles were not really wanted back. Jean Paul Sartre, who visited the Schiffrin family in New York in 1945, observed that most had been "forgotten." Andre visited the Gallimard publishing operations and Gaston Gallimard's grand apartment in the Palais Royale, but there is a lingering distaste that his father had not been invited back after the war. Schiffrin observes that the history of publishing during the Occupation was a "complicated one."

Schiffrin returned from France, continued on to Yale and then two delightful years at Cambridge University in England. He returned to a career in progressive politics and publishing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Third Republic Lives - French ministers accept free travel

I thought I had great material for kicking off a new thread - The Third Republic Lives! Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie have admitted taking some "free" travel and lodging to visit Tunisia and Egypt. This would have been keeping in the rich tradition of canoodling of the great Third Republic politicos as they careened towards total defeat in the 1930s.

Alas! I read the article in today's New York Times and all the "free" travel turned out to be sensible precautions and measures that a visiting minister should employ when visiting a foreign country. There are security concerns and these were pretty standard practices. Supposedly these were "embarassments." Looked sort of sensible to me.

Saved! Rather than not having a story here, President Sarkozy entered the fray and said henceforth ministers would stay in France for vacations. This is genuinely stupid. Ministers should be encouraged to go visit the world, particularly around the Mediterranean where two great cultures meet. I couldn't help thinking what Charles de Gaulle's response might have been, such as sticking the grand nose high up into the air and saying, "The state travels where it will." So, Sarko has once again come across as a pogo stick!