Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today I Am ...

Last week I wrote about people leaving Facebook so today I thought I would write about someone who is staying on and he says, “I know the risks but don’t think the Russian bots or clumsy sales pitches are likely to influence me.”  This from a journalist who spent over 30 years writing art and food criticism for The Oregonian, Portland Oregon’s newspaper for well over 150 years.

My wife, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, met Bob Hicks in St. Petersburg, Russia when she was working on an exhibition for the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.  The Director, John Buchanan, was putting together an exhibition of works of art that had belonged to the Stroganoff family and his curator had quit on him leaving quite a mess.  From a political point of you he had an ace in the hole with Hélène de Ludinghausen the last of the Stroganoffs on his side.  He asked Penelope to take over curating the show.  Though she had refused John the first time she felt she had time then to do so as she had just accomplished the task of helping our son to get into the university of his  choice.  In spite of a great deal of struggle with some of the Russian old guard she whipped the show into shape and helped seal the deal politically as well.  Bob Hicks came along on the final trip to Russia with Penelope, the director and Development Director (Lucy Buchanan)  to finalize the contract.  Subsequently Bob did a series of in-depth stories for the Oregonian which he called, what else … “The Art of the Deal”!

Bob bills himself today as a freelance writer and editor. Shortly after joining Facebook in early 2012 and not being sure how to proceed, he had a visit from his 6 year old grandson who came up with a different cartoon for Bob to post every day. It sparked an idea and every day since April 15, tax day, of that year he has posted a work of art literally putting himself into the picture by writing as if he was a participant in the image.  He tries to pick only works of art where there will be no copyright or other legal entanglements, giving himself an extra challenge.

For instance, there is this wonderful image from last month’s selections, a gouache and watercolor representing “Harlequin and Death” of 1907 by Konstantin Somov from the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.  I had never seen the image before nor did I know of the museum.   This is what he wrote but you might see yourself differently in this image ...

FROM BOB: Today I am giving Old Bones the razz. We’ve been through this a million times. “See that young couple?” he taunts. “I’ll get them in the end. They’re mine.” “Ah,” I reply. “But I will show them love, laughter, passion, joy. You will win only the husk, once they are done.” As always, he is silent. Poor fellow. He knows nothing of life.

A while back I had put Bob in touch with Puppa Witgentstein who, having posted her images on Facebook for some time, wrote the book, “Old Masters Rock: How to Look at Art with Children” which I wrote about last fall.   A great supplement to that would be Bob’s blog within Facebook, which, by the way, is on his personal page where he feels he is actually interacting with friends who comment.

When our children were small and we took them to museums we would stand in front of a painting and ask them to tell us what they thought was going on.  It was often far more interesting than what the actual title was and far more up to date. Here is one definitely for kids, which I have picked from this last month where he gives his take on Hieronymus Bosch’s, “The Ship of Fools,” ca. 1491-1500, from the Louvre.  Your child might see it quite differently… ask her/him.

FROM BOB: Today I am carousing on the good Ship of State. It’s a luxury liner, and a place of high hilarity. We have such fun putting on shows! Wink and act angry: the crowd goes wild. To get on board, one must line the pockets of the wealthy and promise the poor to poke holes in the hull. The only way to keep the thing floating is to sink it!

If you are a Facebook member you can log on and put Bob Hicks into search and the profile photo of the blond guy is the right Bob Hicks.  You will probably have to befriend him … he doesn’t bite … and if you say you are just reacting to this Missive I am sure he will allow you to join.  Have fun going through over 2000 images or just see what painting or other work of art has been today’s choice. There will be a new one tomorrow.

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