Saturday, February 21, 2009


Artist Kerry James Marshall is a certified genius. The MacArthur Foundation confirmed it when they awarded him their $500,000 genius award.

But don't take the MacArthur Foundation's word for it. His work was also awarded places of honor in the Whitney Museum biennial, Venice Biennale, and the prestigious German Documenta show. Marshall's paintings sell for $400,000 to prominent museums and collectors.

People of great stature and prominence who pride themselves on their taste have bestowed upon Marshall almost every form of recognition that our society offers. His NY art dealer boasts, "He's kind of recession-proof." No wonder art critic Blake Gopnik writes, "Can an artist get much more successful than Kerry James Marshall?"

Marshall himself is not surprised by all these honors. He says, "Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael.... my objective is to be listed in the history among those artists."

I hope that all of you would-be Michelangelos out there who aspire to recognition, museum shows, wealth and fame are taking notes on what it takes to ascend to the top of the pyramid in our time.

A sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay somehow comes to mind:

Country of hunchbacks! — where the strong, straight spine,

Jeered at by crooked children, makes his way

Through by-streets at the kindest hour of the day,

Till he deplore his stature, and incline

To measure manhood with a gibbous line;

Till out of loneliness, being flawed with clay,

He stoop into his neighbor's house and say,

"Your roof is low for me — the fault is mine."

Dust in an urn long since, dispersed and dead

Is great Apollo; and the happier he;

Since who amongst you all would lift a head

At a god's radiance on the mean door-tree,

Saving to run and hide your dates and bread,

And cluck your children in about your knee?