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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sean Hannity, art critic (UPDATED)

Y'know that "fake news" stuff that Donald Trump keeps squawking about? I think I found some. From Sean Hannity:
The widening scandal surrounding former President Barack Obama’s official portrait continued to swirl on Tuesday, with shocking allegations the artist included ‘secret sperm cells’ within the painting and once joked about “Killing Whitey” during an interview.

Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley’s wildly non-traditional portrait of the Commander-in-Chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling; with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique -concealing images of sperm within his paintings.
First: Who the hell are these "industry insiders"? Can Hannity name a single one? How did he learn of these claims?

What "industry" are we talking about?

Hannity thinks his listeners/listeners are rubes. He wants them to believe that painters work for Hollywood, which is what guys like him mean when they talk about "the industry." As it happens, a few painters have indeed worked in Hollywood -- for example, me. Kehinde Wiley, as near as I can tell, is just a guy in New York who works for nobody except himself. By definition, independent craftsmanship stands outside of industrialization.

The hoary pursuit known as paintin' pitchurs is not an industry; it's an obsession -- and it is practiced everywhere, from villages in Ethiopia to a high-rise across from Trump Tower (where they sell Vasari oil paints). There were really good paintings made on the doomed Scott expedition to Antarctica, while this guy made remarkable paintings at the North Pole. Online, I've befriended artists in Indonesia and formerly-Soviet Georgia. The only place on earth where painting may fairly be called an "industry" is in the grim Chinese town of Dafen. Everywhere else, painting is a passion, not an industry.

Second: Hannity's bizarre assertion seems to trace back to this piece published in a born-yesterday toxic wasteland called "News Media Watchdog," which (to my eye) resembles the fake news sites which popped up to spread the Pizzagate story.

The article has no byline. The site itself has no named editors or publishers. If you go to this feed, you won't have to scroll down far to see the inevitable picture of Pepe. (The feed is on Gab, which caters to racists and Nazis.) Are you thinking Russian propaganda? I am. If not Russian, then white nationalist -- as if there's any difference between the two, these days. Although the site claims to serve both right and left, the comments are hideously racist. This is MAGA at its most emetic.  

Third: Is hiding sperm a "technique"? Glazing is a technique. Impasto is a technique. Working on an absorbent panel is a technique. When artists use the word "technique," they usually refer to things like that. Hidden imagery is more of a gimmick.

By the way: The decapitation image really was a joke, involving one of Wiley's assistants, who provided the head. If she didn't mind, I don't mind.

UPDATE: Hannity has taken down this piece, claiming that it was posted to his site by unnamed aides. This incident demonstrates that Hannity's helpers go through Alt Right web sites to see if the Pals of Pepe have come up with any interesting new propaganda memes.
Haha. Industry Insiders is a real laugh, alright.

It would be a fun exercise to see how many irony quotation marks would be needed to do it right.

As a side note, a neighbor was showing me some lovely oil paintings that had been done as an avocation by film industry matte painters.
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