Arts History Update for late January 2016

14 Jan

Arts History Update for late January 2016 by David Cummins

Mr. and Mrs. Obama have selected contemporary art with which to decorate the White House during their tenure Some of that art speaks to its occupants being the first African-Americans.

Ruby Bridges was a six year old African-American girl in November 1960, six years after the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision announced that separate public education for races was inherently unequal and unconstitutional. A local federal district court order implementing the new understanding of the law, integrated the New Orleans schools in November 1960 and her parents volunteered Ruby Bridges and she was escorted to and from a previously all-white children Frantz Elementary School by federal marshals. A large and menacing crowd was outside the school. Ruby entered and that very day chaos occurred and all the white children were taken out by their parents, and all but one teacher refused to teach. The lone teacher taught one student classes with Ruby Bridges. Over the next several months a number of white children gradually returned to the school and teachers were reassigned to the school who didn’t object to African-American children.

Norman Rockwell saw this scene act itself out and he painted The Problem We All Live With (1963) depicting Ruby walking to school surrounded by the legs of federal marshals. It was published as cover art for Look Magazine and the nation viewed it. It is part of the collection at The Norman Rockwell Museum. In Mr. Obama’s first year in office 2009 he called the museum and asked to borrow it for the duration of his presidency. It hangs in a first floor state room so international and national visitors see it. In 2011 Mrs. Ruby Bridges Hall, still a resident of New Orleans, was an invited guest at the White House and she stood next to the first family and viewed the painting. Today there is a bronze statuary of Bridges outside former Frantz Elementary School now a charter school by a different name.

Glenn Ligon is an African-American artist. John Howard Griffin is a white journalist who blackened his skin and passed for an unemployed African-American, traveling in the south and he wrote a memoir Black Like Me (Houghton Mifflin 1961) reissued (Penguin Books 1976) Lubbock Public Library BIO GRIF 3 copies. Glenn Ligon painted Black Like Me # 2 (1992) consisting mostly of words from the memoir and it was purchased by the Hirshhorn Museum in 1993. In Mr. Obama’s first year in office 2009 he called the Hirshhorn Museum and asked to borrow the painting for the duration of his presidency. It hangs in the White House private living quarters upstairs.


Ursula K. Le Guin, Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 (Independent Publishing Group December 18, 2015) 112 pages hardcover $19 Late in the Day, Ursula K. Le Guin’s new collection of poems (2010–2014) seeks meaning in an ever-connected world. In part evocative of Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and Mary Oliver’s poetic guides to the natural world, Le Guin’s latest give voice to objects that may not speak a human language but communicate with us nevertheless through and about the seasonal rhythms of the earth, the minute and the vast, the ordinary and the mythological. As Le Guin herself states, “science explicates, poetry implicates.” Accordingly, this immersive, tender collection implicates us (in the best sense) in a subjectivity of everyday objects and occurrences. Deceptively simple in form, the poems stand as an invitation both to dive deep and to step outside of ourselves and our common narratives. The poems are bookended with two short essays, “Deep in Admiration” and “Some Thoughts on Form, Free Form, Free Verse. –

Le Guin will read from her latest poems and sign the book at Powells Bookstore on January 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm. She lives in Portland Oregon so it’s a short drive for her to the bookstore. She’s an award-winning science fiction/fantasy novelist. She is 86 years of age


Canadian Brass Quintet concert is Saturday February 6, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Student Union Building Allen Theater on the campus of Texas Tech $25 plus $2.37 service charge for general admission, $10 plus $1.54 for seniors age sixty up


George Winston solo pianist concert is Saturday February 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm at Hemmle Recital Hall on the campus of Texas Tech $20 plus $2.09 service charge for general admission


Ila Nicole Sheren, Portable Borders: Performance Art and Politics on the U.S. Frontera Since 1984 (University of Texas Press 2015) 212 pages $55 hardcover

E. Carmen Ramos, Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art (Smithsonian American Art Museum 2014) 365 pages $45.25 hardcover


  • Saturday, January 23, 2016
  • 6:00pm  9:00pm


The 3rdAnnual Scottish Ceilidh & Robert Burns Supper will be held January 23, 2016, 6PM, at the Texas Tech Club (east side), 2508 Sixth Street, Lubbock, Texas.   

This celebration will continue to highlight Scottish heritage and the living legacy of Scotland’s Poet Laureate, Robert Burns (1759-1796). 

Activities for the evening include:

Brief lecture on the life and times of Robert Burns, prime rib dinner with haggis, neeps and tatties, the piping of the haggis into the dining room by noted Texas-born piper by EJ Jones of Houston, and Burn’s most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, sung at the conclusion.

The Burns Supper was such a success last year that we decided to expand the program this year to include more elements of Scottish culture and heritage.  Your last name doesn’t have to begin with ‘Mac’ for you to join us for a wonderful evening!  Bagpipes, great food, fun people, a touch of the ‘highland mist’ perhaps, and a rousing time.  Wear your kilts, Gents, but remember to keep your knees together,” says Edson Way, member of the planning team.  He’ll be wearing the Red Douglas tartan himself.

The event is open to the general public and, as always, traditional Scottish attire including kilts, are encouraged.

Tickets are $75 and can be purchased by calling the Texas Tech Club at 742-4496.

This program made possible in part through a grant from City of Lubbock, as recommended by Civic Lubbock, Inc.

January 22



The Arts District Center for the Arts will open in Spring 2016 in Los Angeles at One Santa Fe Street in downtown “Keep LA Weird”.


Friday January 8 President Duane Nellis at Texas Tech University announced that he is resigning as president effective January 22, the day after classes begin for Spring semester, and will continue as a tenured professor at the university

January 8, 2016

Dear Texas Tech University Family,

Ruthie and I have truly appreciated the last two and a half years at Texas Tech University and being part of the Red Raider family. We have also appreciated the opportunity to have worked with so many of you to advance this excellent institution to new levels of success. I am proud of our enhancements to the student educational experience at Tech, that have resulted in greater levels of student retention, graduation rates, and overall student success, simultaneously, while working toward a campus-wide environment of innovation and entrepreneurship. During this same time we have strengthened our efforts to recruit more minority students, as we close in on becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, while our success in support of military veterans on our campus has been recognized nationally.

We have also hired a large number of new faculty and staff and continue to expand our infrastructure in ways that advance the university’s national research agenda. In research, we have added new research professorships, spurred new efforts in inter-disciplinary research, and created other mechanisms to grow our research enterprise. As we have extended such efforts toward new levels of economic development, entrepreneurship, and community partnerships, I am proud that last year we were one of a select number of universities nationally recognized as an “Innovative and Economic Prosperity University.” Such positive momentum has led us to be recognized the last two years by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the “Great Places to Work,” and helped contribute to our recent SACSCOC reaffirmation for our university as a whole. All of these successes, of course, were a team effort, and I thank you for your contributions.

Despite these successes and with mixed emotions, I have recently felt the need to explore new leadership directions in my career. As a result, effective January 22, 2016, I have decided to step down as president of Texas Tech University. The Chancellor and I have discussed my decision, and I will continue in my tenured university faculty position here at Texas Tech University. I also welcome the opportunity to provide a supportive role in special initiatives, focusing in areas such as international development, innovation, leadership training, and in enhancing the Honors College.

I am honored to have served as the 16th president of Texas Tech University. Ruthie and I will always have positive memories of the encouragement and strong support we have had from so many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of this special university. During our time at Texas Tech, I will continue to work toward Texas Tech’s ongoing success.



Gardens at a French Chateau Louis Bench started planning, designing and planting the gardens at the chateau of Prince Stanislas Poniatowski and Princess Leticia near Cernay France, the Chateau du Bois Hinoust [hinoust wooden castle], in 1987 and has been working on the gardens ever since. The slide-show above is a blend of French formalism and English functionality and practicality. Who else among us would have a moat surrounding the mansion house?


New Yorker Magazine is well-known. Its editors and writers now produce a weekly one hour radio show, a separate thing, and since it’s not broadcast in Lubbock, you may wish to listen to 55 minute segments online as a podcast beginning with the first Saturday October 23, 2015 proceeding forward to episode 12 on Saturday January 9.

Interesting very smart conversation.

You may wish to listen only to the discrete segments, not an entire hour show. Here are the segments in podcast format


Iris Murdoch 1919-1999 died age 79 after a struggle with Alzheimer’s, was a novelist/philosopher and a libertine bohemian as a young woman during World War II and afterward in Britain. She was an avid letter-writer who spent up to four hours a day in hand-written correspondence, mostly with a Montblanc fountain pen. She often responded immediately when she received a letter from a correspondent, encouraging her epistolary relationships. She wrote more than 5,000 letters that exist after her demise.

Her biographer Peter J. Conradi edited Iris Murdoch: A Writer at War: The Letters and Diaries 1939-1945 (Oxford University Press 2009) 304 pages.

Recently we have Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995 (eds. Avril Horner & Anne Rowe, Chatto and Windus 2015) 688 pages $28 hardcover $24 e-book. The editors previously wrote a book Iris Murdoch and Morality (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) 198 pages and then edited Iris Murdoch: Texts and Contexts (2012)

An archive and other data is found at Iris Murdoch Centre at Kingston University where Anne Rowe is Director of the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies

An article on the recent work Living On Paper matches up epistolary revelations and feelings by Murdoch with the characters in her novels and what they’re about, a fascinating exercise that gives more meaning to her works and to her incautious behaviors and inspiring insights into the human condition. Sophie Ratcliffe, Love and Uglier Feelings: Iris Murdoch’s Life in Letters, From Gifted Schoolgirl to Aggravatingly Effortless Novelist and Passionate Bohemian, The London Times Literary Supplement, December 4, 2015 at page 3.

Simone Weil 1909-1943 French philosopher, Christian mystic, political activist and humanitarian, has always been of enormous interest to me. Gabriele Griffin, The Influence of the Writings of Simone Weil on the Fiction of Iris Murdoch: Unselfing the Other (Mellen Research University Press 1993) 360 pages Texas Tech Library PR 6063.U7 Z665 is for me a key into the philosophical underpinnings of Iris Murdoch. When Murdoch traveled in France after the war she met Jean-Paul Sartre and through him learned of the enormous influence upon thinkers by Simone Weil. Murdoch parlayed that influence.

Iris (2001) movie directed by Richard Eyre in which an elderly Murdoch is played by Judi Dench and a young promiscuous Iris is played by Kate Winslet, managed to describe some physical realities of her life without ever using a phrase of her novels or philosophical writings. If one knew no more than this screenplay, one might say, an interesting person recently died, but why on earth did they make a movie about her and not 3 million others? We should be charitable and admit that making a movie about “unselfing the other” might not have much of a box office. If you were to make a movie of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, or Hellenism and Pessimism (1872), how would you do it? Who would pay to see it?

Iris (2001) is in Lubbock Public Library DVD F Iris, Video F Iris. The screenplay was based on one of the trilogy written by Iris’s husband John Bayley, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (Duckworth 1998), Elegy for Iris (St Martin’s Press 1999), and Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire (W.W. Norton 2000). Please don’t read any of the trilogy. They are born of the resentment by a cuckolded husband whose authorship of novels and other works was so decidedly inferior to those of Iris that his resentment of her was known by all. The trilogy expresses that resentment, may to some people reduce Iris, but actually only further reduces John who never should have authored or published them. John Bayley died age 89 an eccentric literary critic and author.


A permanent art installation at Chinati Foundation in Marfa Texas by Robert Irwin, is under construction He’s now 87 years of age and is overseeing the installation. It may take a while but get your high Chihuahua Desert dune buggy out and tuned up for a run to Marfa to see it. The Fort D.A. Russell [horse cavalry post 1911-1946] hospital structures weren’t restorable so they were demolished and Irwin’s installation goes into that space History morphs into art in an off the grid place like Marfa. and Building 98 is the former bachelor officers quarters for troops, and it was fun for me to sit in the old time saloon and quaff a libation in the same place as General George Patton did [before he was a general].

If you’re thinking, why Fort D.A. Russell? Short answer is that the Mexican Revolution against dictator Porfirio Diaz broke out in 1910 and while Diaz was overturned and sent off into exile within two years, the revolution continued and Mexico was an armed camp and didn’t settle down until 1921. Pancho Villa led the Revolutionary Army of the North of Mexico, and the bandit came across the border into the United States too often for Washington DC officials. This Fort was opened and horse cavalry from it often went into Mexico to punish cross-border activity and harass Villa and his bandidos. Brigadier General Black Jack Pershing led the most famous foray into Mexico to punish Pancho Villa. Townes Van Zandt wrote Pancho & Lefty (1972), EmmyLou Harris covered it in 1976 and Willie Nelson covered it in 1983 to great success, a song about that expedition that couldn’t quite ever corral Mister Villa.


Fletcher Martin painted an interior mural for the U.S. Post Office building in Lamesa Texas titled The Horse Breakers (1940). That building was later replaced by another post office building, and the Lamesa Independent School District took over the building with the mural. It abandoned the building in 1987 and it’s been vacant since. The mural was unseen and untended for years but in 2014 a conservation/restoration grant was received and Scott M. Haskins, Fine Art Conservation Laboratories, Santa Barbara California came to Lamesa in 2015 and removed the mural and took it to Santa Barbara where it is being worked on.

We await its return and are intrigued by where it might be installed in Lamesa.

Information about the artist Fletcher Martin is here including his mural for the Kellogg Idaho post office Study for Mine Rescue (1939) that caused quite a negative response by the citizens in Kellogg as mining was the main industry there and quite dangerous and unsafe work for miners. The truth in art can be painful. The mural was removed and hangs prominently in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Martin painted the replacement mural Discovery (1941) for the Kellogg post office. and a photograph of Discovery at the post office building.


January 14, 2016
Dear Colleagues and Supporters:
This morning during a special called meeting, the Board of Regents of the Texas Tech University System named an interim president of Texas Tech University and established a search committee to help identify the university’s 17th president.
Dr. John Opperman, who currently is the vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Texas Tech University System, will serve as interim president and begin his new duties January 22, 2016. He brings two decades of successful experience in higher education and has extensive history with Texas Tech University.
Serving in various capacities since 1996, Dr. Opperman has taught classes, managed system-wide strategic planning and held leadership positions in administration and finance, as well as policy development. This appointment also allows for our talented leadership and administration at Texas Tech University to remain in place and focused on strengthening our progress in their respective positions and areas.
I am confident Dr. Opperman, as well as our administration, faculty, staff and students, will do an outstanding job in continuing the important momentum that is advancing Texas Tech University as a national public research university.
The Board of Regents also appointed a search committee charged with identifying and recommending Texas Tech University’s next president. The search committee will be chaired by Regent Tim Lancaster and is comprised of representatives from multiple campus constituencies, including students, deans, faculty and alumni.
The 12-person committee consists of the following individuals:
  • Tim Lancaster (Search Committee Chairman), Regent and President & CEO of Hendrick Health System
  • Scott Dueser, Texas Tech Foundation Board Member, Former Regent & Board Chairman and Chairman, President & CEO of First Financial Bankshares, Inc.
  • John Esparza, Regent and President & CEO of Texas Trucking Association
  • Dr. Michael Farmer, Faculty Senate President and Associate Professor, Departments of Agricultural & Applied Economics and Natural Resources Management
  • Dr. Linda Hoover, Dean, College of Human Sciences
  • Dr. W. Brent Lindquist, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Don Maddox, Texas Tech Foundation Board Member and President of the J.F Maddox Foundation
  • Victoria Messer, Student Regent, Law Student
  • Linda Rutherford, President of the Texas Tech Alumni Association National Board of Directors and Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at Southwest Airlines
  • John Steinmetz, Regent and President & CEO of Vista Bank
  • Holton Westbrook, President of the Student Government Association, Undergraduate Student
  • Dr. Aliza Wong, Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Honors College

Leadership from throughout the Texas Tech University System also has been asked to serve as resources available to the committee.

  • Dr. Richard Lange, President of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso
  • Dr. Brian May, President of Angelo State University
  • Dr. Tedd Mitchell, President of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
  • Lisa Calvert, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement

I am grateful to the committee members for their dedication and service to Texas Tech University, and know they will work hard to represent all of those who support and collaborate with this great institution.

There is an unprecedented commitment to excellence and innovation at Texas Tech University, and building on this drive remains our top priority. We look forward to an even greater future with a permanent president who will bring further success and stability to our flagship institution.
Thank you again for your support of Texas Tech University and its continued prosperity.
Yours truly,
Robert L. Duncan



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