The Ucla sculpture garden (formally named the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden) means a lot to me. Or at least it used to.
Granted it’s been about a decade since I last visited, but I assume it’s the same. Occupying a decent chunk of acreage at the far northern end of the Ucla campus, in the 80’s the sculpture garden was a place where students could hang out, enjoy the almost-always great weather and savor a few minutes or hours of relative calm and serenity apart from the incessant (even back then) leftist onslaught from the political science and history department’s professors.
Great for studying outdoors or engaging in quiet conversation, the art work in the locale was the perfect backdrop for contemplating higher purposes, even if you didn’t always “get” what the artist had in mind with their concept. I had my initial chat with the girl who eventually became my wife there. And a few years after that talk, I proposed to her on the very same bench where we first traded pleasantries.
Somewhat naturally then, the art pieces themselves weren’t the main attraction of the space. I used to boast to friends that I could produce something that merited inclusion in the collection; all I’d need to do was take a pile of junk and plop it on top of a raised concrete platform and call it “art”. In fact, I recall telling them, there was a heap of metal scrap in one site unseen corner of my parents’ backyard and it would’ve nicely done the trick to make me immortal.
Jokes aside, everyone values art in their own way. Serious artists work hard at their craft and the talented -- and lucky -- ones can make a great living off of their inspirations. And then there’s presidential son Hunter Biden, who’s devised his own scheme to profit from his time with paints and canvass (or whatever else he’s using to blot his visions into tangible form). Interested parties are apparently lining up to purchase a Hunter-piece. It’s raised eyebrows among ethics watchers.
In a column titled, “Hunter Biden’s Art: Con or Creative Coup?”, John Fund wrote at National Review:
“[T]he art business is a tough world. Jerry Saltz, an art critic who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, says that 85 percent of the new product is rubbish. Perhaps Hunter’s work will beat those odds, although the reviews so far are at best, well, mixed. Saltz calls Hunter’s oeuvre ‘generic post zombie formalism illustration.’
“Jeffry Cudlin, professor of art curatorial studies and practice at the Maryland Institute College of Art, told the Washington Examiner that Biden’s efforts were ‘fine decorative amateur work,’ adding, ‘Hey, everybody needs a hobby!’
“The Biden administration has gone out of its way to contrast its behavior with that of the previous administration. Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates went over the top last week in claiming, ‘The president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history, and his family’s commitment to rigorous processes like this is a prime example.’”
Prime example of what, exactly? Perhaps Bates meant this was a fitting illustration of the “Emperor’s Clothes” children’s story where charlatans somehow convinced the fashion-obsessed emperor that the “invisible” suit they were sewing for him could be seen only by virtuous people.
Liberals engage in lots of denial of reality. If it’s true that all liberalism is based on a lie, then there’re some whoppers being bandied about at the highest reaches of government these days. Hunter Biden’s made a career of swindling people out of their money -- Ukrainians, Chinese, etc. -- and now he’s apparently got liberal art collectors and those in search of relatively inexpensive political influence in on the con as well.
They’ll go along willingly, of course, buying up Hunter’s spitted scribblings and etchings, hoping -- or counting on -- word getting back to the “Big Guy” that they’re the ones who helped his lone surviving boy make his way in the cruel and demanding world. Turning to art in the middle or latter stages of one’s life seems popular these days, as former president George W. Bush made national headlines a couple months ago by releasing his own accumulated portfolio. Now that the nation’s neocon wars are winding to a close, the RINO Republican’s focused inwards and seen the beauty of immigrants (legal and otherwise).
Art hasn’t always been so lucrative and artists haven’t always been appreciated. As I alluded to above, though I wasn’t wild about modern art (a.k.a. junk on a pedestal), I found, through taking a couple courses at the university, that I had a fondness for Renaissance and Baroque period art, where masters from centuries past were commissioned by the authorities to produce works that have withstood the test of time. Though always open for interpretation, most of the time you could at least recognize the figures that the painter or sculptor was trying to portray.
Yes, there were enough Madonna(s) and child (Jesus) to fill many a gallery because of the prevalence of religious subject matter intensity back then. It was amazing to learn of the various artists sometimes taking years to finish a single work -- often on the walls and ceilings of buildings using fresco plaster, like Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. Amazing, wasn’t it?
That was then and this is now. In today’s all-politics-all-the-time world, even scrutinizing art has become political. News reports of so-called “artists” receiving grants and support from government entities such as the National Endowment for the Arts spawned outrage from many folks who resented their tax dollars going to pay people to desecrate their deeply held beliefs. Who can forget the infamous “Piss Christ” from 1987? This was not only blasphemy, it’s a prime example of “art” gone too far.
I’m no art critic -- at least not a titled, professional one -- but a casual glance at Hunter’s productions isn’t the least bit impressive. Observers have said they’re akin to the finger paintings of barely potty trained little kids made during art hour after lunch at an all-day Kindergarten class. Perhaps Hunter got the idea for doing this from a counseling session during one of his many trips to rehab.
If this issue were confined to a “normal” guy finding himself and exploring his deep-seated interest in art after a half century on the planet, no one would care. Live and let live, right? As long as your neighbor next door isn’t defying the HOA covenants by spray painting his house and roof into Hunter-like patterns, what does it matter that the dude makes a few bucks off of purchasers who dig his groove?
Political enthusiasts noted how Joe bristled and punched back whenever anyone dared to insinuate that Hunter came about his considerable income through crooked means last year. Hunter himself, through emails on his laptop, made it clear that he resented having to pay aspects of his dad’s upkeep through the years. According to Hunter, the Obama second-in-command and now president doesn’t appear to be very good at keeping the family’s books -- and depended on his son to bail him out.
Or so it seems. Hunter’s laptop is a treasure trove of information, and the son didn’t always act entirely grateful to the father for helping to arrange the largesse. Maybe if Joe puts his staff on the case, he’ll discover that sonny-boy hasn’t always deserved the perfunctory pat on the head from the patriarch. By all accounts, the elder Biden is (understandably) incredibly devoted to those he’s related to. But what the father doesn’t know -- at least where Hunter is concerned -- can definitely hurt him.
As much as ol’ hair sniffin’ Joe would like it, the Hunter story just won’t go away. Sooner or later every top Democrat will be forced to weigh-in on the public furor surrounding Joe and Hunter’s influence peddling and will begin asking questions about where the money came from -- and where it went, and where it’s going now.
Like with my experiences at the Ucla sculpture garden, it’s not about the art. Different people see different qualities and one person’s masterpiece is another one’s heap of scrap metal on a dais. But Americans aren’t stupid. Watching Hunter Biden pull the liberal art consumer’s wool over our eyes isn’t something we’ll tolerate indefinitely.
And president Joe had better invent a new round of excuses to cover Hunter’s latest foibles.
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