Saturday, February 23, 2008

O'Keeffe & Fisk, Update

Georgia O'Keeffe Photo by Maria ChabotPhoto, entitled "Georgia O'Keeffe Hitching a Ride to Abiquiu", taken by Maria Chabot in 1944.

In November, I wrote an entry about the O'Keeffe Museum and Fisk University, and how I thought the O'Keeffe was behaving badly.

This week, the long-awaited trial took place. Prior to the trial, the judge had thrown out the tentative agreement Fisk had made with Alice Walton's new Crystal Bridges Museum which would have allowed them to share the work in return for $30 million from Walton to help the struggling college.

At the trial, lawyers for the O'Keeffe argued that Fisk lost the right to the artwork when it took the collection off display, and tried to sell it. Bill Harbison for the Museum said that Fisk had held the collection "hostage in an effort to monetize it". The Museum's position at the trial was that the entire collection (worth $100 million or more on the open market) should default to the Museum, with, as far as I can tell, no money changing hands.

Lawyers for Fisk argued that the school has been doing the best it can with its limited resources. They pointed out that O'Keeffe, while she was still alive, had allowed Fisk to retain the collection, even though she wasn't always happy with its handling of the artwork. They say they did not violate the terms of the agreement with O'Keeffe, instead seeking legal redress to determine their rights in this situation. They were unable to display the collection because they could not afford to renovate their art museum, which had deteriorated to the point that the art was in jeopardy. They have drained their endowment substantially, and this week announced they were dropping their NCAA Division III athletic programs to save $500,000.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle may take up to 30 days to render her verdict.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Antonio Corsi

Antonio CorsiI'm digressing from Southwestern history this week to return to my Boston roots, and tell a story about a man who was very well-known in the first quarter of the 20th century, but whom very few have heard of today. He was an artist's model (and a silent-film actor towards the end of his career) who worked in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, among other cities, and was the most sought-after artist's model of the day.

Although he was Italian-born, his Roman nose and exotic looks made him able to pass as a Turk, a Mexican, an American Indian, and a variety of other ethnicities. He maintained a studio in New York City with hundreds of costumes and could show up as any character an artist could imagine.

If you live(d) in Boston, you will have seen Corsi in many different settings. For example, he was the model for the famous Appeal to the Great Spirit sculpture by Cyrus Dallin, which has stood on Huntington Avenue in front of the Museum of Fine Arts for 99 years.
Appeal to the Great Spirit, Cyrus Dallin, Boston
He also posed for 11 of the 16 figures in John Singer Sargent's Frieze of Prophets, which is one of the murals Sargent painted in the Boston Public Library (all of which I saw for the first time on a trip back to Boston last fall).

I encountered Corsi for the first time in the pages of a family diary from 1905. I have had this diary for years, and read it through once some time ago, but I am now transcribing it (both for posterity and for a diary reading event in April in which I'm participating) and I'm annotating the text as I go. Cynthia, the young woman writer (who was 22 at the time), was living in Boston and studying at the Eric Pape School of Art. Twice she mentions a model in class by the name of Antonio Corsi.

For example, here's her post from March 20, 1905:

Raining today; went in school. Antonio Corsi posed nude this morning, costume of pirate in afternoon.

That brief sentence intrigued me! I had to look him up, and was quite amazed to discover the level of his fame, and the prodigious amount of posing he did. Here's a photo of Corsi posing for an art class at about the same time as the diary. Imagine holding that pose for hours!
Antonio Corsi posing for art class

Pierre-Auguste Cot, The Storm, Antonio CorsiHere's another famous painting for which Corsi posed, The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot (owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC). Corsi was 11 or 12 at the time, and posed for both the male and female figures in this painting. (Look at the calves, thighs, and feet of both characters--they are almost identical.)

When I started researching Corsi, I immediately found a website dedicated to his work. Jake Gorst, owner of Jonamac Productions, is working on a documentary on Corsi, along with an exhibition of a treasure-trove of photographs (including those appearing in this post), and a book about Corsi's career. You can learn lots more about Corsi at this site--click the Multimedia tab to see all the photographs!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Mexico Democratic Primary

Hillary Clinton, Barack ObamaPhotos by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP and Jonathan Ernst/Reuters at

New Mexico was supposed to be one of the swing states in yesterday's Democratic primary, and is it ever!

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, Barack was 71 votes ahead of Hillary (out of 133,565 votes counted so far), making New Mexico the only "Giga Tuesday" state that's still too close to call. 98% of the precincts are reporting, so absentee ballots and provisional ballots must now be scrutinized. At least it's not a winner-take-all primary, which means that both candidates will get approximately the same number of committed delegates--whichever way the line falls.

In addition, today's Santa Fe New Mexican reports that many polling places in New Mexico ran out of ballots yesterday, which means that some people who showed up late in the day couldn't vote, or had to go to another polling location (if they were so inclined, after a long wait in line, and if there was still time) and cast a provisional ballot. Smacks of Florida election problems, doesn't it? At about a penny a piece (OK, let's say two cents just to pad it a bit), the Democrats could have printed 15,000 extra ballots for $300--a drop in the bucket when you consider they pay the hundreds of poll workers $150 a day.

We're not even discussing the impact of the weather--swirling snow all day and treacherous walking (at least at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds) which made even urban voting a bit more dangerous than usual, and 33 inches of snow in Chama which has garnered that community state disaster dollars, and pretty much ground things to a complete halt.