“Ending 2020”

“Ending 2020”

By F. Lennox Campello

“God is really only another artist,” once said Picasso, “He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the ant. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things.”

2020 has been a brutal year – one that will leave harsh memories in most minds on the planet – although personally I was in 7th Heaven when my first grandson was born this year to my daughter Elise out in the wilderness of Washington State.

Let’s close the year with some artwork and nothing better than Bethesda-based artists Judy Gilbert Levey and Sara Leibman as their work will be on display throughout November and December 2020 at Gallery B (the site of the former Fraser Gallery) at 7700 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.  Titled “Ending 2020”, the show will feature paintings by Judy and Sara, who are both Studio B artists, through December 19, 2020.

“Here,” Oil and cold wax on panel
Sara Leibman

Since the end of 2020 also apparently brings a vaccine(s) which will hopefully end the exaggerated fear of the Covidian Age – a vaccine developed in record time I add, 2021 will hopefully also bring the re-opening of our local area museums, galleries, art spaces, etc.

I am curious as to what the post-Covidian Torpedo Factory will look like, since it appears to an outsider observer, who only hears the artists’ side of the story — that the City of Alexandria has really screwed up the management of human relations with respect to the artists (now mostly former artists) who once occupied Alexandria’s largest tourist magnet.

When the National Gallery re-opens, go and visit one of the greatest museums in the world, and go find its most popular painting.

If you ask the guards at the National Gallery of Art which painting in the collection they think is the most popular, often you will hear many of them point out Dali’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper. “People are always asking ‘where is it?'” The reason for this could be that the Last Supper, in a typical act of perhaps arrogance on the part of the NGA curators and autocracy, for many years was hung in the NGA’s coat check room, and currently is at the exit of the old wing, opposite the elevators in the connecting tunnel to the newer East wing.

“Four Lobsters,” Oil on Canvas
Judy Gilbert Levey

It is technically in the old wing, which is important to the story. I say arrogance because I once asked a guard (often the best sources of info in any museum) the reason for the placement. “This wing is for masters,” he said, “and this Dali painting was donated to the NGA as part of the Dale Bequest in the 1960s, but with the condition that it had to be placed with the old masters.” The NGA complied, but couldn’t or wouldn’t cross the line and instead of hanging the Dali in one of the galleries, for years hung it in the coat room, where it attracted too many crowds and made that room a mess, and subsequently moved it to its present location, technically in the West building, but not really “in it.”

A civil servant, probably a few of them in the Art Deep State, did not think that the great Spanish master belonged with the “real” masters.

A few years ago I asked the NGA for confirmation of this story, but my request was never answered. My good friend Jack Rasmussen, currently the director of the Katzen Museum at American University recalls that he “worked at the Information Desk in the NGA the summers of ’74 and ’75. The most asked question was ‘where are the bathrooms?’ But a close second was ‘where is Dali’s Last Supper?’ Eventually they put them next to each other, saving wear and tear on the Docents.”

But this article is not about Dali or the NGA, but about most “Last Supper” paintings that I recall seeing; more specifically about the bread in the paintings.

“Bergen Street, Brooklyn,” Oil on canvas
Judy Gilbert Levey

A few years ago, before Governors in many states made it a Covidian crime, I was invited to a Seder meal by a friend who is also quite a well-known Philadelphia area artist and an even better known curator.

Somehow the conversation turned to Christ’s Last Supper, which of course was a Seder meal and she observed how most paintings depicting The Christ’s last meal showed regular bread instead of the unleavened bread required by Jewish tradition to celebrate the Passover. This is very interesting to the pedantic part of me, already troubled by the fact that nearly every depiction of The Christ that was presented to me in art school depicted mostly Northern European-looking Christs, rather than the Semitic Middle East Israelite that He was.

And now I wonder, are there any contemporary depictions (or any depiction) of the last supper which depict this last Seder for Christ in a more historically correct perspective?

I am sure that there exist versions of the unknown supper created by pedantic, history-aware artists of all sorts.

“Persephone,” Oil and cold wax on panel
Sara Leibman

Religious art has pretty much been pushed aside by the postmodernists, in what can best be described as a self-mutilation of intelligent subject matter. It would be interesting to see a new contemporary view of religious art, and allow us to discover how today’s artists would interpret our diverse religious backgrounds.

Is that a great idea for an up-and-coming curator or gallery to take on or what? But I want to see The Christ as a Semite and I want to see the middle of the matzoth on the Seder plate broken in two with the larger piece hidden, to be used later as the afikoman.

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