By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
I would infer from your article on Michael Ray Charles ["The Art of Darkness," by Shaila Dewan, June 12] that his art tends to create an element of anger or confusion. That energy might have a more productive result if some of those same people were angry because there is no African-American museum in one of the largest cities in this country, or if they were angry because of the lack of support that Charles and other artists have received during their exhibitions at the African-American owned gallery, Barnes-Blackman, or if they were angry because of the good-old-boy network that continues to exclude females and ethnic minorities. With respect to that dumb, unintelligent comment from New York dealer Tony Shafrazi, maybe the letter I intend to write will allow him to view into the mirror of racism reflected in his statement and the vision of Michael's work.
E. L. Foney
Mighty White of Ya
The first picture of Michael Ray Charles's I ever saw, at the Glassell years ago, showed a little baby doll floating in a barren zone. It was so miserably sad, and provoked such shame. As a white man, I know there's no way I could ever feel the depth of pain that racism causes Mr. Charles. But let me tell you something about the way rich white Houstonians think, and how they view and use his recent works of art. I've seen it hanging in some local swankiendas, alongside Mexican crucifix art, and Earth Goddess art, and Asian calligraphic art. In this context, this art advertises the really "deep feelings" for minorities that some of these people, who employ minorities at minimum wage or less, feel they should articulate.
But do they walk the walk? Do the Houston rich agitate for a higher minimum wage? No. Do they cry out against Harris County's execution rate, the highest per capita in the world? No. Do they care enough about poor black and brown and pink babies to act to help their parents raise them decently, so they won't end up in prison? Hell no.
Mr. Charles shouldn't be fooled by all the honeyed courtesy and bright Texas smiles of his patrons. I can count on one hand the members of the Houston rich who give a damn about any ideas more important than their money, and how to get more money, and how to insure that they're going to keep the money they have. You won't see any Equal Opportunity Pain on those fancy walls, no pictures of hook-nosed, gold-clutching Jews, no paintings of alcoholic WASPs molesting their daughters. That would just hurt too much. But you see, Mr. Charles, your work is on their walls because your pain just doesn't signify to them. All this "outsider art" they buy is like the boxing scene in the first chapter of Ellison's Invisible Man. And just because they don't electrify the rug to give you a shock when you pick up their gold nowadays, don't think that they're not laughing at you all the same.
Aside to Ms. Dewan: It's not remotely cool to use the "P" word, the "S" word or the "M" word to describe racist stereotypes of black people. Just the same way it's not remotely acceptable to use the "B" or "C" words when you talk about women, or the "W" word when you talk about people who live on the Indian subcontinent. These hatred words diminish anyone that uses them, and I know that you are more compassionate than the use of these terms shows.
The assertion in Jorge Ferragut's letter in the June 12 issue ["Castro No! Austin No!"] that tens of thousands have been killed at the hands of the Cuban government is, to be blunt, a fabrication designed to mislead the American public and lend support to the U.S. government's inhumane policy toward Cuba.
Cuba does have capital punishment, but in fact rarely invokes it. More people have been put to death by the state of Texas this month than have been executed by Cuba in the past decade. And Cuba has far fewer people in jail per capita than does the U.S., which leads the world's industrialized nations in that regard.
I have recently returned from an academic conference in Cuba, where I had the opportunity to speak with people from all walks of life. A number of them openly criticized their government's policies both in public meetings and privately, hardly the sign of a repressive society. But they were united in their determination to resist being dominated by the U.S. and in their opposition to the U.S. embargo which has brought much hardship to the Cuban people. Children die in Cuba due to the lack of life-saving medicine which the embargo prevents from getting there.