Dear [disgruntled, angry, exhausted, torn] American Voter:
“In 1897, shortly before he attempted to take his own life with a big dose of arsenic, the French painter Paul Gauguin (1848 –1903) completed what many identify as his masterpiece, a large oil painting he titled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? In this work, Gauguin invites the viewer to consider his personal understanding of these universal questions.”
Friends, this quote begins my exploration of what art is for my perennially unfinished book.
You can read the rest of this work-in-progress here, but today I borrow it to ask you to consider Gauguin and his life, and his art, and his iconic status in our history, as you cast your vote.
Because we clearly value Gauguin as a post-Impressionist painter, Symbolist, and lasting influence on Modern Art despite the fact that he was a pornography-collecting, morphine-shooting, family-deserting, syphilis-ridden pedophile.
If you don’t believe me, I suggest you pick up any biography of this very important painter and see what scholars have to say.
Of course, there are those in our culture today who truly must believe that sexual intercourse with a 12-, 13-, or 14-year old is perfectly acceptable – that a girl of such an age actually desires to copulate with a man in his 40’s…
But in my opinion, and as the mother of a pre-teen, it’s plain to see this is pedophilia.
So why am I talking about a famous French painter whose work below, dating to his first Tahitian period in which he took a young girl to be his ‘wife’ although he was still married to a woman taking care of his five children in Denmark, sold for about $300 million dollars last winter – the highest-priced painting ever sold to date – on this election day?
Because while we can revile Gauguin for his personal life choices – his rape of various tweens, his collection of pornography, his casual bigamy, his drug use – we still admire him as one of the most important painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
He’s a Big Deal in art. Matisse loved his work, as did Picasso.
His association with Vincent Van Gogh is widely known, even outside art circles.
He was not a great dad, and a terrible husband. He didn’t handle his finances very well.
But he was a great painter.
So let me pose this query:
Do our elected leaders have to be flawless to lead this nation?
But no one is without flaw.
Today, friends, you’re going to have to vote for what you believe – not who you believe in.
Pro-choice? Hilary’s for you.
Pro-life, or sort of pro-choice but only in the early months of the pregnancy and definitely not on the day that the baby is born? You’re gonna have to vote Trump.
That pretty much sums it up, really.
(Although we all have our priority issues…)
So, please, friends, think about what’s important to you, and join the rest of us who have long realized that the person in the Oval Office can never be independent of his or her party.
And vote accordingly.