"The Forever Art Professors" (The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2014), is a shockingly painful read (in the full Casablancian sense). This senior moment selfie is a tear-filled mini-portrait for yet another lousy artist-cum-veteran "art professor" Professor Laurie Fendrich—an equal-opportunity / equal-opportunistic variety-hire from the 80's—all forgotten and embittered, but not fully embalmed—re-living that glory day five long years ago, when she got the big fat bonus check from Hofstra University. In fact, every Belle Époque character in this ultra-soapbox-puffery is being furtively, phased-out of the ivy tower art departments across the nation. Upon departure they are issued their final bank cheque, that proverbial (and "irrevocable") parachute, for doing absolutely nothing during their 30 + years of (dis)service.
The bank cheque issued to Professor Fendrich was, quite simply, the only means the administration could leverage lost-and-lonely Professor—a caricature figure completely marginalized and utterly clueless—into getting her The-Hell-Outta-Dodge, a.k.a. walking out the The Hofstra University Art Department building, and never looking back. I do hope over the next few weeks the most senior members of The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) editorial committee will explore this heart-wrenching visual arts story further and in more depth.
Professor Fendrich's personal narrative highlights one particularly cold, cloudy and grey day way back when the final "arrangement" was made between her and her employer—finalizing a lifetime of dependable paychecks, art research grants, material stipends, teaching sabbaticals, summers’ free from teaching, merit raises, and health insurance. All in exchange for teaching and preaching and producing absolutely nothing of merit for more than 30 years. As if getting paid for shutting-up, and living a lie by deceiving oneself and gangs of idiotic art adolescents along the way wasn't enough compensation already!
Surely, news of Fendrich's art department retirement must be a terrible blow to every reader of The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE). For every critical thinking-reading-seeing CHE subscriber must know implicitly, from their own, everyday experience, that most of the homes and offices across the USA are filled floor-to-ceiling with artworks produced by Hofstra University's legendary art faculty, or from Hofstra University's legendary MFA or BFA graduates. Who can deny this? God knows, it will take my eyes a long time to dry and to recover their original hue after reading this sad report full of depressing and detailed statistics; having to witness her sitting vicariously through the many exit interviews outlining the bonus offers and counter-offers, and finally hearing about the last exterior metal door slam behind her in the empty stairwell of the HU art building.
It is unfair, not to mention a national educational disgrace, that we are practically in 2015, and this remarkable professor (not to forget the whole glorious generation of artist-professors teaching alongside Professor Fendrich) finally has to bite the dust with an out-dated, 1965 version of Dylan singing in her head! For heaven sakes Laurie, didn’t you know that “Things [Had] Changed” permanently, forever, for Bob, too, back in 2000! Hello, that was basically 15 years ago! Say, did you (or your ‘partner’) even look at the date on the big-fat-check before you rushed into the bank to make the deposit? If you were to look about today, you might learn that you are now living in an age when Larry Page and Sergey Brin can video-stream your final parting painted words (sigh: my last, a.k.a. great [no exceptional!] final casket lectures...really!—no kidding! I’m serious this time!) into all the classrooms in the world via YouTube® from an endowed Intensive Care Unit® in your hospice! These two are smart: they know how it could be done!
No learned, artsy-fartsy American alive today will be able to forget the lasting impact this remarkable generation of "alibi-artist-professors" (most departmental quota-hires) who began teaching in the 80's. No other generation has had a more damaging effect on America's visual art culture. Similarly, no learned, artsy-fartsy American born after today will ever know the effective damage that this group of "alibi-artist-professors" has had upon their visual arts un-imagination, because they will never have any contact whatsoever with a vital, visual arts imagination, period. The chickens have indeed come home to roost—but they are barren.
Just whose art will fill the roughly 349,000 new American homes built over the past 12 months across this great nation? Or, to put it another way, just what will 349,000 American homeowners purchase this year to cover-up their empty interior walls if one cannot purchase endless variations of Professor Fendrich’s unique brand of "Organic-Suprematism-Lite™" painted on 36 x 36" acrylic Utrecht® canvases? Can you just imagine all the horror vacui in the heartland heading toward both coasts, right this instance!?!
On second thought, is there a single reader of this article who did not believe that Professor sham-emerita of art and art history Fendrich has done nothing but "desperately deny," rather than "embrace" her tragic "situation" over the last 30 or more years? Consider this: 30 plus years teaching, preaching, and pitching endless varieties of "Organic-Suprematism-Lite™!" Oh, dear. Or, worst of all, is there a single reader who agrees with Painter-Professor Fendrich's assertion that "the scheme of things [for an old, out-of-touch artist-professor] is really too hard to explain and comprehend?" Geez, isn’t being the newest old fogie carelessly tossed atop the backyard / junkyard art-heap the oldest recorded arts story in the entire arts canon!?!
The never-remembered, always unknown, un-tragedy being played out in this completely delusional article is: ignorance sucks (as Dave Hickey would say). Sure, you can Medivac a lousy artist-professor to the highest roof-top Las Vegas casino bar, but don't expect them to just quit playing Go-Fish®, quit drinking KoolAid®, and quit watching whatever’s playing on the closest, prime-time, big-screen LG® TV!
Over the last 30 or so years, as art departments became the go-to cubicles from which to create the semblance of organizationally complying with state-mandated, overall university quota requirements (quality Engineering, Science and Technology hires are, after-all, a quantifiably verifiable quality lot), Assistant Professor, then Associate Professor, then Full Professor, and now Professor Emerita Fendrich, and her once-gainfully-employed-now-parajumping ilk, did accomplish something utterly remarkable. They could not for the life of them distinguish between (a) true and false; and they were unable (b) to distinguish value. Think about it: Would you really expect a bureaucratic quota-hire to effectively teach something other than the bureaucratic quotidian lesson: namely, do whatever it takes to protect, fill and expand ones quota (i.e. one’s identity) within the bureaucracy. These incompetent ninnies have had 30 plus years to stack the deck, change the rules to rule a roost, for job positions / descriptions which they were totally ill-equipped and ill-prepared to handle from the get-go: “to make something, anything, out of the tradition or dialectic called art.”
The primary consequence of their 30-year reign of inaptitude was that (c) art has been exterminated under their tenure. Their temporary gain, at the expense of the entire field of art, has brought on visual arts blight all across this nation—a visual death conspicuously apparent for those who still have the ability to see, like, for example, Dave Hickey.
Professor Emerita Fendrich has probably talked to Expelled (again and again) Professor Emeritus of literature and criticism Dave Hickey for 30 years or more; she has probably read Dave Hickey for 30 years or more; quoted Dave Hickey for 30 years or more; written about Dave Hickey for 30 years or more; still she has absolutely no understanding of Dave Hickey. None whatsoever. Fendrich represents the very artistic subspecies that Dave Hickey publicly despised throughout his entire anti-career: "[Artists] sustained provisionally with institutional payouts, thus robbed [again-and-again, at the beginning or end of every month] of their primary benison [to] mercantile civilization: certifiable, undeniable, disastrous failure—[failure being the foremost mechanism to propel artists] to quit or change or die." (Air Guitar, pg. 205)
Let down and hanging around
Crushed like a bug in the ground
Let down and hanging around (1)
Professor Fendrich, please, go somewhere, anywhere, far far from where the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education can be purchased, read, written—or even discussed. In that distant mole-hole deep in the ground in that land far far away, use the last amps of power remaining in your failing CPU to come to terms with the fact that your time has come and gone: forget about teaching art, go AWOL from the San Francisco Art Institute next semester…just, please, go somewhere, anywhere, once and for all and hide! Seriously. Y'all have done enough damage for one lifetime.
(1) Let Down, OK Computer, Lyrics written by Thom Yorke of Radiohead (1997)