A Rebuttal To The Cry-Me-A-River Campus

James Baughn on Monday, May 9, 2005

from the michaelangelo-was-merely-an-illustrator dept.

We at TheCapeRock.com are shocked, shocked to learn that a professor at Southeast Missouri State University has resorted to name calling against one of the college's most successful alumni.

We are also shocked, shocked to hear that this art professor harbors an extremely negative and derogatory view toward Missouri, its culture, and its people.

For years, readers of the Southeast Missourian's Opinion page have delighted in shooting corn flakes out of their noses while laughing hysterically at the Letters to the Editor from professors in the Biology Department. But these left-wing political commentaries don't hold a candle to the handiwork of the newest member of the letter-writing cabal, Ronald V. Clayton, the soon-to-be-retired-but-not-soon-enough art professor.

In his Friday, May 6, screed, Clayton attacked SEMO graduate and eminent Missouri artist Gary Lucy, stating that he is merely an "historical illustrator" that represents "regional corn pone provincialism" and, worst of all, "has no standing in the art world." Ouch.

Not content just to insult Lucy, he proceeds to insult everybody that enjoys Lucy's work, which, according to Clayton, "appeals to people who know nothing and care less about the art of our time." Ouch again.

When he says "the art of our time", he probably means "the stuff I produce." And what, exactly, does this esteemed art professor produce? Samples of his work can be found by following this link. Sure, his paintings demonstrate a high level of skill and an attention to detail. But when you get right down to it, they look like the formulaic creations of a demented, color-blind architect, not a supposedly world-class contemporary artist.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Clayton really is capable of producing world-class contemporary art. The key problem with modern art isn't the art. It's the artist.

There's nothing inherently wrong with provocative, challenging artwork that requires a certain amount of thought to appreciate.

But nobody likes a mean-spirited, avant-garde jackass that can't keep his mouth shut. Nobody likes to be insulted because of what they believe or what they like or what they don't like. Nobody wants to be told what to think by some stuck-up aristocrat who has no roots here.

Meanwhile, Gary Lucy doesn't run around denigrating other Missouri artists. He maintains a simple philosophy about his artwork (as posted to his website): "It's unpretentious, refreshing and just plain pleasing to the eye."

Damn straight. That, in a nutshell, is why Lucy has achieved widespread artistic and commercial success, while the pretentious, unrefreshing, and hard-on-the-eyes work of Clayton has received little if any recognition outside of a narrow segment of the upper-crust art world.

Sadly, once Clayton makes good on his promise to retire, the Art Department will undoubtedly find somebody else with a similar narrow-minded viewpoint to hire from out of state.

The attitude shared by Clayton and some (but not all) of his fellow professors is the kind of thing we've come to expect from the Harvard of Midwest, that bastion of elitist liberal groupthink where the faculty gaze down with derision from their ivory towers at the "corn pone parochialism" practiced by the unsophisticated hicks and peons living in the squalor below.

It's the place where graduates who happen to achieve success in the real world -- despite the odds -- are savagely insulted and condemned by the faculty.

It's the place where the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and skill takes a backseat to upper-class snobbery, politically correct brainwashing, below-the-belt attacks, conformist diversity, petty politics, and unnecessary construction projects.

It's the place that epitomizes the saying, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, criticize."

It's the place where the Art Department has its own definition of "art", where the Biology Department has been predicting an ecological cataclysm any day now for over 30 years, where the Center for Earthquake Studies suddenly disappeared and nobody noticed, and where the athletic teams have more whines than wins.

We can only hope that the upcoming relocation -- and isolation -- of the Art Department to the River Campus will usher in a long-needed era of positive changes. But we're not holding our breaths.