Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hilary Harkness: "Matterhorn (Mel Bochner)"

Here is a cropped detail from a "revenge painting" by Hilary Harkness, done after she received a brutal critique by Mel Bochner at Yale. As someone who almost had his own MFA degree scuttled by visiting artist Mel, I could relate. I first read about this painting in articles related to the Daniel Clowes film "Art School Confidential." When I learned about the work, I exclaimed, "I must have copy of that painting." I just now found it online. I have censored it by cropping out the naughtiest bits for sharing on this blog.

"....Today on the Yale campus, students still speak of a 1995 painting by Hilary Harkness of Mr. Bochner, which depicts him naked, sliding down an icy slope, being sexually assaulted by a cow. The painting, she says, was her way of turning the tables.

'Mel is very smart and a very good critic,' said Ms. Harkness, who now shows with Mary Boone in New York. 'But he once said to me, 'If I saw your paintings in a window, I would walk right on by.' Maybe he meant that constructively, but it was hard to take that way.'

Mr. Bochner's reaction to the scene with the cow? 'He didn't want to discuss it,' she recalled. 'He said he didn't care for revenge paintings...'"

Matterhorn (Mel Bochner) (detail)

14" by 15.5"          
Oil on Panel      

Io gets her revenge on the gadfly sent by Hera to torture her through all of eternity for the crime of turning her husband Zeus on.

Hilary Harkness

Daniel Clowes

"Art School Confidential" is a four-page black-and-white comic book story by Daniel Clowes. It originally appeared in issue #7 (November 1991) of Clowes' comic book Eightball and was later reprinted in the book collections Orgy Bound and Twentieth Century Eightball. It inspired the 2006 film of the same name. A color version of the comic was included in the published version of Clowes' original screenplay for the film.

The comic is a satire of American art schools, presented in the manner of a sensationalistic exposé and ostensibly based on Clowes' own experiences at the Pratt Institute. (The story is signed "By D. Clowes, B.F.A." and a Pratt Institute diploma appears on a wall in one panel.)

According to Clowes in a 2006 interview, "Art School Confidential" was:

Literally something where I had four pages left (in Eightball #7) and I had to turn the issue in. I said, "Well, I'll do something about art school that will amuse my ten friends who went." I really thought nobody else would comment on it or even notice. As it turned out, every single one of my readers was either in art school or had some affiliation with it. They all responded overwhelmingly (and) were all certain I had gone to the same art school they had. The story took on a life of its own for a while.… People would Xerox it and put it up on the bulletin board at school. Somebody else would take it from there and Xerox it again. There were rumors that it had been Xeroxed so many times that nobody could discern the art style anymore. It became a kind of folk art.

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