Statement by Marcia Rackow, Artist, Educator, Aesthetic Realism Consultant
I am writing to vehemently object to the lies about Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism put forth by Michael Bluejay and a few other individuals. These lies are an intolerable insult to the intellectual scope and ethical integrity of Eli Siegel, Aesthetic Realism, and Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman, and are also an insult and attack on my professional reputation as artist, critic, and educator on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
In the history of art, when something large and new came to be, the maligners were there on the attack. They are now seen for what they were—ignorant, puny, vicious. When Manet was revolutionizing modern art, he was vilified and called “dangerous.” Cezanne was described as “a sort of madman who paints in delirium tremens.” When the now beloved Impressionists came on the scene, they were scorned as a “group of five or six lunatics.” And when Matisse continued that revolution in magnificent new ways, he and his friends were mocked as “wild beasts.” These artists are loved and their work adorns our museums while their maligners have been forgotten.
Similarly, now in the 21st century Aesthetic Realism is being attacked. But history shows that beauty and truth are stronger than lies and will prevail.
About two of the specific lies:
That “Aesthetic Realism is a Cult.” This preposterous and ugly statement which Michael Bluejay has the nerve to place as his title on the worldwide web is a despicable lie. It is as ridiculous as calling a “cult” an educational institution such as Pembroke College, where I began my higher education, or Barnard College, from which I received my Bachelor's degree in French and Fine Arts, or the San Francisco Art Institute, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, or the Centro Internazionale di Ceramica in Rome, where I studied.
As a person educated in some of the best institutions of learning in America, I used my mind critically on the principles of Aesthetic Realism and I am proud to have seen them to be true. I have seen them to be true about my own life and art, the lives of the women I teach in Aesthetic Realism consultations, and the numerous men and women in the arts whose lives and work I've written about—including Artemisia Gentilleschi, Henri Matisse, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Stella, Antoine Watteau, David Smith, Berthe Morisot, Kathe Kollwitz. These principles are the basis of the museum classes I have been teaching since 1974. I am furious that my intelligence and integrity have been attacked by the statement that a person who studies or teaches Aesthetic Realism is a member of a “cult.”
“Worship,” “be utterly devoted to him.”
Eli Siegel was a scholar and teacher with knowledge more comprehensive than that of anyone else I ever studied with. He encouraged knowledge and ethics in every person he taught, and he asked that every student look critically at the ideas of Aesthetic Realism in relation to other knowledge. Any person who wants to see study as “worship” and “utter devotion” should be referred to any basic English dictionary to understand the difference.
And to change into “worship” the honest gratitude persons have, including myself, for the knowledge and good will of Eli Siegel, Aesthetic Realism, and Ellen Reiss, is vile.
I am immensely grateful to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism to have learned what I learned nowhere else in my extensive academic and artistic studies, and which was never understood before in the history of aesthetics: what makes a work of art beautiful and the authentic relation of art and life. It is in this principle, stated by Mr. Siegel: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” My study of this idea has had a profoundly good effect on my life and art, ending the painful rift I felt would always be between art and life, enabling me to come to artistic expression, usefulness, and happiness as a person and educator that would not have been possible before.
Throughout history persons have been proud to show their gratitude to others for what they've learned that strengthened and encouraged their lives and work. Giorgio Vasari, to my knowledge, was never accused of being a cultist or worshiper of Michelangelo because he wrote in his Lives of the Painters:
“I myself, who must thank God for countless blessings rarely experienced by men of our profession, count among the greatest of them to have been born at a time when Michelangelo was living, and to have been thought worthy to have him for my teacher….For the sake of the truth and because of the debt I owe to his love and kindness, I have set myself to write many things about him, and all true, which many others have failed to do.” —Vasari: Lives of the Artists (Penguin Classics, p. 431).