The University Record, April 12, 1993

LETTERS

Thanks for United Way contributions

Dear U-M employees:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your donations to the Wayne County Office of Nutrition Services through the Washtenaw United Way.

By designating our organization as the recipient of your contributions, we are able to provide additional meals to senior citizens throughout western Wayne County and the Downriver area.

Judith Pozan,
director

Use gender references only when appropriate

I’m glad to see that Angell Hall is now getting renovated (University Record 3/22/93), but I’m distressed that Dean Halloway chose to refer to the building as a “gracious old lady who shows her age well.”

I was unaware that buildings took on a particular gender as they age. What will the building be when it is renovated—a virile young man? No one would dream of referring to it now as “an old man with grey hair in his whiskers.” Let’s use gender references when they are appropriate and refrain from using them for inanimate objects such as buildings. This will avoid demeaning both the object and the gender.

Susan Wineberg,
Institute of Labor and Industrial
Relations Publications

Artwork ‘stands to invite praise, criticism’

This responds to Mark Nielsen’s extraordinarily shrill and mean-spirited attack against Les Thurston in his 3/29 letter in The University Record. In defending the sculpture Daedalus against the “philistines of this community,” the humorless Mr. Nielsen betrays at once his outdated elitism, fragile ego and misunderstanding of the artistic endeavor. It is a forgivable lapse among non-artists and philistines to assume that personal, even adverse responses to an artwork indicate a lack of appreciation; a professed art-advocate such as Nielsen should know better. The work stands to invite praise, criticism and even an engagement in verse, and can manage very well without Nielsen’s own “cranky ranting” and explanatory manifesto, thank you very much.

I have met Les Thurston, and know that whatever his tastes in recent art, he is familiar with the museum here and views it with a duly generous, if playful spirit. I doubt Nielsen made a similar effort to attend Thurston’s reading, and perhaps seeing red prevented him from reading Ms. Doyle’s text detailing the poem’s humorous intention. But for Nielsen, oh my! Art is serious, Daedalus unassailable—no room for fun-poking here. Nonetheless, it is clearly cued within the context of the poem that it is only Les’ opinion. (No, no room for opinions here, either.) And Daedalus? Does Mr. Nielsen imagine then that the “artistic intelligence behind the creation” is apparent only in a textbook, and need not reside within the work itself? If it truly recalls a “fallen wing so conversant with its environment ...” blah, blah, ad nauseam, then why so defensive?

My letter here does not defend Thurston. Les, I think, would appreciate a response to his work ... even one so nasty as Nielsen’s. What he wouldn’t appreciate—and we all should resent—is the museum technician’s snotty assertion that “it is too much to assume that someone affiliated with the University in Mr. Thurston’s capacity ... can appreciate works like the Ginnever.” Such prehistoric petty snobbery offends, such didacticism bores those of us who value both Les’ 30 years technical/design service to U-M, and the symbiosis between public art and the public. It’s as absurd as supposing an art museum worker cannot appreciate the atom, and bespeaks an astonishingly miserly view of art. One must pity Niel-sen, living in a world of cretins, philistines and lowly scientists. If this leading University’s community is composed of such dolts, this highest of brows must indeed also be the most miserably lonely of men.

Advice to Nielsen: Art and literature at this University comprise a splendid mansion with many busy and various rooms. Perhaps you should try stepping outside your own cubbyhole, setting aside the textbooks, and leaving your invitation-only party for a breath of fresh air. Open your own mind—and your spirit, too.

Stewart D. Ikeda,
Department of Physics