He’s unqualified – as sheriff or artist
October 18, 2006
Memo to Hef: I’m canceling my subscription. These hairy-palmed onanists upvalley have given the whole deal a bad name. I’m going looking for the real thing. Bye to the girls for me.It’s too bad that Rick Magnuson couldn’t have been the best Pitkin County sheriff candidate that he could be, and it’s too bad that the city police couldn’t have had the best candidate possible to represent their philosophy.There’s no question where I stand on these matters – I’m a Bob Braudis supporter all the way – but I’ve always tried to respect the legitimacy of other points of view. Had there been a more viable candidate espousing the traditional, conservative style of policing, it would have been natural to perceive the sheriff’s race as a referendum on the type of law enforcement the people of Pitkin County want.Unfortunately Magnuson’s lack of qualifications made him too leaky a vessel for Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson and the individuals within his department to place much hope in. It would have been inappropriate for these guys, in their capacity as public servants, to endorse a candidate, but as private citizens they have the same rights as everyone else to support someone, and I have heard little or none of that. The crushing defeat that candidate Magnuson will soon receive at the polls will have to be attributed to his own shortcomings and pretty much nothing else.Magnuson got off to the worst possible start; every time he opened his mouth, he shot himself in the foot. I know this is a mixed metaphor but, I’m an artist – apparently I don’t need to make sense. His first mistake was to badly miscalculate the public’s response to his personal investigation into the sheriff’s four-week absence this summer. Instead of simply admitting that he had made a rookie mistake, he went Machiavellian and insisted that the ends justified the means. In many people’s eyes this made him even more of a sleazebag.It’s too bad; he could have just asked me. I knew exactly where the sheriff was and I was never told to keep it under my hat. If anyone who had any business knowing had asked me where Sheriff Braudis was, I would have told them. It was no secret. Magnuson continues to beat on this drum because it’s pretty much the only drum he’s got. He is currently suggesting that the sheriff’s humane and progressive drug policies are not his own but are “Hunter’s.” (I presume he means Thompson.) Ahh, the fond memories I have of long evenings in the kitchen at Owl Farm listening to Hunter tell Bob how to be sheriff. Sweet suffering Jesus! Anyone who believes that should get themselves quickly to the nearest mental health facility and check in for the long haul. Don’t forget your robes and your “THE END IS NEAR” sign.At one point I read that Magnuson thinks he’s qualified to be sheriff because he performed CPR on two people and they “are still alive today.” I figured this was quite a feather in his cap, so I hightailed it down to the tavern and performed CPR on a couple of waitresses and, if I do say so myself, they “are still alive today.” Having established my own qualifications, I started casting about for an office to run for, only to discover that it’s too late to throw my hat into the ring.Oh well, there’s always a next time. Just you wait.Unfortunately Rick Magnuson’s credentials as an artist are on a par with his credentials as candidate for sheriff. I was an art student in college in the ’60s and became acquainted with some world-class artists, people like Carl Andre and Larry Weiner, who were pioneering minimalist sculpture and conceptual art at the time. In 1967 the Italian critic and curator Germano Celant coined the term arte povera (impoverished art) to describe what they were doing. This was an exciting time for art in general, and conceptual art was the most cutting-edge. It was art sans object. The notion was that all the big breakthroughs weren’t about the tools and materials an artist uses, or new ways of applying paint to a canvas; they were about ideas, new ways of looking at or defining art. If ideas are the most important thing, then the object, the product is at best redundant.Pretty cool, very intelligent people were operating here. The thing is that if your art is going to eschew the object and, along with it things like craftsmanship and talent (qualities that were previously highly regarded in an artist), then the ideas had better be pretty good, new and exciting. Back in the ’60s there were new and exciting ideas.Sadly, Magnuson’s work brings nothing new or exciting to the table; he’s not saying anything that Weiner’s groundbreaking “One standard US dye marker thrown into New York harbor …” didn’t say 40-some years ago. It’s as if a painter today decided to do a bunch of paintings of Progresso soup cans and expected people to think he was up to something worthwhile. Sorry, it’s just putting a different dress on the same old girl.Art that does nothing new, that doesn’t consider or engage an audience, is no more than an exercise in self-gratification. This is why I wasn’t shocked or outraged by the Magnuson video that showed him masturbating in the desert. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what he’d been doing all along.It may seem frivolous to critique this candidate’s art in the middle of a serious political campaign but that’s exactly why I’m doing it – because it is a serious matter. I would hate like hell for this guy to get humiliated on Election Day and then to decide that it was really about the “art” all along. To confuse his insipid art projects with running for sheriff would be dead wrong. If he did that, I would strongly urge the voters of Pitkin County to put him in a rowboat and point him toward Tierra del Fuego. The waste of people’s time and money would be the greatest obscenity yet.