“We were America’s first research university and the model for higher education in this country and beyond,” Johns Hopkins President Ronald Daniels announced this week. “The time has come for a definitive book that chronicles our remarkable history.” So the school decided to commission one — from one of its own professors. What do you think are the chances that it’ll be anything close to objective?
For decades, UM law prof and political consultant Larry Gibson found himself talking the record straight about Thurgood Marshall’s youth and young adulthood – it bothered him that the media held certain basic misconceptions about the justice. For example, Marshall didn’t resent his hometown of Baltimore. He didn’t lack a sense of humor. Nor did Marshall ever intend to be a dentist! Of course, there’s meatier more (the meticulously researched book weighs in at 413 pages). But you’ll have to read Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice (Prometheus) for the larger, nuanced character study.
Seasoned artist Renee Stout, who won the $30,000 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize for 2012, is a multi-media maker who creates her art, at least in part, by consistently taking on a fierce fictional identity. Her alter-ego’s intriguing first name: Fatima.
When I visited Stout’s exhibition – currently on display at the BMA, along with the work of all spectacular Sondheim finalists, Lisa Dillin, Jon Duff, Hasan Elahi, Matthew Janson and John McNeil, until July 29th – I was most struck by those pieces in which the mind of this Fatima Mayfield, a gifted spiritual healer, seems most alive and participant. The staged photographs, starring Renee/Fatima in dreadlocks and platform heels, yes, also thought-provoking, but less so for me than the art-text-involved works that seem to stream from both women’s brains, creator and character.