The Ethical Method of Repair


    The Attention is in the Details



    Not Straw, Not Sticks, Not Brick -

    The Three Pigs get a New House









© 2010 Ron Barbagallo




For reasons that may or may not be Los Angeles-relevant, I found that after moving here in 1998, that there were several stories or lessons from my past that kept resonating. Back in the late 70s/early 80s, I attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan where I have the good fortune to study both Fine Art and Animation. It was not uncommon for me to pass Debbie Harry on 23rd Street or scoot by members of The Ramones as I made my way through the double doors of SVA's 23rd Street entrance. Equally common, although absolutely not as cool in 1978/1979 as it sounds today, was passing the office adjacent to the 23rd Street elevator and seeing Madonna's name on the chalk board listing today's nude models, or trying to squeeze pass the often inebriated outline of Jean-Michel Basquiat, or running pass Keith Haring as he stood with his feet spread out on a pair of banisters that led from the second to the third floors. Andy Warhol was known to frequent SVA on late Friday afternoons when he came to gather thrill-seekers for the weekend; I had no interest in Warhol's "tomorrow's parties" and instead used my weekends to create art.


As interesting as the external life of attending SVA might sound in retrospect, the most important part of my SVA story was the parade of first rate teachers who left a lasting impact. This would certainly include my Survey of World Art Professor Mr. O'Connor who in the Spring of 1978 asked the class to go to the Guggenheim Museum and look at the Willem de Kooning show. After reviewing the show, O'Connor asked the class to submit papers. Unfamiliar with de Kooning's paintings back then, I had a negative response to their imagery and submitted a paper called Willem de Kooning: the Antipathy to Art. O'Connor returned my paper to me with an "F" and a short note asking me to see him after class. I remember him telling me (and I paraphrase), "Mr. Barbagallo, I didn't ask you if you liked de Kooning. I asked you to look at his work and write a paper about his paintings. Why they are relevant. How his canvases hearken back to genres or artists' work who came before him and how his paintings affected genres or artists who came after him. I want you to talk about the physical attributes of the paintings, not cite if you personally liked the art or not."


I went back to the Guggenheim for a second viewing and entirely rewrote my paper using O'Connor's criteria and got an "A" for my efforts. I also learned a valuable lesson - that art needed to be reviewed by its construction and how it fit into the framework of the history of art. Professor O'Connor's authoritative view wasn't isolated to de Kooning either. I remember when a woman in class raised her hand and inquired about why we were not studying Frida Kahlo, in a quiet but assured tone (and again I paraphrase) Professor O'Connor responded, "Kahlo's paintings are a novelty of sorts. She is a specialized painter mostly known for her personal life and cultural heritage. She is more influential as a figure within social movements or someone studied in a class that focused exclusively on Latin American art. As a painter, she was working with artistic styles created decades early by other artists and that this class was about innovators within art movements globally." Another interesting shift in perspective made by Professor O'Connor -- to focus on artistic innovators and their innovations rather than people who work in styles set by others.


In the Spring of 1979, I took a painting class with Sylvia Mangold, whose husband Robert Mangold was a prominent minimalist painter. Sylvia was aware that I had been working on a series of canvases that contained coloring book versions of the Disney characters: Snow White, Alice and Pinocchio, which at the time was not art school-hip due to Disney animation having fallen out of favor by the late 70s. Mangold found my commitment to these paintings both puzzling and intriguing and after speaking with her briefly had me stand up and address the class on why I thought Disney art was as viable as Fine Art. I remember feeling like I was being put in a spotlight, like Linus reciting verse in A Charlie Brown Christmas and choosing the Nutcracker Suite from Fantasia for my oration. I'm not sure I converted Sylvia Mangold, but I think this was the first evidence of my doing what my writing has done over the past two decades.


FlashFoward to today. When this web site was launched in 2003, it was in response to someone at Time Magazine who wanted my expertise, but wouldn't credit me, "because I didn't have a web site." Previously, I never pursued getting a site for my work due to the licensing issues (unlike nearly everyone else online). When I approached Roy E. Disney, no one was more surprised than me to learn he sent a note to Disney Legal instructing them to "make it happen." I knew whatever I did with this license that it would always have to reflect this man's act of kindness and forward vision.


While the original purpose of the site was to make an argument for the ethical repair of animation art and to give my business an online presence, within short form I discovered the public was significantly more interested in the detail within my articles, which have long been hidden since the home page had no way to index them.


My good friend Irving Ludwig once told me that Roy O. Disney had been a mentor to him and that Roy O. once told Irving "You can never have enough positive satellites out there working for you and you should try to cultivate as many as possible." Irving additionally told me that when "young Roy" was old enough that he mentored him and passed that philosophy on to Roy E. Disney. My thought was, as I clean up the Index/home page issue with my web page, to dedicate this version of the site to the sentiment that Roy O. passed along to Irving who passed it to Roy E. Maybe in some fashion, I can now pass it along to those of you who took the time to read this Dedication which I gratefully inscribe to Irving Ludwig, Roy O. Disney and my sometimes patron and ally, Roy E. Disney.


My new plans for the site are simple: to continue to focus on aesthetics within art -- fine art and animation, just as I did in Sylvia Mangold's class and to do what Professor O'Connor taught me which was to talk about innovators and innovations. Unlike other web sites, you will see I've left no areas for comments from the public (sorry, we're not as interesting as we think we are, although we are often more rude than we should be). In addition, there will also be no "blogging," maybe an occasional letter from the editor or guest contributor, but this site will continue to ask the reader to do what writing has done for centuries -- for you to read and think privately with the hope that something between the lines inspires.


Before I moved to the left coast, Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones handed me this witticism: "For you, Ron, everything in Los Angeles will be like trying to find the golden needle in the haystack" and how right he was. At this juncture, I'd like to take this time to acknowledge some of the hard working "golden needles" I've collected. Specifically, my thanks goes to Flash Animator Shawn Toshikian who put his family and young daughter Harley aside for months to handle the unending conversion from frames to tables and the revised Flash format of the site. I would also like to welcome back my previous Editor-in-Chief Sarah Baisley who is now handling the copy editing of this site. Additional thanks goes to publicists Nicole Parker, Fumi Kitahara, Gary Miereanu, John Singh, Tim O'Day and Arlene Ludwig. At this time, I'd also like to thank colleagues and friends Monica Elsbury, Baker Bloodworth, Steven Clark, Dave Smith, Becky Cline, Rob Klein, Robert Tieman, Doug Engalla, Angela Woodward, Andy Strum, Eric Himmel, Paula Allen, Lisa Janney, Jeff Stevens, Mark Greenhalgh, Pat Kowalski, Ruth Clampett, Daryl Maxwell, Sandy Thome and my perpetual ally in chemistry, Michele Derrick for their support.


I would also like to welcome and extend thanks to my colleagues at the press department of The Museum of Modern Art, Andie Trainer at The Gagosian Gallery and Graham Newhall at the press department of The Whitney Museum of Art. You all understood what I was asking within seconds of my requests.


In closing this dedication, there is one person whose assistance with this site eclipses even Roy Disney's gift of its licensing. For his help, a groundswell of gratitude is extended to Howard E. Green, a man with genuine forward vision who has selflessly helped mold the Walt Disney Studio in ways that are immeasurable. I would not be the first person to write about Hollywood or the conservation industry as being full of those whose first priority is themselves. Conversely, for his ability to shepherd his studio, conduct our industry with Leopold Stokowski's grace and for being our industry's Robert Benchley, my gratitude goes to my friend Howard E. Green for his unique ability to provide press while handling today's Alexander Wollcotts and Dorothy Parkers with such invisible ease.