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DEC 02 - DEC 09, 2014

More Skrlin Cartoons Reviewed By Noted Art Critic

By Charlotte-Catherine Rockwell Peabody

December 03, 2014

(Editor's note: PRUDEWARNING! Prudish readers are advised that on these pages, some fairly crude and graphic representations, along with correspondingly crude language is published. We have done this in the name of art and its critique.

However, we must warn the reader that the representations are so crude and vile that it almost stoops to the level of crudity seen on prime time television every evening in America, although not nearly so crude as what is seen on MTV, a music TV station for children, or rap music, which is now considered mainstream. However, sensitive and prudish readers are advised to not look at this page and skip to the next page, which is page 12).

Lately, noted art critics are bending over backwards to review and critique a major new artist's works. The emerging artist is, of course, Gerald Skrlin, who leapt into fame recently when a cartoon of his, lampooning the city controller of Niagara Falls, Maria Brown was considered so offensive that it prompted both the controller, and acting-mayor, Kristen Grandinetti, to attempt to have the cartoon distributor, Sam Fruscione, a former councilman, arrested on the basis that the cartoon was so vile that it rose to the level of criminal harassment.

Unhappily for the two ladies, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America stood between their wish to punish Fruscione and the actual trundling him off to the hoosegow.

Some supporters of the women have said that the ladies would have been better off dealing with it like mature politicians, accept the fact of the First Amendment as an inconvenient necessity, and ignore the cartoon, and, in all probability, the cartoon would have languished in the obscurity visited upon many works of political art. After all, Fruscione, a former political opponent of Grandinetti, only delivered 45 copies of the cartoon.

Because of the attempted arrest and Grandinetti's press conference on the "vile" cartoon, media attention brought the cartoon attention it would have otherwise been denied and the talent of the cartoonist, Skrlin, came to be discovered.

What the unsophisticated saw as a crude and offensive trained art critics saw as both profound and moving. Skrlin was seen as an artist in the American Primitive tradition. He has been called a "stunning hybrid" of Robert Nast, Robert Maplethorpe and Grandma Moses.

In the second of our series on Skrlin's work, noted art critic Charlotte-Catherine Rockwell Peabody takes up where art critic Winston Drummond left off and reviews more of the recent works of the artist Gerald Skrlin, including the work that thrust him to fame - "City Controller."

Fairy godmother

A study in "bi-world" of female companionship and political activism, this piece of work resonates on multiple levels with the realism of the rough and tumble world of politics contrasted with the whimsy of childhood "fairytales" being just two of the more pronounced-nuanced levels. The cartoon presents us with the very mature (elderly) Rep. Louise Slaughter being tightly embraced by younger councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti. The wording of "womb man" is a play on the nature of "womb-manhood" and manhood. In other words politics is a man's game and councilwoman Grandinetti is giving in to this reality in spite of her claims of women being equal to men in the political arena. The erotic embrace, the gentle fairy wings and reduction of the word "kick" to "lick" are all evidentiary that female politics are - in spite of claims to the contrary - more flaccid, sexual and essentially "warm and fuzzy" than male politics.

Rainbow choo choo

This work confounds and amuses simultaneously. The reference to left handed thread and butt plugs leaves little to the imagination especially when positioned beneath the "rainbow" that can be seen as the multi colored "freak flag" (think of David Crosby singing "I feel like letting my freak flag fly!" in his song "I almost cut my hair") of sexual equality. This theme plays nicely off the artist's portrayal of the collective consciousness rainbow image.

Having said that, there is no need for the viewer to be "hipped" to the work of Carl Jung to enjoy this dazzling cartoon. The critic must also point out that NTCC "head" John Percy's name is so noted on the "head" or lead car. Like a fine wine that delights and then surprises as it finishes upon the palate the artist "tosses in" the line, "If you have any comments cork your mouth," a straight-forward challenge to the powers that be who have tried to "take the man (artist) down" by turning the powers of the Dyster administration loose upon him.

City controller (Dinner Time)

This critic must diverge from the commonly accepted reports as to the meaning of this cartoon image. While others have concluded that this is a simple burlesque and heavy- handed "put down" of the controller per se, as to physical appearances, this writer must take a very different point of observance. The large female image is not a remarking upon personal size or weight but rather an artistic observation upon how much sway, control or power the controller does exercise over of all of city government.

The artist is clearly stating that the controller is "largely" in control of all that goes on in city government not that the "large" controller is running the city. I am confident that once reflected upon any serious person can see a very large difference, and that in a very perverse way the artist has created and sent a love letter, of sorts, to the lampooned in that he has graphically recognized the magnitude of her power be that power real or perceived.

Pa Lotsa

Extremely clever and meaningful use of what has been called the "anxious void" in characterizing the abstract expressionism of the fifties…that is, the vast whiteness and empty space that, through its very nothingness, says volumes. In this presentation the investigative reporter (a play on the name of newspaper, the Niagara Falls Reporter) stands alone, a void behind him that represents the "facts" and the "news" that he is working to dig into and reveal to his readers. That whiteness is the blank page of newsprint that will fill and resolve itself with critical information once the muckraker(s) have done their jobs…in this case a father and son work as a muckraking team. At the bottom of the work lies a reference to Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A.

Dyster's early retirement buy-out scheme where certain employees, who were going to retire anyway, will collect a $20,000 bonus over 5 years for retiring "early." Then some will be rehired the day after they retire and collect their pension and bonus - and a $30,000 part-time city hall job. The artist, rightly or wrongly, uses this as an 'artistic constant' reminding the city residents of the city's "muck" and political underbelly.

(Note: The above is a work of parody and not to be taken seriously, unless, of course, the reader so wishes.)

The celebrated artist Gerald Skrlin






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