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Monday, November 15, 2004

Shirley Kaneda

Shirley Kaneda lectured at VCU last week – and she had a lot to say – but first a bit of back-story.

Shirley Kaneda had been listed as being a faculty member on both the VCU Painting Department’s website and in the materials I was sent, and was one of the reasons I applied to VCU. I was coming to get my MFA after nine years in Japan, and Kaneda - born and raised in Japan - was someone I was looking forward to working with. She was also the only faculty member whose work I was familiar with, having previously read some good reviews.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after arriving at VCU that I learned she was no longer faculty, and had been so only briefly. I expressed my disappointment to the departmental chair, Richard Roth, who gave her a thumbs-down gesture, saying “you wouldn’t have liked her anyway” and that “she was no good”.

So it came as a surprise when I discovered that she would be a visiting artist this year. Not because she wouldn’t have been invited, Kaneda isn’t the only visiting artist Roth has disparaged, but because I assumed that she didn’t like him either. I’ve since been informed that her visit now is one of the ways that they are fulfilling her contract.

I’m relating all this not just to gossip, but because it helps to understand my upcoming interpretation of her lecture. Kaneda is an abstract painter and Roth is a former abstract painter, someone who likes to tell how he used to be a Modernist and is now a Post-Modernist. You know what I’m talking about - the zealousy of the converted. Inherent in this is an unspoken contempt for painting, abstract painting in particular, which might explain why Kaneda left the department. I dropped out also.

Why the painter left the painting department and the guy who quit painting runs it is unanswered.