Stephen Fife

Writer, Non-Registered Critics


Do you get it yet, my fellow Americans?  Do you get it yet?  First, the FBI Chief is fired in the middle of an investigation of the White House, then the so-called President meets with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, and American press is barred from coverage!!! That is, only the Russian Press is allowed to cover the press conference of the so-called President and the Russian Foreign Minister IN THE WHITE HOUSE, and still life goes on mostly as usual here.  Can you even imagine the outcry if President Obama had done anything like this?  There would be mobs in the street, and militias would be forming.

So here it is, those who still can't read the writing on the wall - written in such huuuge letters, they can be read all the way from Russia:  He is just a USEFUL IDIOT for them.  While being just an IDIOT for us.  And those who persist in believing in that this so-called President is on their side - when he so obviously only cares about #1 - what can we call them?

(And yes, these photos are from the infamous "pee tape," because the Twisted Hipster has that kind of access.)

So, that said, let's try to find the peace of mind in Art that can't currently be found in life.  Toward that end I took refuge yesterday in the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), in the Ahmanson Building, in search of transcendent Beauty.


Fantasy Bust by Carrier-Belleuse. Photo Credit for all the photos in this column: S. L. Fife

Between Two Loves



I find myself on the third floor of Ahmanson Hall, in front of two statues by a sculptor I've never heard of: Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.  French, lived 1824-1887.  I love these two pieces, they are so supple and sinuous. And emotional, yes.  Why don't I know this guy?  He reminds me a bit of Rodin (you know, the "thinker" guy?), but more straightforward, less stylized.  And, looking him up on google - oh, wow, so Rodin apprenticed with him. So thanks for this, Monsieur Carrier-Belleuse.

Rodin's Minotaur and Nymph

Rodin's Eternal Spring

Now that I've brought up Rodin, I feel like I have to see his many sculptures nearby.  They're all very tactile and dynamic, but two really jump out: Eternal Spring and Minotaur and Nymph. Wow, pretty sexy.  I mean, Eternal Spring will either make you feel good about your own sex life, or the very opposite.  Hard to believe the man doesn't have a boner. If you don't get one with a kiss like that, then something is not firing on all cylinders. On the other hand, Minotaur and Nymph is creepy.  From the Nympth's look, it seems that the Minotaur is not having any problems with his tumescence. Is she happy about it or not?  Your call.

I have to admit, there are some crazy gems in this LACMA Permanent Collection, much better than I gave it credit for.  I mean, yes, I was spoiled by the museums in NYC - the Met Museum and MoMA both go on forever and have so many famous works of art, and they're almost always swamped with visitors (except in the Greek vase section, always lots of room there!).  But what's great here is the unexpectedness of what you find, and how empty it is on a weekday.

Woman Drying Her Hair by Degas

Four or five feet away from the Rodins are a few Degas sculptures. It is late afternoon, and one of the sculptures - A Woman Drying Her Hair - catches the golden light in a truly magical way.  The woman's body glows with dappled light, which catches every indentation on her fleshy form.  The curtains are open on the museum window, and the Los Angeles Mid-Wilshire landscape shines outside.  Somehow this un-idealized woman and this workaday cityscape belong together, or maybe she just seems at home here in her timeless busy-ness, squeezing the water out of her long thick tresses while taking in the golden view of a golden city.  There is nowhere to rush to, nowhere else to be, nothing to worry about, no rent due (or overdue), no collusion between super-powers to douse the small flame of individuality that still burns in the hearts of people. Nothing else besides a sculptured woman drying her long hair in the late afternoon tranquility, and the golden light glowing over everything.

Satan by Jean-Jacques Feuchere

But of course the world isn't that simple, much as we might like it to be. Something draws me back to that first gallery toom, with the lovely Fantasy bust, and there I find the 1836 sculpture of Satan by Frenchman Jean-Jacque Feuchere.  Wonder what prompted this?  I guess it was that Romantic impulse of rebellion, as Satan the fallen angel was also an archetype for the artist, who dared to defy God by taking on the role of Creator.  Then again, this is just very disturbing.  This Satan isn't so much evil as he is gnawing on his own liver, consumed with anger and envy and jealousy and vows of Revenge... and we're back in the modern world.

Back in the world where FBI Chiefs get fired for all the wrong reasons, and there are so many conspiracies going on at any one moment that how can anybody go about his or her business without worrying about what's going to happen next, and how can I really protect my daughter from all the serial killers masquerading as Uber drivers, and damn, I forgot to pay off my credit card last week and now they're going to hit me with another late fee, and why hasn't that screenplay sold yet when my manager told me that there was so much "interest," and--

But then I remember that Degas woman bathed in the golden light - and even this "Satan" is so beautifully made, so lovingly conceived and carved and polished - and the fear begins melting away.

Good things will happen, they have to.

This world is simply too beautiful a place to allow oneself to be overwhelmed by despair.



Steve is a 5-tool writer (plays, screenplays, novels, poetry, journalism) who has had 11 books published, 10 plays produced, and has written for the New York Times “Arts & Leisure”, Village Voice, New Republic, and many others. He is one of the few people on the planet who can lay claim to spending time with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sandy Meisner, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, as well as so many other extraordinary people who refused to color inside the lines. He is always on the lookout for the original and the incisive.