Hack at NYT
Deconstructing the Shoddy Journalism of April Dembosky at the New York Times
Deconstructing the sloppy and unethical journalism of April Dembosky: Yesterday I read the article “Street Art Comes in From the Cold“ by April Dembosky, who interviewed me for the piece. I was shocked to see that my words had not only been inaccurately quoted, but taken completely out of context to serve Dembosky’s personal viewpoint.
Several weeks ago I received the following email:
I am a correspondent for the New York Times in the Bay Area. I’m currently working on a story for the paper about murals in San Francisco and would love to ask you some questions about Clarion Alley. Is there a chance we might chat over the phone sometime today, Monday (preferable) or tomorrow morning?
San Francisco Bay Area
I responded that I’d be happy to speak with her.
When Dembosky called me the following day, I sensed that she had an agenda. Initially she asked me about Clarion Alley and the philosophy of CAMP. I responded that to my understanding CAMP was created to provide a platform for all artist perspectives and that the “philosophy” was not to have a set “philosophy.” She pushed further, asking how CAMP is different from Precita Eyes Mural Project and I reiterated that I couldn’t speak for CAMP because CAMP is comprised of many artists’ voices and it would be wrong for me to make a blanket statement speaking for anyone but myself, as an artist who has equal weight with every other artist who has painted a mural on the Alley.
I could feel myself getting frustrated because it was clear to me that I wasn’t providing the responses she was hoping to get. So I asked her straight up what was her angle for the article. Finally, some clarity. Dembosky filled me in that she was actually writing a piece about the Kerry James Marshall exhibit as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and that she was interested in how murals traditionally painted on the street translate in the museum setting. She felt that a number of artists believe murals created within institutions lose their credibility — like graffiti reproduced in a gallery. As she said this, I was thinking to myself – ugh, this is such an old and tired subject, already beaten to death in critical discourse. But I was a trooper and went along, hoping to provide her with a broader perspective on the topic.
I communicated that I hadn’t seen James Marshall’s work at SFMoMA yet and couldn’t speak to the piece specifically, but as a big fan of his work, I was really looking forward to it, especially since my dear friend Marina Perez-Wong had been one of the painters for the project.
I told Debosky, again I could only speak to my own experience as an artist who paints public murals/wall paintings – on exteriors and interiors. So this is where my quote actually comes from:
I went on to explain that creating any work is about CONTEXT (which Dembosky seems to only know how to take things out of) and that of course, a work that is created in one environment will have a different context in another. I then said, speaking about MY work (her quote wasn’t even accurate) and the installation I had just completed as the Sun Valley Center for the Arts:
“I don’t think of them as murals when they’re in a gallery or arts institution, I think of them as wall paintings.”
The entire conversation took up a good half an hour of my time, and I provided her with additional contacts and told her I was happy to provide additional information if she need it … etc.
So of course, it felt like such a slap in the face to read Dembosky’s article for the New York Times yesterday and see my words not accurately quoted AND taken completely out of context to fit the statement that SHE wanted to make:
Still, some argue that his art violates the philosophy of public art that many San Francisco street artists hold dear.
“I don’t even think of them as murals when they’re in a museum,” said Megan Wilson, a local artist and muralist. “They’re just wall paintings.”
To April Dembosky:
A correction needs to be made in the Times and you might consider an introductory course in journalism.