"Part of the impetus for the notoriety of modern art, you write, ironically came from the State Department and the CIA. They take up modern art as a sterling example of Western freedom, as opposed to dogmatic communist insistence on realism. Greenberg goes on overseas tours with art exhibitions funded by the government to promote this American freedom. Legislators, who loathed modern art, suddenly tout it."
Dr. Marquis laughs. "Yes, an amazing turnabout. It was so interesting to discover that connection between the Cold War and modern art. There was just nothing said about how this had occurred. It had happened spontaneously, it seemed. I was an art major in those days, and everybody was painting abstract expressionist pictures in art classes, including me. Little did we realize."
"Do you think that a lot of great work is overlooked?"
"Yes. Judgment is influenced by the time we live in. You grow up in a certain period, you start looking at art at a certain age..."
"And you become socialized? Overexposed?"
"Yeah, For instance, I think it's very hard to do paintings at this point and have them recognized. You see all around you advertisements and visual stimuli. We are subjected to so many visual stimuli every day, whether in a newspaper or leafing through a magazine, by signs, or looking at graffiti scratched onto a subway window. There are so many images bombarding us."
Her reply prompts a story from me: "Years ago, in New York, there were two plainclothes policemen assigned to the subways to crack down on the graffiti artists. The paper did a piece about the cops, but they also interviewed the teenage artists. And these kids would sit in the elevated subway stations in the mornings, watching for their night's work to roll by, criticizing rivals. The kids exhibited all of the sort of migraine anguish and neuroses of artists. All the same self-doubt. The cops allegedly discouraged the kids by holding them upside down over the third rail, with a flashlight stuck in their mouths, threatening to drop them if they didn't stop 'tagging' subway cars and walls."
"You know," she says, "there are tunnels under the freeways in San Diego where graffiti artists have done their thing. And, of course, some of them were taken up by galleries and had shows. Did the kids stop doing their graffiti?"
"No. They kept right on."