Monday, May 14, 2012

What Do Mitt Romney, Edmund White, and I Have In Common?

Answer, Cranbrook.

We all went to Cranbrook.  Edmund White and Mitt Romney are alumni of the boys' school.  I studied for a year at the art school from 1981 to 1982.

Edmund White writes about his experiences at Cranbrook in the current New Yorker, the basis for his novel, A Boy's Own Story, and he gives probably the best commentary on Mitt's alarming early career as a bullying "prankster."

Cranbrook is four separate schools on one campus, Cranbrook School for Boys, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Kingswood School for Girls (where Anne Romney attended), and  Cranbrook Science Academy (more a small museum and research facility).  The grounds and campuses are splendid masterpieces of the Finnish architect Elliel Saarinen.  He designed each campus to be different as Edmund White points out.  The other thing that White points out that I remember very well is how austere the campus is, and how it always feels cold, literally.  I spent a long bitter Michigan winter at Cranbrook, and I had to go out in it frequently since all of my classes were in separate buildings.  We all felt very isolated out there, and anyone who had a car (even a beat up 1972 Plymouth Satellite with Texas plates and a UT sticker like mine) was very much in demand.  I did a lot of winter driving there, including a trip over an iced up interstate to Chicago.

The art academy students did not have much to do with the boys' school students.  They didn't like us and we didn't like them.  We used to joke about raising money for the art academy by kidnapping one and demanding money or we'd give him back.  I felt very much a fish out of water there.  I was a scholarship student, as were most of the art students at that time.  The art academy had a soccer team that wanted to call itself the Bloomfield Hills White Collar Crime, but the academy administration squelched that idea.
I was not happy there.  I made the decision to pursue figurative painting there at that bastion of pioneering American modernism, and my choice was not well received.  To his credit, the painting teacher George Ortman backed me on that decision, but the rest of the campus did not, and so I left in 1982.

I'm not sure Cranbrook is the best place for painting and sculpture, but at the time it was still a great design and craft school.  Daniel Libeskind taught architecture at the academy when I was there, and I certainly remember him (I remember his students more, at the time they were in a prank war with the sculpture department).

Me at Cranbrook in 1981

I think a Romney presidency will be Bush the Second all over again, a rich privileged white guy who isn't particularly bright and never really had to be.  Expect a lot more of the same cronyism, arrogance, and fanaticism that we came to know and love from 2001 to 2009, and who knows, maybe war with Iran together with another massive tax cut for the rich as a bonus.

1 comment:

Murdoch Matthew said...

Hoo boy -- That phallic tower! Maybe it was unremarkable when it was built, and maybe it's still just a building to the average person, but you could slip a picture of that tower into any gay male porn site and it would fit right in. Might not be noticed among the other erections. Way to go, Cranbrook!