Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Motsinger Gets The Goods on Kenneth Noland

Arts (and food/restaurant) reporter Carol Motsinger had a timely and interesting story in the January 6 Citizen-Times on the death of artist Kenneth Noland, an Asheville native who attended Black Mountain College("Asheville abstract artist Kenneth Noland dies; Painter with local ties to be buried at Riverside").

Motsinger built the first part of her story, almost verbatim, on a earlier AP story and probably should have credited it.  She added the newsworthy detail that Noland is to be buried in Asheville's Riverside Cemetery.

She began her own reporting with a good, generic quote from Pam Myers, executive director of the Asheville Art Museum ("Mr. Noland, with some other artists ...  changed the way we looked at painting and color in the world.”)

Motsinger also reported that the Art Museum owns three of Noland's paintings.  Noland was known as a "color field" painter, so it would have been a nice touch for the reporter to ask Myers for a color image of at least one of the paintings to go with the story. Should her editor have told her to go back and get one?  Also helpful would have been a phrase telling us if any of the Noland paintings are currently on display.

Motsinger's substantial contributions were the details about Noland from Bob Godfrey, a painter who lives in Asheville and headed the art department at Western Carolina University.  As recounted by Godfrey, Noland's recollections of his mother's jazz club and the influence of Asheville on his art would make good additions to any standard Noland biography.  The New York Times, in its obituary written by William Grimes, credits only his father's influence: "His father, a pathologist and Sunday painter, lent the boy his art materials after a visit to the National Gallery in Washington, where Kenneth, then 14, was awe-struck by the Monets."

Motsinger's real coup was a funny and revealing anecdote from Godfrey about his drinking contest with Noland that netted a Noland painting for the fine arts museum at Western Carolina.  Her editor might have suggested she save it for a "kicker" at the end.  Grimes of The Times likes those "shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits" endings for his obituaries and would have killed to get the one Godfrey handed Motsinger on a plate.

Meanwhile, features reporter Ali Marshall posts links on the Mountain Express Web site to The New York Times obituary and to Motsinger's story in the Citizen-Times.  Does it seem curious for Mountain Express to be pointing readers to another Asheville newspaper rather than doing any original reporting?  Marshall also notes that the Citizen-Times story reports "Xpress contributor Connie Bostic hosted an exhibit of Noland’s lesser-known ceramic works at her Zone one contemporary gallery during the 1990s."  Has anyone seen any of Bostic's articles in Mountain Express recently?  She was indeed a frequent, almost weekly contributor.  Has she stopped writing to concentrate on painting?

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