[Dixielandjazz] No More Banjo Jokes -- It's Art!

Don Kirkman donkirk at covad.net
Sun Dec 18 09:42:50 PST 2005

On Sun, 18 Dec 2005 11:03:11 -0500, Dick Baker wrote:

>Dear Friends -- Especially You Plunkers:

>I know many of you are both banjo enthusiasts and Serious Scholars of the 
>Arts, so you'll want to read all about the latest exhibition at 
>Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art.  The link to the full article is 
>directly below (you *may* have to log-in or sign-up or something with 
>Washington Post to get to it, but that's free).  I was sorely tempted to 
>quote it in its entirety, but restrained myself to the first half-dozen 
>paragraphs.  Enjoy.


[. . .]

>In this exhibition, the banjo is racially charged and sociologically 
>weighty. Forget about strings and frets. These banjos are fraught. Deeply 
>fraught. Some are even sexually fraught. Women's lib might be traced back 
>to the banjo, if we correctly interpret Frances Benjamin Johnston's 1895 
>photo of a mischievous Miss Apperson in Sen. George Hearst's Washington 
>mansion. Miss Apperson is juxtaposed with a statue of a goddess, a vision 
>of Victorian virginity raised on a marble pedestal. Miss Apperson, however, 
>is hardly so chaste . . . for in her hands she holds a banjo. And she's 
>having a good time with it. (Really, isn't the instrument just one big 
>phallic symbol? But that's a bit of banjo symbology the curators did not 
>spell out.)

There must be something to this; Phoebe Apperson Hearst figures large in
the history of the University of California in Berkeley, Hearst Castle,
and other philanthropic al projects.  I believe that's the Miss Apperson
above, so those ritzy Hearst folks (mining, Examiner newspapers,
Patricia Hearst) must have had a fun side hidden away somewhere.  Dare
we suppose some of them were secret DJMers?  :-)

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