Jeremy Blake, Winchester (still), from Winchester trilogy, 2002; DVD with sound; 18-minute continuous loop; copyright of the artist and Feigen Contemporary, New York
Following a recent post about 9/11 conspiracy theories Theresa Duncan of The Wit of the Staircase madly pens a vicious, and questionably credible story about her recent harassment by Jim Cownie the legal guardian of art starlette Anna Gaskell. Good luck parsing through Duncan’s prose – after all, why tell a story in five paragraphs when you can do it in 12 – but I encourage you to try since stories like this are usually pulled from their sites in short order.
The gist of the post, for those who can’t slog through it, basically goes like this: Theresa Duncan claims harassment by Anna Gaskell’s legal guardian and radical right wing conservative Jim Cownie as a result of Duncan’s husband Jeremy Blake’s Winchester Series, 2002. Suggesting the three channel video about the The Winchester Rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, known for having built a 160-room Victorian mansion in San Jose to house the spirits of thousands who had died by the Winchester rifle, upset Cownies conservative leanings, the blogger claims a number of high placed government neo conservatives connected to Jim Cownie now follow and hassle her. Duncan goes on to describe several such accounts beginning with the sighting of Anna Gaskell’s brother who oddly paced outside their front lawn in 2006. All of this for some reason leads her to make a bizarre connection between the sexual focus in the harassment of Blake and the Edgar Hoover campaign against Black Panther organizer and actress Jean Seberg.
Typical of most barely lucid writings, a number of questions are raised in this post that never get fully answered. For example, Duncan provides no clear reason for why Cownie might be stalking herself and Blake, but for the fact that he does not agree with Blake’s politics. Why he might chose to follow the couple several years after the fact is never addressed. What’s more the fact that Blake had a soured relationship with Gaskell doesn’t appear until the end of this story, and while it’s obviously relevant, it’s unclear how that relationship informs the actions of all parties involved.
Except of course in the various shots that Duncan and Blake take at Gaskell in the article. Who knows how much of this story is fabricated, but I suspect she’s not making up quotes for her husband, who expresses some fairly significant distaste for his old girlfriend, “[Anna Gaskell] was so dumb, so arrogant and so mysteriously smug. She really thought she had some sort of advantage in every situation. I could never, ever figure out where that came from, because it sure wasn’t coming from anything she did….” She also links to an old Charlie Finch article on artnet in 1998 which reports on Jeffrey Hogrefe’s story in the New York Observer on the making of Gaskell’s career, and the ethically questionable help of art critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith.
As far as I’m concerned Gaskell’s photography warrants attention, though Duncan may well be exposing a rather seedy underside to her star status, as she also points out that Cownie gave $50,000 to the Des Moines Art Museum, as a means of lobbying to have Gaskell’s work permanently installed there. The piece closes by issuing some unsolicited advice to Anna Gaskell, the likes of stop hanging around with Cownie, and get him to answer a few questions about your mother and father. Who knows what these questions are — Duncan doesn’t go into this — but I’m sure if you ask her she’ll have a long response that somehow connects gossip with radical political movements.
Editors Note: This post has been edited for clarity.