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makes his decision to work for DeBleaux, “He felt he was losing something important but there was no pain. He reasoned that one’s personal conduct did not have to be influenced by corruption or ignorance.” DeBleaux loses his race for Congress, but Simmons has been initiated and cannot return to the world of the mortal and mundane. When a Louisiana U.S. Senator gets caught swimming in a river with more than fish, Simmons hatches the plot that will make him a nationally recognized political consultant. The plan is to run Hugh Conklin, an itinerant drunk most often found in a stupor on the steps of the Capitol where, when he is able, he sells political trinkets. The idea is not for Conklin to win, but to have him finish fourth in a field of 10 candidates so that Big Jim DeBleaux can place bets at high odds with bookies and score big. Strother assembles an all-star cast of mis fits to populate the campaign organization. These include: Happy, the paraplegic newspaper vendor; a hooker; two young boys who steal hubcaps; and Sonny Clinton, the almostprize fighter. Simmons’ plan is to get Conklin sober, let him experience an “awakening” in an evangelical church and then use the church and its network as the field organization for the campaign. Conklin becomes the evangelical candidate, and Simmons organizes a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation through the church’s many branches. Along the way to election day, Simmons tries to keep a saddle on the campaign committee \(which, like most political committees, creates more romantic quadrangle that includes his wife, a prostitute gone half good and a preacher’s wife. Strother travels through familiar territory and writes from experience. Over the years, he has established himself as one of the leading Democratic media consultants in the country, working for the presidential campaigns of Gary Hart and Al Gore as well as Sens. Lloyd Bentsen, Dennis DeConcini gubernatorial campaigns of Louisiana’s Buddy Roemer, Arkansas’ .B ill Clinton and Kentucky’s Martha Layne Collins. But Strother cut his teeth as a reporter, campaign worker and consultant in the Byzantine world of Louisiana politics. Someone once said, “If you think you know anything about politics, go to Louisiana and get your Ph.D.” Strother has spent a lifetime in Louisiana and has drawn from the experience of countless campaigns to write a very enjoyable and hugely entertaining novel. Strother’s literary effort is as rich with character and full of flavor as Louisiana itself. ti Aesthetic Battles, Polemical Statements Art and Politics Intertwine in San Antonio’s Mexican Art Exhibition BY BARBARA BELEJACK RAQUEL TIBOL IS Mexico’s leaing art critic. The Observer’s Barbara Belejack recently met with her in New York in anticipation of the exhibition, Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries, that is showing at the San Antonio Museum of Art through August 4. What follows is an edited, abridged version of that interview. Are we experiencing a “boom” in Latin American art similar to the literary phenomenon of the ‘ 60s and ’70s? I don’t think the literary boom and the current wave of interest in Latin American art are comparable because there are different factors at work. The literary market isn’t speculative; the art market is inherently speculative. Enough time hasn’t passed for us to know whether Botero [Colombian artist Fernando Botero, known for his outsized human figures] is worth what he’s currently worth. With respect to Mexican art, what we’re currently seeing is a neo-Mexicanism that has attracted attention and patrons in the United States. It’s a mixture of post-modernism a la mexicana, a mix of styles that can be read with sarcasm, with irony, black humor, ordinary humor. One artist who is identified with this trend is Nahum Zenil, whose work is a Barbara Belejack is the Observer’s Mexico City correspondent. mixture of neo-Mexicanism, [elements of folk arts, the great muralists and especially in the case of Zenil, Frida Kahlo], gay art, phallic symbolism. Another is Julio Galan, whose work is a mix of the same elements, but less obviously so. They are the two artists, in the generation between 30 and 40, whose work has had the greatest success in New York. So how do you explain the current “wave of interest” in the United States? The situation is different for the simple reason that the Mexican-American community has a certain presence there. For example, the wonderful exhibit, “La imagen de Mexico,” was brought to Dallas because a tiny group in the Mexican community in Dallas pushed for it. Of course, the interest in Mexican art in the United States isn’t a recent phenomenon. The Museum of Modern Art held an important exhibit back in 1940. Then there seemed to be a time when all this mutual admiration stopped. This is very important… because these cyclical periods don’t just happen because of divine providence. There are economic, social and political factors at work. Now there’s talk of a Latin American common market or a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. Going back a few years, you can explain the decline in interest in Mexican art with the rise of McCarthyism. They covered up [Rivera’s] murals in Detroit. The National Library in Washington didn’t want the pub lic to see its collection from the Taller de grafica de arte popular. Until the McCarthy era they were proud to have this .work in their collection. Of course, eventually attitudes began to change, but as you well know, there was still a lack of confidence in the United States with respect to Latin American artists and intellectuals. They were considered a little too “red.” I would say that lasted until just a few years ago. Now they’re in style again and we’re going through another idyllic phase with respect to opening borders and exchanging certain products. Art has always been a good adornment, for certain kinds of economic projects. The influence has also gone the other way around, with respect to U.S. artists influenced by Mexican movements. There’s a connection even with Jackson Pollock, no? Pollock first approached Siqueiros in ’32, ’33, when Siqueiros was forming his group in Los Angeles. Siqueiros worked on three murals in Los Angeles. One is still intact, because it was built in a private home, for a movie director. One was destroyed immediately, and there’s another, very interesting mural in the Plaza Arts Center, called “America Tropical.” What’s unusual is that it was done in 1932, when there was no guerilla movement in Latin America. Sandino was dead. And there was Siqueiros, painting the imperial eagle from constructions that look pre-Hispanic, pyramids like Chichen THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 I ‘