Thursday, August 11, 2005

Check Twice, Spell Once


I really want to side with the artist on this one, dig down deep and find some nugget of righteous indignation based on my respect and admiration for what it takes to devote one's life to the sort of personal expression that opens one up to very public criticisms, but, let's face it, when you goof this badly (and this publicly), you really just have to suck it up and fix it:

The Miami muralist who misspelled Shakespeare, Michelangelo and nine other famous names on a mosaic outside the library slipped into town to correct her errors -- at a cost of $6,000 to the city.

And this time, city officials promise they have checked her work before it gets set in stone.

On Tuesday, Maria Alquilar worked under the blazing sun, using power tools to reshape and install tiles changing "Eistein" to "Einstein" and "Van Gough" to "Van Gogh."

But Alquilar -- who last year claimed artistic license and said she wasn't going to fix the faux pas because people were being too mean about it - - was in no mood to talk.

Wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and working under a tent, she wagged her finger at a television cameraman and threatened to throw a rock at a Chronicle photographer.

"No pictures of me!" Alquilar yelled, standing behind a barrier that officials had put up to separate her from the public. "If I'm in it, I'm going to sue you."
Now far be it from me to get all high and mighty about the type of mistake she made (a cursory read through this blog will show you I can't spell for sh*t), but I am a strong believer that artists commissioned to do public works have an obligation to research thoroughly what impact their work will have on the public (see this rant on why Richard Serra was wrong, IMO). A library, of all places, is not the venue for careless spellings. Still, it's hard to not feel some sympathy for Alquilar; it will take a while for her to live this down:

And unlike last time -- when the misspellings were not noticed until the library's opening, when the piece was already cemented down -- city officials said they triple-checked the replacement tiles before they were installed.

Jarod Vash, 17, who was borrowing videos with his girlfriend and her family, said he thought the misspellings were just embarrassing.

"When the story first broke, I thought, 'Oh, Livermore, the town that misspells stuff,' " Vash said. "The only thing we've got in Livermore is a library that misspells words."

But he added, "Everybody makes mistakes."

Quipped his girlfriend's 13-year-old brother, Eric Smyth:

"Not this bad."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sympathize with her. I am concerned with illiteracy in general. She was obviously a little lazy if these mistakes came to be. If she is at all intelligent about this she will use this as a stepping stone to up her level of play.... after all, it is her mistake.

8/11/2005 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous crionna said...

I'm glad that she fixed it, for her sake as much as for that of the piece itself. I mean, c'mon, how can you justify misspelling Shakespeare on a piece outside of a library.

8/11/2005 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My favorite was the misspelling of Einstein. It's not that she switched the "e" and "i" in either instance, which is somewhat understandable (but still should be checked before installing the piece), but rather that she left out the first "n" altogether.

8/11/2005 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

heh, yeah, that was pretty egregious.

8/11/2005 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

This sounds like someone's worst nightmare - you get a commission and somehow manage to misspell, unmistakably misspell, all the important names. This is worse than the nightmare of walking down the street with your clothes on backwards. But she handled it badly. I think she should have hammed it up - come back to redo it with a dunce cap on, demand to be photographed and made a statement, "Children, let this be a reminder to doublecheck your spelling." She would have gotten a lot of sympathy and press. Now she just sounds like a bitch.

8/11/2005 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

absolutely right ML.

she had the opportunity to get coverage nationwide for turning the episode into a public service announcment and would have very likely gotten calls from other cities (and/or collectors) who wanted the celebrity artist who couldn't spell to do something for them. Instead, she's more or less scared away any potential clients with her ungracious antics.

8/11/2005 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

nice call e. No wonder you're in the biz.

8/11/2005 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

(a cursory read through this blog will show you I can't spell for sh*t)

No kidding. Shit has an "i" in it...


8/11/2005 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


I don't know why I used the * (old ObWi habit I guess).

I am constantly embarrased by my lousy spelling when I re-read some of these posts though (the blogger spell check is retarded though, so I hate using it).

8/11/2005 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Macallan said...

Try typing your stuff up in Word then cut and paste the text into the blog interface.

8/11/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


that's why you get paid the big bucks, isn't it?

I actually use notepad, but clearly, your suggestion is better

I'll try it tomorrow.

8/11/2005 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

LOL, Mac...

I don't know why I used the * (old ObWi habit I guess).]

A habit appreciated by this reader,

8/11/2005 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous mdv said...

"When the story first broke, I thought, 'Oh, Livermore, the town that misspells stuff,' " Vash said. "The only thing we've got in Livermore is a library that misspells words."

Livermore, where I grew up, is also the town where Bill Owens photographed his "Suburbia" series. Lawrence Livermore Laboratories designs some of our best nuclear weapons there, too.

8/12/2005 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous DaveC said...

Nice to see Crionna around.

Instead of sh*t, I would have said "doodley squat", but then again that's what my opinion counts fer.

8/15/2005 01:43:00 AM  

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