Yesterday evening in "A Conversation with the Artist." Botero conversed with Robert Hass, at the Chevron Auditorium in the International House at UC Berkeley.
So I don't have to cover the basics, the premises of why this standing room only experience was such a draw, so I don't have to expand on its massive popularity and why 1000's of people couldn't even get inside to see the conversation, here are a few links:
In the San Jose Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/16574216.htm
In the Berkeley Daily Planet: http://www.berkeleydaily.org/text/article.cfm?issue=01-26-07&storyID=26178
In the SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/01/22/EDGC7N728U1.DTL
Botero's conversation with Hass has its lowlights. At the end of the evening the second "question from the audience" began as an acid induced rant by a character cut from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for being a loose cannon, and the question went down hill from there. But tolerance of the stuck-in-68 16 year old or 48 year old as the case may have it with their bumper-sticker-on-the forehead craziness was required.
Botero's and Hass' conversation was too meaningful and too important for me to get bogged down in the distractions of anti-intellectual, anti-rational leftist-by-color-my-clothing folk.
Botero calls art an "accusation." A claim one would supsect carried more humor than fire if one were to look at only his "popular" work: the rotund nearly comic figures he has found acclaim for. But when you hear him talk about how enraged he was by the reports and pictures of Abu Ghraib, a new meaning emerges.
He speaks of the United States as the one place on earth where torture would not only be not expected but he felt it is a place where it would be impossible to manifest. So when he, and he feels, the world saw th worlds model for compassion and human rights adopting the behavior of its antagonists he felt, as Hass put it, and I'm paraphrasing, as if the last light on the planet had gone out.