Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rashomon or The Hound of the Baskervilles?

I've been thinking about truth, appearances, loyalty and standing up for your beliefs recently. The controversy is continuing about Montserrat College of Art, the program segment about encaustic on WGBH-TV, credit being given where credit is due and people being willing to take a stand. Trying to sort out all this stuff is taking up a lot of my time and attention, but I really hate injustice and I just have to do what's right.

So what I'm gonna do for all those of you who are seekers of truth is to post a few things here that have appeared in the past few days.  All you Judge Judies and Simon Cowells out there, have at it. And by the way, I'm just going to highlight a few pertinent points. I'm sure you won't mind.

And the Truth shall set you Free
If you're a regular reader, you know that I gave you the whole initial story the other day in my post "Where's Joanne?" Since that time there have been many comments and messages back and forth between readers, Montserrat College, WGBH, Joanne Mattera, me, etc., etc.

So the first question is: who is responsible for leaving Joanne Mattera's name out of WGBH's program?

First up, a message from Dean Laura Tonelli of Montserrat College of Art, apparently sent to all attendees of last year's encaustic conference:

Dear Friend of Encaustic, 
We are happy that so many of you have reported high satisfaction with this year’s Encaustic Conference. By now you may have heard or read some negative feedback about some publicity the college received post conference as a result of “The Greater Boston with Emily Rooney Show on WGBH-TV.” The following is a note from Dean Laura Tonelli regarding the filming.

On behalf of the College, I want to express our deep regret that Conference Founder Joanne Mattera’s name and enormous contributions to this annual event were omitted from the recent WGBH program. It was certainly not our intention to discredit or diminish Joanne Mattera’s key role. When originally contacted, the filming was scheduled during the conference and included Joanne Mattera as the featured speaker. However, WGBH moved the interviews twice, further and further away from the conference dates, to a time when both Joanne Mattera and I were out of the state. Not wanting to miss a rare opportunity for the College to promote both the conference and the institution, it was decided filming should move forward with the expertise of our professional gallery director and college president. Interviews were scheduled and two hours of film was shot in two locations on two separate days. Joanne Mattera’s expertise, leadership and “bible” were acknowledged by both the gallery director and the president a minimum of five times during the interviews; unfortunately, the editors at WGBH edited out those references. We wish to assure everyone associated with the conference that every effort was made to provide information that would pay respect to the conference founder, to the medium of encaustic and its practitioners.

Laura Tonelli, Dean

Now I have nothing against Laura Tonelli. She has always been extremely pleasant to me and supportive of the conference and Joanne. However, I must point out that Laura does not know firsthand that Joanne's name, credentials, etc. were mentioned a minimum of five times. She was out of town - in Italy, in fact - during the shooting. What she says is hearsay.

Next Emily Rooney, host of the show that featured the segment on Encaustic at Montserrat (from the Where's Joanne? FaceBook page)

Emily Rooney: One more thing. You are all acting like there is some intentional slight here and that we "edited" out someone who is most deserving of recognition. That is not the case. Further, we did not shoot 2 hours of footage and there were not 5 mentions of Joanne's name. I don't want to make this worse because clearly people are upset, but Greater Boston has done all of you a greater good. You should take your beef elsewhere and leave us off the invitation list next year.Yesterday at 5:03pm · 

Emily is oh so sweetly directly refuting the claim that Laura made because Emily read the email that had been linked to the FB page.

Excerpts from An open letter from Shelley Gilchrist of Fused Chicago to Montserrat's President Steve Immerman. (You can read the whole letter by clicking on the link.)

"Copper Falls" by Shelly Gilchrist, 2010,
encaustic on panel, 43" x 16" x  1 1/4"

Montserrat no longer an "epicenter"

Dear Dr. Immerman,

How surprising to see that you, the titular head of Montserrat College of Art, are unable even to acknowledge the individual who conceived of the Encaustic Conference, does the lion’s share of the work to produce it, and has made a growing hit in the art world for four years.
What is it that prevents you from publicly speaking her name, or giving even the slightest credit to the conference founder and visionary? You had a chance to link Montserrat’s name indelibly with Joanne Mattera’s and ride on the success of the conference both nationally and internationally. You blew it....
It is ironic to see that Montserrat is still taking credit as being the “epicenter” on the College website. This strikes me as academically dishonest in a place where knowledge is everything. Usually students who do not cite their sources get flagged, whereas you and the college have a far greater responsibility. As an academic, you need to summon the reporters and publicly correct the record and broadcast this through your website and links. If you continue to ignore Joanne’s creations and contributions as theconference founder and leader, you will deserve whatever you get: flagging, flogging and a thoroughly unscholarly reputation. I have a responsibility to future artists to point this out whenever they are considering an education at Montserrat.

Yours truly,
Shelley Gilchrist
Juror’s Award recipient, 4th Annual Encaustic Conference

President Immerman's response to Shelley Gilchrist's letter, also posted on Fused Chicago

Montserrat responds
A response from Montserrat's president came today:

We all feel very badly about how the interviews came out.
Joanne was acknowledged many times. I began my responses talking about the central role that Joanne played in the conference. Unfortunately, WGBH chose not to use most of what was taped including all the references to Joanne and her leadership. In retrospect, given how many times the taping was rescheduled, we should have probably just scrapped the whole thing. In truth, we wanted to shine a light on the fantastic conference and the community that has developed around the art. Its a stark lesson and I assure you will not be repeated.
I have a hard time accepting the notion that we "blew it" when we did not have editorial control. If there was any mistake it was to have gone ahead in the absence of Joanne, a decision for which I take full responsibility and deeply regret.


Stephen D. Immerman, President
Montserrat College of Art
And I might point out that Joanne M. has still not heard from President Immerman either apologizing or saying anything else about this fiasco.

Now Emily Rooney again (from FB Where's Joanne?)

Emily Rooney: Joanne, Nancy et al: I just reviewed Jared Bowen's piece on encaustic at Montserrat and must say I'm a little stunned at your egocentric point of view. I can assure you our viewers are curious about the art itself, not who organized the conference. Also Jared did try to interview Joanne Mattera several times, but she was unavailable. Jared is the most thorough and well researched reporter I have ever worked with and he knows how to make an esoteric subject accessible to the average viewer. I'm puzzled you don't see this for what it is - good publicity for an exhibit that few would know about and fewer would care had it not been for Greater Boston.Yesterday at 2:02pm · 

Emily doesn't get it that we don't believe that any publicity is good publicity. We want some real publicity that acknowledges that you can't talk about encaustic at Montserrat without talking about Joanne Mattera.

Next, we hear directly from Jared Bowen, Reporter at "Greater Boston With Emily Rooney" of WGBH-TV, Boston. This was a comment on Art in the Studio received today and also posted on the "Where's Joanne? FaceBook page (by Tonia Collins in Jared's name) .

 Jared Bowen said...

After reviewing the litany of on-line comments about my story on encaustic at Montserrat College I’d like to take a moment to weigh in.

My story was a brief and general look at encaustic. As most of our viewers were likely unfamiliar with the style, our intent was to offer a quick overview, illustrate the art through Montserrat’s two gallery shows and artist Julie Shaw Lutts’ work and to make mention of its increasing popularity. We never intended to profile the conference itself. 

Montserrat aggressively courted coverage. Only one date was ever booked for interviews. I did not reschedule any shoots. I have reviewed my transcripts and would like to correct some of what’s been posted. I conducted a roughly eight minute interview with Leonie Bradbury, a roughly six minute interview with Stephen Immerman and a 14 minute interview with Julie Shaw Lutts (although most of that time was spent having her explain her process). The rest of the shooting was of the art itself.

Over the course of my interviews there was only one mention of Joanne Mattera and that was by Stephen Immerman at the top of his interview. He said the following: “It all starts with the ambitions and the energy of our faculty and Joanne Mattera who is arguably one of the national experts on encaustic who had the idea, had the passion. But it fits with Montserrat and the reason why is there are several themes that the conference exhibits that Montserrat also has. Montserrat was founded as a college by artists for artists…”

I am (and was) well aware of Joanne Mattera’s contributions to encaustic and appreciate her role in its resurgence. I did endeavor to interview her but unfortunately my schedule did not coincide with her own. While we would have preferred to have an interview with her, in the end I concluded it was best to shed some light on encaustic than none at all.

I stand by my story. Despite the rancor it has generated, I continue to admire the community you artists have fostered around your passion for encaustic.

Jared Bowen
August 5, 2010 11:05 AM

Joanne Mattera
My excerpted response to Jared, posted as a comment today on Art in the Studio, Where's Joanne? (click the link to read the whole thing)

Blogger Nancy Natale said...

Jared, thanks so much for your courteous and professional reply. I appreciate your response and your serious consideration of our criticism of your work. I'm also glad to see that you have noted Joanne Mattera’s prominent place in the encaustic "world", and the fact that she is an acknowledged authority in the field who deserves recognition for her important contributions.

If it is true that the only mention of Joanne's name was by President Immerman in a casual kind of introduction (and you do have the hard evidence of this), then I do understand why it was edited out as an unimportant detail. If President Immerman and the Montserrat Public Relations Department had really stressed that you can’t say “encaustic” without saying “Joanne Mattera,” I think you probably would have included at least a mention of her as the founder and director of the annual encaustic conference. 

That Joanne’s name was not even mentioned in your piece is what has us so steamed because we know that it’s not Montserrat College of Art that is encaustic’s “champion”, but Joanne Mattera. If you don’t mention Joanne, then Montserrat gets the credit for Joanne’s vision and hard work. This is not fair to her and to those of us who are so indebted to her for so much. We who were there (and have been for four conferences over four years) know that the reason that Montserrat had the two encaustic shows on display is that they were organized in conjunction with the encaustic conference. If there had been no conference, there would have been no encaustic shows.

And without Joanne Mattera, there would have been no encaustic conferences at Montserrat.

...What was really the problem is that your visit was scheduled while neither Joanne Mattera nor Dean Laura Tonelli was available at Montserrat. This meant that you were not going to get the real story about encaustic at Montserrat. Montserrat’s going forward with your visit in Joanne’s and Laura’s absence and Montserrat’s continuing promotion of your coverage of “Encaustic at Montserrat” without a disclaimer about the omission of Joanne Mattera is dishonest and shameful

I hope that there are no hard feelings and thank you again for taking the time to review your video and try to set the record straight.

August 5, 2010 6:11 PM

Whoops! I almost did a Montserrat on you! What about Joanne herself? you may ask. Doesn't she have anything to say about all this?  Indeed she does and you can catch the wave at her new encaustic conference blog.

But for one more comment that you can read here from Joanne herself, try this one on. It sums up her opinion of what went on and what should and will happen now.

Joanne says:

I also have tremendous respect for the dean and, frankly, I don't think this fiasco would have happened had she not been on a trip abroad with students.

However, after seeing how badly the college and the president looked in the video--in addition to seeing that I was nowhere to be seen--why would the college continue to promote the video on its website? AND send out emails with a URL urging its recipients to view it? (I saw it only because a Boston art professional emailed me with the link and said: "You have to view this video, NOW.")

Also, I have to ask: How desperate is *any* institution for publicity that it would go ahead with a video without the person who made the event possible? So to my mind there is no excuse for a) scheduling it without me, and b) promoting it when they saw that my name was not even mentioned. I could have provided more accurate information as well--i.e. encaustic is not a "style"; what we make is ART, not "encaustic art"; we are not do-it-yourselfers teaching each other but professionals who gather to share information, ideas and technical expertise.

(The president and gallery director said they mentioned me, and I believe them. But seeing the final product, someone at the college should have said, "It's missing a key component. We are not going to promote this in any way.")

Also, by the way, the president has not responded to me directly. I mean, what, the secret service won't allow it? He allowed the PR person to respond to my first email. I wrote: "I see that I am nowhere to be seen on the college's website regarding the video." The PR person's response, and I'm paraphrasing: Sorry, you were away when it took place.

The president also did not respond to my certified letter informing him and the dean of my termination of contract. Going through the dean, in a matter like this, is unacceptable. An "Im sorry. We blew it," would have gone a long way toward assuaging my displeasure.

Thea asks why I have said nothing on my blog. Thank you for asking that, Thea. There are a couple of reasons:
1. I am not a victim. I am the person who created the most fabulous encaustic conference ever. I don't particularly wish to be known as as the person who got omitted from a stupid video for a show I'd never heard of on the local public TV station.

2. Mindful of my contract, I want to tread carefully. The college is an institution with financial resources (and a healthy profit from the conference). I am an independent contractor who earned a modest sum for my work who would have to pay for legal representation out of my own pocket. I am about to speak with my attorney now at $200 a hour.

3. On the relocated conference blog,, I have been putting up information slowly. For instance, my letter to WGBG is there.

Thanks, everyone, for your public and personal words of support, encouragement, leads and ideas. Please stay in touch with me ( or via the new conference blog.

I am trying to take August off, but I'm responding to the many offers that have come in. A couple of venues are quite promising. My criteria: must be institutional or organizational, with an established infrastructure, interest in encaustic, the financial resources to pay me sufficiently for the enormous amount of work I am about to sink into the project, and a healthy respect for the tremendous gift I (and WE) are about to give them.

Now more questions: would you take a stance if you believed in something? Do you have the courage of your convictions? Do you dare speak truth to power?



joanne said...


I am in awe at the depths of your indignation, and grateful for the work youhave done here.

If I may, I'd like to share the response I just received from WGBH:

Dear Ms. Mattera,

Thank you for your taking the time to contact WGBH, and for your generous support. We enjoy these opportunities to share information with our members!

Also, we appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us regarding our broadcast of Greater Boston. We have forwarded your e-mail to the Greater Boston Production unit for their review. If, in the future, you would like to contact them directly, you can do so by sending an e-mail to

And to watch full episodes on demand, find out what's coming up next, comment on the Greater Boston blog, and more, just visit the Greater Boston Web site at

Consider registering on to receive exclusive access to My WGBH -- a custom page for you to keep track of all your favorite programs, events, audio, video, and more; comment boards and rating feature, where you can share your opinion on any show; advance notice of screenings and events at our studios in Brighton, Massachusetts; premium discounts and coupons from local businesses; automatic entry into contests on; and free e-newsletters on the topics that matter most to you!

WGBH Member Development and Services

WGBH enriches people's lives through programs and services that educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives.

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

A fascinating (and all too familiar) series of events and exchanges, right down to the canned, form letter response from WGBH above. It seems impossible that an apology is not forthcoming from Montserrat's president and others, but regrettably it seems it would be too little too late at this point anyway.

It takes guts to challenge the invisible world of cyber space, but even more when it involves people you see, associate with, and share a common passion (a passion for personal expression, at that!).

On the other hand, it's probably easy to support Joanne Mattera, someone you obviously respect and to whom you feel a sense of gratitude. We should all be so lucky to have such a friend.

I live far away and know none of the parties involved, however you've inspired me, and you certainly held my interest. Thank you for sharing.

Nancy Natale said...

Joanne, I hope you sent them a big check for their great work.

Wendy, thanks for your comment. It really didn't cross my mind that any guts were involved in trying to find the truth of this situation and get credit given where it was due. In the past couple of days, however, I have seen that many do not agree with me and prefer to remain silent. I find this eye-opening and disappointing. Am I shortsighted and unaware of potential backlash? Probably, but so what; I'm willing to say what I think and put it out there for people to judge for themselves.

It is easy to support Joanne Mattera because she always goes the extra mile. Can I do any different? We hear all the time now, "I've got your back." But how many people really know what that means and are willing to prove it?

Catherine Carter said...

One thought, of many, after reading this excellent post:

Emily Rooney: "So we were inaccurate and misleading. Stop being so egotistical! You should be thanking us for the coverage!"

The best thing about Emily as a journalist is her wardrobe, which admittedly is very chic.

Gwendolyn Plunkett said...

I possibly would not have known about all this without your petition on FB about Where is Joanne? Thanks for your coverage on this issue. Sorry to have been one of the "silent" supporters of this effort and want you to know that I stand with you and Joanne on this. As was pointed out, a simple apology without excuses to Joanne and to the Encaustic community at large would have gone a long way to alleviate the hard feelings. I just don't see how the school could possibly promote this program on their website and keep good faith with Joanne and the Encaustic community she has built. No wonder people are so skeptical of the press and their coverage. (my feelings after reading the response letter from to WGBH to Joanne) It boils down to very poor judgement on the part everyone who had to do with the making and promotion of this video from the school's moving forward with the project while key people were absent to defending it and praising it as a 'favor' and good publicity for the school and the art community at large. What kind of favor is it when key components are missing and some of the information is incorrect.

joanne said...

Hi, Everyone--

Whatever that college's name is--I forget--I'm moving on. Check out the new Encaustic Conference blog. I've posted new info and a Call for Proposals:

Hylla Evans said...

The WGBH tv piece should not be used to promote the college. The errors of omission are so great as to make the quasi-news piece worthless.
Let's question authority more than we already do if it comes in the form of a "favor" from a little local tv station.
Major organizations of artists who work in encaustic exist BECAUSE Joanne Mattera engineered their formation years ago. I hope that each of those who had group meetings at the conference has written loudly and clearly about the reason they exist.