In 1973 Doran H. Ross was graduate assistant to Herbert M. “Skip” Cole, who then was assistant professor of art history at UCSB. First day of fall term, Skip flew into the classroom: a force of nature in the body of a million-watt bolt of charisma. He carried an akua'ba, from Ghana—where he had recently traveled—and a photograph of a Picasso cubist figure.

Skip identified both and held up the akua'ba. He said, “How many of you would choose to own the African piece?”

I raised my hand.

“How many of you would take the Picasso?”

In back of me a hand went up.

Skip called out, “Doran?”

Doran stood and said, “Skip!”

A classroom of heads turned back and forth.

“Doran!” said Skip, “You would choose the Picasso over the akua'ba? Why?”

“Because,” said Doran, “I could sell the Picasso and buy fifty akua'ba.”

I was a...

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