Sunday, July 08, 2018

Stain On Our Flag

Had to take a break from my hair embroidery deadline to write a bit about Americans lacking the empathy gene for Hyperallergic's Drawing In A Time Of Fear and Lies.

Friday, February 16, 2018

"Common Denominator" Solo exhibition at York College of PA



January 24th through March 24th, 2018. York College Galleries are located in the Wolf Building at 441 Country Club Rd. in York, PA, just a bit north of Baltimore. I will be giving an artist lecture on Thursday, March 8th, at 7 p.m. (click on any image to enlarge)

 














York College has produced a lovely perfect-bound 64 page catalog. You can leaf through the virtual catalog here. Stay tuned for a video walk through, produced by Diemo, that will be posted on Vimeo.


The research for this monumental series began in 2011, the studio work began in 2013, and it is still ongoing. I saw/felt these forces building for years, and have been feverishly working to address them in the studio: the work is beginning to feel hauntingly prescient since the U.S. election of 2016 and the 2017 "#metoo" campaign.
The impetus for this body of work was a search for the common denominator of all the injustices that keep me awake at night. For years now, ubiquitous news of war, extinction of species, climate change, the growing imbalance of wealth and power, violence against women, gun massacres on U.S. soil, and abuse of law enforcement power seems to be permeating and overwheming the consciousness of everyone I know. I felt certain that there was a common denominator to all of these crimes: against children, women, “minorities”, the poor, animals, and the earth. Seven years of research into these seemingly disparate transgressions has resulted in a deep investigation of entitlement and the need to dominate: I call the series "#bullyculture".



Bullying permeates America's society and institutions. Our country threatens any who would oppose U.S. interests. Our children grow up indoctrinated into capitalism, with fewer and fewer restraints on the corporations who control workers and consumers, while destroying the planet we all need to sustain us. Parents across the country pay lip service to fighting playground bullies, while simultaneously tuned in to the uber-aggressive "Housewives of...."reality show, or the football game, where huge swaths of players are forgiven rapes, violence against animals, or against their own wives and children, as long as they WIN. We teach our kids to intimidate on the soccer field, preparing them for lives in the corporate sphere. In parts of this dystopia, open-carry advocates don weapons in public, excited by the power of wielding the latent potential to mow down dozens of people in under a minute.



I am most interested in creating work that mixes up the language and imagery from disparate parts of our culture to point out the common denominators of entitlement and the objectification of “Other” that leads to aggressions and injustices in our culture. How does a trophy-hunting picture compare to a snuff film? How is the mounting of a hunting trophy different than the trophies collected by serial killers to relive “the thrill of the kill”? Why are playground bullies reviled, while corporate lawyer bullies are “just doing their job”? When teaching children to envy/emulate “Winners” and disassociate with “Losers”, how does this manifest itself in adulthood?  What is the difference between feeling entitled to ravage our living earth through fracking vs. raping a person? How is sports culture related to rape culture? Why do we insist on speaking about racism, misogyny, violence against animals, and corporate / political bullying as separate issues, when perpetrators' offenses so often overlap? Bullies prey on those they deem "Other": aren't the REAL aberrations, the real "Others", those who perpetrate injustice and violence? Despite their "divide and conquer" tactics, shouldn't we all be united against bullies of every kind?


I am interested in looking at the overlaps of entitlement and domination in our society, and in calling out the aggressors, the intimidators, and the often overlooked larger, systemic forces that encourage and reinforce this poison in our culture."

I have never had a clearer vision or stronger conviction for a body of work. I have done extensive research and gestated the concepts and formal aspects of the work for so long that I am certain some of what I am doing is completely unprecedented (such as using Bell Hooks' concept of the "Oppositional Gaze" to call out and visually focus on rapists, as opposed to depicting rape as an heroic act (as men have done), or focusing on the victim, (as many female artists before me have done.)






 

The exhibit pictured is currently on view at York College in York, PA, from 1/24/18 - 3/24/18 (with catalog), and much of it will also be exhibited at Coastal Carolina University (with some new work) in the Fall of 2018. 


Individual Works at York College:


 
Trophy / Trophy / Trophy
2015, ink on paper, 13 x 24"


The Deadly Other
2018, photo print on aluminum, four 11 x 14" panels




Rape Stand For A Dog Fighter
2015, ink and photograph on paper, 18 x 24"
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This is a breeding stand, designed for use on female dogs, Also referred to as a “rape stand”, it is an apparatus that dog fighters use “to hold unreceptive or inexperienced bitches still for breeding purposes.” This piece depicts Michael Vick, sports hero and convicted dog fighter, alongside a proportional diagram for a custom-made “Vick-size” breeding stand.






Entitled
2018, photo print on aluminum, three 11 x 14" panels



   
Cognitive Dissonance: “Buttercup” 2015, embroidery on velvet, 16 x 12” oval
In psychology, “cognitive dissonance” is the mental stress experienced by an individual holding two contradictory beliefs or values at the same time…. Such as loving animals in one context, but also eating them, after they live horrific lives and deaths just to fill our dinner plates
    

 
Cognitive Dissonance: “Buttons”
2015, embroidery on velvet, 16 x 12” oval 






 
 
Love Object For A Future Trophy Hunter 2015, embroidery & beading on found plush animal, sheet, pillowcase, pillow, 22 x 25 x 15”
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This piece is about the liminal state between children’s identification with, and need to protect, animals, and later feeling entitled to eat, wear, or even hunt them for the thrill. On a larger scale, this piece embodies my confusion about the transition that humans make in many areas of our lives on the path from empathy to objectification.







Tools of Intimidation: For Little Hands & Little Minds
2018, cotton, thread, dollhouse handcuffs, dollhouse gun, miniature copy of Trump corporation cease and desist letter to the NY Times




"...For The Taking" 
2018, photo print on aluminum, two 12 x 12" panels






 
VIP (Very Important Penis)

2018, Gold over bronze, gold chain, gold charm, 4.5 x 2.5 x 8"
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This work about sexual entitlement was inspired by the lengthy list of powerful men in sports and politics who have been convicted of rape. An evolving online component tags the piece with the names of these prominent men, so the image comes up when you google their names.








 








 
One For The Team
One For The Team", 2016, pyrography (wood burning) on tree slices, dimensions variable (2" rounds to 12" rounds)

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This piece alludes to the confluences between sports culture and rape culture. We cheer on and prize the aggression of our sports heroes, but many fans seem surprised to learn that same aggression is turned on women, children, or animals at home. The story of the small-town football hero rapist, protected by a community that turns on the victim, has become a tired cliché. The images are burned by hand onto slices of wood, a traditionally male craft, to reference decorative objects normally found in a rural bar, man cave, or living room. I am not trying to depict a specific rape scene, but rather a portrait of rape culture, encompassing a calling out of the perpetrator and accomplices, active or passive participants of both genders, “team loyalty”, indoctrination into “manhood”, the new additional humiliation of social media, and a fascination with the spectacle of brutality that goes back to gladiator days. My refusal to show the victim allows for openness regarding their gender, reminding us that it is not only females who get raped, and that the act itself is one of dominance, violence and degradation that is encouraged by our culture in a myriad of ways.







Readymade: Brass, with Lock
2014, brass lock, chain, cast High Density Polyethylene, 13 x 6 x 3"
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The 100th anniversary of the Readymade was the impetus for this piece, an appropriated, mass-produced object designed to hang from the trailer hitch of large pickup trucks. It was made to be viewed from a distance, so the scale is unusual when hanging on the wall, and the paranoid implications of the lock are hilarious.




 
Huddle
2018, pyrography (wood burning) on tree slices, three panels from 4-8"



Good / Evil Monster Battle
2013, embroidery on fabric from men's pants, 13 x 17" (done in collaboration with G.K.)



































Lie Hole series, I - XII
2017, 10 x 8", Prismacolor Pencil on black Rives BFK paper 
 

"This mouth has bullied and cheated its way through the world.
This mouth has claimed self-invention, but was born gnawing a silver spoon.
This mouth blusters and brags.
This mouth promises to pay the builders of its empire; then refuses, counter-sues, and laughs.
This mouth can’t suppress its instinctive, arrogant sneer.
This mouth incites hatred and violence, spreading intolerant aggression like a cancer.
This mouth expresses glee at its own retaliatory cruelty.
This mouth will say and do anything to win.
This mouth is oblivious to its own stupefying ignorance.
This mouth, wet with slime, has forced open countless unwilling lips.
This mouth degrades the women he can’t manage to get his tiny, swollen hands on.
This mouth has a predatory predilection for young girls (daughter included).
This mouth reeks from decades of undigested beef lining its bloated gut.
This mouth over gesticulates, engorged with the delusion of its own importance.
This mouth is obsessed with satisfying its own insatiable appetites.
This mouth is one that good people shield their children from.
This mouth debases and shames our country.
This mouth vomits lies, devoid of reason or consequence.
This mouth embodies every dark archetype in our collective nightmares."
(Text created for Hyperallergic's "Drawing In A Time of Fear and Lies" series)




"The Appetites of Oligarchs"
2018, oil, acrylic & gold leaf on canvas, 72 x 50.25 x 6" (top of canvas hangs away from the wall, to hover over the viewer)
This work was begun four years ago, long before the “#metoo” movement. The initial inspiration was the Strauss-Kahn rape case at the Sofitel hotel in NYC, where a powerful world figure was accused of raping a housekeeper. While the impetus for its creation was sexual entitlement, it evolved into a piece with layers that also address corporate and political power. The figure is standing on the world’s most expensive carpet ever sold at auction, with the night bombing of Baghdad in the background. In terms of art history, this point of view, calling out the perpetrator, is unprecedented in the depiction of rape imagery. 



 
Futile Fantasy: A Glimmer of Self-Awareness, & The Subsequent Remorse
2017, Prismacolor pencil on black Rives BFK paper, 20 x 16"
Created for Hyperallergic's "Drawing In A Time of Fear & Lies" series with the following text:
"Even now, a full year after the election, there are thousands of US citizens who wake each morning in shocked disbelief that Donald Trump is our president. Each day seems more absurd than the last. We keep checking in with each other, to make sure we’re not dreaming. Maybe, we think, the past year of watching our nation collapse in slow motion has just been a bad movie: A madman moves into the White House and appoints sinister minions to key posts, where they each destroyed the part of our country that the post was designed to protect. He plays chicken with the second craziest leader on the planet, to see who would flinch regarding nuclear war. One of his driving goals is to take away his citizen’s health care as he uses the highest office in the land to make himself richer, while his campaign slogan, believe it or not, was ‘Drain The Swamp!’ Now, we are all waiting for the moment when we can exit the theater and walk out into the sunshine, reassured that the sick feeling in the pit of our stomach was artificially induced, and that, in reality, we have nothing to fear.
Our collective incredulity stems from the fact that many Americans seem to lack direct personal experience with sociopaths. We find it difficult to imagine the existence of humans without morals or conscience. It is harder still to comprehend that our fellow citizens have put one of them in power, despite the overwhelming evidence of his affliction, there in black and white, available for any voter willing to do even a modicum of homework. Those of us who DID read the documentation (of small business owners he stiffed, women he groped, hundreds of lies that he told, as well as the lawsuits he obliterated with his ubiquitous countersuits) now seem to be living in a permanent state of stupefied amazement.
Yes, this IS really happening. Something dark has permeated our collective subconscious, shaking the very foundation of a narrative we have carried around since infancy. The archetypes and storylines of fairy tales are designed to help young minds understand and process concepts of good and evil: Disney movies have horrific villains, but, through struggle, good inevitably triumphs and evil is vanquished. This narrative is the one that allows all of us to sleep peacefully at night, the one that gives us the optimism to have babies, and to tell those babies (as well as ourselves) that “everything will be all right.” In 2016, this narrative was crushed: the sadistic bully won.
“But surely…,” we think, “someday soon, like the Grinch, this soulless leader’s heart will grow ten sizes larger, and he will realize that he is hurting this country’s most vulnerable citizens, the ones he was hired to protect.” It will dawn on him that half the victims of the latest mass shooting were innocent children, and no one there deserved to die, and that those facts trump the influence of NRA money. He’ll suddenly see (and care) that thousands of people will go bankrupt or perish without affordable healthcare. He will understand that he is endangering the entire world with his blustering, aggressive tweets. He will finally wake up and realize that he is a public servant, not a king… right?
I am not the only one who turns on the news each night, with the fervent hope of (finally!) seeing our monster of a President led away from his perch of power in handcuffs, with tears steaming down his face. We are a society supposedly built on justice, and it’s natural to want to see the Devil get his due. But we must accept that this scene will never play out: we may see the perp walk, but we’ll never see the contrition. Sociopaths don’t cry."




 
Gunlicker IV
2016, oil and acrylic on Gatorboard, 20 x 16"


 
 
Gunlicker III: Militia
2016, oil and acrylic on Gatorboard, 17.5 x 18"





 
Gunlicker I 2015, oil & acrylic on Gatorboard, 20 x 16"

 

Gunlicker II 2015, oil & acrylic on gatorboard, 16 x 20"




Testosterone
2011, gouache on black paper, glitter frame, 16 x 20"




Perpetual Platitudes For Endless Innocents (short clip of a 6 minute loop)
2018, scrolling led display, 8 x 40 x 3"



Indoctrination
2017, acrylic on found blocks




 
One Day In America
2018, embroidery on found cross stitch, 96 beads & sequins (one for every gun death per day in the U.S.), 28 x 16"



 
Portrait of A Mass Shooter

2017, 20 x 16", inkjet print of 20 superimposed mass shooter portraits on metal




Storm 2015, acrylic and embroidery on black cotton velvet, 72 x 48"

 
"Cri de Cœur" (Heart Cry)
2018, graphite on paper, 14 x 11". After a detail of a Joseph Desiree Court painting.
 




Untitled (flag)
2008, 22.5 x 104", embroidery on deconstructed flag, batting. Center is padded, like a band-aid.