Sunday, January 16, 2022

January 6, 2021 & The Arts

This Missive was co-authored by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel.

With this Missive I am a couple of weeks late for the anniversary of the rightly called January 6 insurrection, but I do not believe the date should ever be forgotten, so it is always the right time to think about it.

Throughout history artists have taken on controversial subjects. In the present day they have strongly reacted to the important “Black Lives Matter” movement. Last year’s insurrection, however, has gathered far fewer artistic results than I would have expected. Maybe, it needs more time until we can fully digest it. The art I did find on-line, however, was poignant. 

I am going to start with a Digital Image printed in an edition of 12 by the Swedish experimental art photographer, Jan Oberg, creator of the on-line site Oberg PhotoGraphics. Inspired by the insurrection, his “Capitol Hill, January 6, 2021” is a collage of images based on Japer John’s “Flag” (1958). In the center is a screenshot of President Trump when he spoke during the storming of Capitol overlaid with the image from inside with armed guards ready to shoot. The artist notes “Colours have been carefully calibrated to make Trump the darkest and distorting the flag’s brightness.”

One image from my “collection” follows the event quite literally. It is a gauche by California artist and educator, Kevin Trivedi, titled “Courage.” It depicts Capitol Police Officer, Eugene Goodman who has been declared a hero for encouraging a mob in the Capitol to chase him in the wrong direction, away from the Senate chamber.

“Two Americas”, the title of a painting by D.C. muralist, Shawn Perkins, derives from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “The Other America” describing how differently racial groups in this country live. The painting is divided in half: on the left is the face of Black man with a gun to his head, his mouth gagged by the American flag, and a town in flames bursting out of his head which was painted the year before regarding Black Lives Mattter; on the right is a scene of the White insurrectionists lording it over the police in front of the Capitol. He combined the two images to put an exclamation point on the Two Americas!

A surrealistic painting by Celeste Dupuy-Spencer shows a clashing crowd of combatants, outside the Capitol. Trump’s face is painted in red white and blue on the back of a figure in the foreground. There is a fellow wearing a mask to be safe from Covid but carrying a machine gun at the same time! The tattooed Moses-type character in the lower left has a satchel with the date 8-12-17. That was the day in Charlottesville, Virginia when a protest turned violent after white supremacists clashed with counterdemonstrators, and a car ploughed into the crowd of anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Afterwards the former president said, “You also had some very fine people on both sides”. Explaining the title of the painting “Don’t You See That I am Burning”, a quotation from Sigmund Freud’s Dream Book, we see flames emanating from the Capitol, but we know it was only figuratively set on fire. Hailed in Artnet as “epic” and compared in Forbes with Last Judgement paintings from the Renaissance the seven-foot work is a perfect commentary on January 6.

We have all heard the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Thousands of words have already been written about January 6, 2021 with thousands more to come. They can all be summed up by the few images that I have shown.

No comments:

Post a Comment