This post is a heavily edited version of a previous post from March 27, 2017 entitled What Does North Karolina and Kandy Korn have In Common? My Search For Reference Material For A North Carolina Travel Poster (Part 1 - один "a-deen”)
The activity we call art making is at its core visual problem solving. I will be giving a talk entitled Thinking Through Making at the Yuma Art Symposium in Yuma, Arizona in February of 2018 that explores this idea in greater depth. I mention it here because I do not offer my images up as iconic or even as artwork in the modernist sense. The images and objects that I create are a tangible expression of my thought processes.
Through the creation of my work, I explore a variety of political, psychological, social, religious, etc. issues. As a work evolves, accidents and events happen that not only change the appearance of the work being created, but also frequently change my understanding of, and opinions about the image/issue(s) being grappled with at that moment.
The image above was originally intended to function as a spoof of a travel poster for the state of North Carolina and I had even intended to include the following text;
The North Carolina Bureau Of Make America Great Again (NCBOMAGA ) welcomes you with open arms. We are the reddest and whitest state in the nation, so don’t be blue.
The BOMAGA is a fictional organization created by my friend Jeff VanderMeer for an article that appeared in Slate magazine; “Trump Land”
The image I created was in response to the presidential election as well as the bathroom bill , the illegal voting districts created by the North Carolina legislature , the defunding of public universities, etc., etc., etc. After recent events, it is clear that those people and groups that believe hate, bigotry and violence are legitimate means to achieve their goals have been emboldened by the vocal support of this president and I can no longer tolerate, or stand silently as that cancer spreads.
I work with, teach, and have good friends across the spectrum of race, religion, gender, ideology, etc. I get to see first hand how hate and prejudice effect innocent people.
As a white man, I am also privy to the politically incorrect and often racist opinions, off hand comments and thoughts of my fellow “sweet”, white, usually God-fearing North Carolinians. I am embarrassed to say I have rarely spoken out, nor directly confronted those people because I (mistakenly) assumed that public opinion had swayed, and that most people were good at heart. I (mistakenly) believed that most people of conscience would not vote for politicians that proudly supported discriminatory laws and policies, nor would they even consider voting for a politician that repeatedly encouraged violence toward others.
I was wrong. For 62,984,825 Americans, fear, anger, the desire for change, or the belief that we have nothing else to lose was stronger than the consequences of voting for a white nationalist egomaniac with thin skin. That is too many people to simply dismiss as deplorable.
I want radical change in Washington and in my own state. I must confess that I have voted for Republican politicians more than once. I definitely lean to the left on the issues, but I have a rationale for my beliefs that does not fit either Democratic or Republican ideologies. Having said that, I must admit that after this election I no longer think either party has a coherent ideology.
The 2010 info graphic below by David McClandless respectfully illustrates and contrasts the beliefs of both of our political parties.
I thought I lived in a democratic republic where an elected representative championed the desires and needs illustrated above. Through a process of debate and deal making, I thought that our elected officials compromised so that the majority vote and in theory, the opinions of most constituents would be enacted into policy and law. But gerrymandering and legislation designed to make wealth and power flow in one direction have created an oligarchy. That oligarchy has successfully convinced us, through partisan news outlets and social media, that there are only 2 political solutions, and thus an implied right and a wrong way to solve a problem.
I encourage you to read the article by Andrew J. Bacevich, Trump Is Not the Problem. It is a slightly conservative but even handed assessment of the current state of affairs in which he gives the following list of changes necessary to heal many of our gaping political wounds. I have edited each for brevity.
- Abolish the Electoral College.
- Rollback [elections] gerrymandering.
- Limit the impact of corporate money on elections at all levels, if need be by amending the Constitution.
- Mandate a balanced federal budget
- Implement a program of national service, thereby eliminating the all-volunteer military and restoring the tradition of the citizen-soldier.
- Enact tax policies that will promote greater income equality.
- Increase public funding for public higher education
- Beyond mere “job” creation, attend to the growing challenges of providing meaningful work—employment that is both rewarding and reasonably remunerative—for those without advanced STEM degrees.
- End the thumb-twiddling on climate change and start treating it as the first-order national-security priority that it is.
- Absent evident progress on the above, create a new party system, breaking the current duopoly in which Republicans and Democrats tacitly collaborate to dictate the policy agenda and restrict the range of policy options deemed permissible.
Like most, my list would have different priorities but I think that this list is an excellent bipartisan way to start. I submit this as an illustration that there are those of us on the left that do not fall into the ridiculous caricature of tax loving, communist, bleeding heart liberal. It is also an acknowledgement that I am aware that most of the people on the right are not goose-stepping skinheads with right arms outstretched toward 45. I want my elected representatives to advance laws and policies like those listed above and be willing to compromise in order to form a more perfect union.
I know that I have no influence on the national debate and really little influence over anyone or anything. This is not written to change minds. Instead, it is a note to myself and maybe those that really know me.
BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! WASSUP WITH THE CANDY CORN?
Sorry! So my first visual response to the presidential election was rhetorically aimed at those people I know that voted for the president and other politicians that sought to advance only the interest of white American men despite claiming to be "God fearing". I mention God because I do not know any conservative atheists, although I know that they do exist.
Immediately following the election I revisited an image that I have posted about before, as a way to visually convey my perception of the hypocrisy of their decision.
The original version of God Bless America above is meant to emphasize the idea that religion is an anchor in a sea of chaos. The image below is intended to visually represent what happens when religion is used as a justification for discrimination and violence.
I had planned on doing more versions of the Aerie Bomber (posted below) dropping Jesus bombs on marauding Mexicans, sinister Somalians and insane ISISians. But I am very easily distracted by, work, news, Facebook, Instagram and anything sparkly.
I start way more drawings and paintings than I finish. Below is a picture of a few of the versions of God Bless Amerika in progress. While I was working on these images, and before I flipped Jesus on his head, I wanted to see what it would look like if I made Jesus into a scarecrow.
My first concern was that it would be heavy handed. I know, I know; you are probably saying to yourself; "Attaching a crucifix to the body of an eagle is not that extraordinary?" So, in my defense, I always tell my students; "There is a terrifyingly vile place that is filled with your greatest fears as well as the most loathsome beasts that exist solely to exploit your weaknesses. That place is called Toofar and you never know where Toofar is until you get there.
But do not despair because Toofar is surrounded by a magical kingdom of love and joy and happy trees. That kingdom can only be entered by passing through the valley of despair in the land of Toofar and looking into the eyes of the beast that knows your greatest fear and saying it’s name.
Only you know that beast’s name. And only you can utter that name and then take 2 steps backwards. For that is the gateway to the mystical kingdom of Dunn."
While walking along the winding path toward the land of Toofar, looking for pictures of scarecrows, I realized that my favorite, highly intelligent, lovable scarecrow looked a little bit like a Klansman.
The detail below is part of the reason I began to work on something else.
I liked this image a lot, but there was something about it that troubled me greatly. Hooding Christ made me feel like an executioner. But as I was drawing, I noticed that the hood looked like the beak of an eagle, which was a very happy accident. The serpentine repetition at the edge of the hood reminded me of a Renaissance ruff. As I was searching for pictures of those, I realized that I had forgotten that clowns used to wear ruffs and that made me very, very happy (See below). But it was the weird face on the image above and one other thing I found while searching for clowns and scarecrows that made me pause on this image.
Clowns and scarecrows led me to Halloween and it was there that I discovered candy corn.
If you would like to see some of my visual research for these images; I have been saving most of them on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/eyriestudios/the-north-carolina-bureau-of-make-america-great-ag/ I recommend starting at the bottom and scrolling toward the top because that will roughly be the chronological order.
When I was looking for this reference material in early 2017 I bought a few bags of candy corn and out of curiosity, I tasted it. The amount of sugar and waxiness was so overwhelming that I spit it out. It also hurt my teeth. My immediate association to that experience was the blog posts, memes and FB posts I was seeing after the presidential elections. Men and women whom I knew sincerely believed themselves to be morally just and good hearted people were nay saying and denying any association to bigotry and hate by voting for 45. Many were openly denying associations between an uptick in hate crimes and violence with the election of someone that had repeatedly condoned and even encouraged discrimination and violence.
That denial became even more terrifying and bizarre when I started seeing people refer to anything that questioned their beliefs as fake news. The term alternative facts was by far the most horrifying and surreal spin I have ever seen.
Candy corn is fake corn. It looks like fire. When turned upside down, it made me think of monster teeth. Candy corn is ludicrous and really bad for you if that is all you eat.
Candy corn is a triangle just like the Klan regalia. I spent weeks digitally altering the Klan image into the ludicrous image below. I even went so far as to show how really aroused my Kandy Korn Klansmen and women were.
If you voted for, but have not yet spoken out against this president and our North Carolina political representatives that openly seek to prevent fair elections, that seek to continue a history of discrimination against women and minorities and most importantly deny reality, and advocate the ridiculous notions of alternative facts and fake news, then you support the over throw of a dysfunctional two party system by a white nationalist authoritarian regime. Silence and no action is tacit acceptance.
I don’t know about you, but I have a finite amount of time on this earth and I believe that I was brought forth to make this world better than when I entered it. Anger will only make things worse. What is happening is literally mental. The only way I can think to confront this level of insanity is with humor. I encourage you to do the same.
If you want to use these images to represent your own beliefs, or if you are digitally savvy enough to alter them and make something more interesting, you have my permission to download them and do so.
If you have ideas for something more ambitious and want a higher resolution version, just let me know what you want to do. We makers must use our skills for good and the most revolutionary thing you and I can do is to freely give our time and talent in order to form that more perfect union.
My dream would be to form a militia of mimes, clowns and/or drag queens to confront right wing extremists and entertain us all at the same time.
Clowns have already been used with great success.
Never forget: SHEET CAKING IS A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT!!!!!!