In this series individual habits of mind and behaviors are evoked to reflect the disconnect between our espoused values and our collective actions. The series consists of ten self-portraits, each in charcoal on 72”x52” paper. As in most of my work, humor is an important aspect of these drawings.I believe that challenging messages can be confronted when introduced with humor.
Portrait of the Artist as an Arrogant American Series
In the series “Portrait of the Artist as an Arrogant American” I have used myself as a mirror.By exaggerating features and expressions I can personify and parody attitudes, rationalizations, assumptions, and contradictions to which we too often fall prey as individuals and nations.Taking on the persona of the thoughtless, the bigot, the greedy, or the fearful and recognizing my participation (through action or inaction) in these mind-frames, permits me to confront each viewer, gently, with their own responsibilities.
I feel a deep rift in myself when I think about being a citizen of the United States.I believe in the ideals we espouse:democracy; civil and human rights; political and economic equality; peaceful coexistence; freedom of belief; preservation of the earth; and freedom of speech. These ideals are the very core of our identity as a nation and a people.While advocating these values to the world, we have historically fallen far short of consistently applying these ideals in our collective actions on individual, community, national, and international levels.Greed, self-interest and deep-seated fears undermine our will to act with integrity on the values we claim to embrace at our very core.I am painfully aware of a profound divide between our conscious ideals and our unconscious motivations.The horrific events of 2001 have stripped down and magnified this deep division.Our individual and collective response to these acts of destruction (and subsequent acts of terrorism both here and abroad) seem to be based on raw, unacknowledged fears; feelings of impotency, and rage; rather than a reasoned and principled strategy to counteract the irrational destruction and loss of lives.
In my drawings, I want to make these contradictions visible.The drawings in this series are not designed to suggest answers, but merely to pose questions and challenge viewers to look openly into their own mirrors.Honest understanding of ourselves as individuals and collective honesty in our social structures will be essential to successful engagement with the complex threats and problems which we face. In the twenty-first century we should expect that our artists will not only entertain us; decorate our walls and public plazas; and delight us with their skills; but also, and perhaps, most importantly, we should expect our artists to provide us with the truth of ourselves and our behaviors.
Although these drawings were completed in 2009-2010, they are even more relevant today.Sadly, many aspects of our uniquely American arrogance have grown rather than diminished, and, since 2016, this arrogance has been magnified in the person of our president.