71 posts tagged art
I think it’s time to put the nails in the coffin when it comes to the worthless art of public polling. They’re connsistently wrong, and can only act as a barometer of public opinion so much as the knowledge of those responding to the polls allows. Sure, they make great clickbait and troll feed, but what good is that to the greater discourse? We’ve all seen the headlines - “3 out of 4 think Hirohito was one swell chap.” “Majority considers Obamacare is too big for its britches, thinks Affordable Care Act is someone they’d like to have a beer with.” Well 100% of me’s think polls need to go.
When Quinnipiac University rolled out their recent poll which found that Americans believe that Barack Obama is the worst president since World War 2, my eyes got tendinitis at how hard I rolled them at the results. Right off the bat this poll is flawed because it relies on Americans understanding of American history, which solidly rests in the “meh” to “huh?” range. And yes, it shows in this poll. It was basically paint by numbers results, with all of the top scoring commanders-in-chiefs being the most well known names.
The worst polled president was Obama (remember that eyeroll comment?) with 33%, George W. Bush in second place with 28%, and Richard Nixon at a distant third with 13%. Conversely, in the best president since WW2 poll, Reagan came in first (more screentime for the eyeroll) with 35%, and sitting in the bleachers in a far second was Bill Clinton with 18% and John F. Kennedy in third with 15%. The lesser known wallflower presidents barely registered, Jimmy Carter cracked the highest with 8% in the worst president category, followed by Dwight Eisenhower with 5% in the best category. So expected. I say we do a mulligan and administer this poll as a pie eating contest. Each pie tin can have a president’s face taped to the bottom and each eaten pie is one percent, with every uneaten pie resulting in the participants death … ok maybe not the last part. The results will be more fun and less biased.
Honestly though, how can you have a worst president since WW2 poll and not have Richard Nixon take (or steal) the crown unanimously. Yes, yes, I know Obama replaced Clinton’s FEMA death camps with death panels and is replacing all of our youngsters with odd sounding tan children, but here on planet earth, Nixon was the only president to abdicate his duties because of how corrupt he was. Resumé highlights like Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre left Nixon with the choices of being impeached or voluntarily hitting the bricks. But either way, he was gone.
If you are one of Americas true patriots that waves the flag by day and wears the flag by night, you may feel that Nixon’s ouster was just the result of a witch hunt conducted by daisy sniffing protests music fans who had a vendetta against Nixon and his silent majority. That’s ok, because just a look at the superficial barebones can show that Obama is not even in the same stratosphere when it comes to throwing shade on Tricky Dick’s level.
President Obama inherited 2 ground force wars and subsequently drew them down, Nixon was bogged down in Vietnam and expanded the war across the border after developing a taste for Cambodian. Speaking of Cambodia, Nixon secretly dumped roughly 110,000 tons of explosives on Cambodian targets that were populated by around 5,000 civilians. Nice try, Obama drone war, but your collateral damage has been raised by collateral slaughter. Then of course there is the economy, and the Nixon economy sent it’s contestants home with gas lines, food shortages, and inflation. And lest we forget President Obama’s latest scarlet letter(s) for the NSA’s overzealous spying activities. Here’s a fun fact - the NSA gets their authority to act from the FISA court, which is a product of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was introduced in response to Nixon’s woodshed whipping of his presidential powers. Congrats, you just played your first game of Six Degrees of Nixon. Where scratching the surface here, but Nixon seems to have set the precedent for presidents to really do whatever the hell they want.
Personally though, I find this poll, this whole subject, to be a fools errand. Whether I was blessed with a next-level naivety or utilitarian (yet dashing) nature, but I don’t believe in the concept of a “worst president.” To me, all presidents have some sort of purpose, and until someone’s policies have us boiling car tires for food, no president has been textbook terrible. Despite my tarring and feathering of Richard Nixon a paragraph above, he wasn’t a complete atrocious mess. The man did great work for the Native American population and the environment. Other “bad” presidents such as George W. Bush or Gerald Ford may have boiled their tenure’s down to the goal of preserving the country after truly trying events.
So what good is a poll like this? We’re already in a climate where people who get their news from a spoonful of alphabet soup want President Obama impeached because they think he’s satan, and surely this will give them ever more reason to froth at the mouth. But there’s the flaw in opinion polling - you can ask the experts and get something useful, or you can ask everyone who still has a landline telephone in 2014 and gauge them like they’re the consensus for the nation.
"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures." And unto us an artist is born. While not quite Rembrandt, but with all of the spirit, George W. Bush’s art show is drawing to a close. On June 3, "The Art of Leadership" will vacate the walls of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and make way for W.’s next big undertaking. Perhaps a melted crayon tribute to Miss Beaszley. I’m personally hoping for a replica of Tony Blair’s teeth done completely in macaroni.
I should say that this will not be used as a platform to practice my “George Bush, more like Dumb Bush.” routine. Even on the internet, that topic has reached peak-oil and can only suitably be followed by talking about how weird the weather’s been.
In fact, I quite like some of Bush’s paintings. Not so much his portrait show, which has a sort of Shady Oaks Retirement Home activity hour feel. The same could be said for all portraiture though - painting people in the stead of your family who doesn’t visit anymore while waiting for a nurse to bring your juice. But beyond this, if you dig deeper into Bush’s body of work, you can find some very interesting pieces for an amateur artist. His bathroom scenes evoke a sense of isolationism, painted in a pleasing loose style which I am sure was unintentional due to his lack of skill, but a nice mistake none-the-less. Kind of like a bad Edward Hopper.
As the way life is, the internet was alive with keyboard babble about how nieces and nephews, cats and dogs could paint better than what George Bush was doing. But of course, art isn’t judged on the basis of how real something looks. If it was, then there have been centuries of paintbrush wielding con-artists pulling fast ones on hapless patrons. What is interesting though, is that he stuck to the path laid before him by his political renaissance- men forefathers - portraits and landscapes. Always portraits and landscapes.
Bland and vanilla. Might as well have been painted in oatmeal on a saltine cracker. But it is very much in line with the left brain type that you would find in politics. Buttoned down and logical. Who has time to dribble paint onto a canvas in phallic shapes when there’s a world to run? Here’s a winter cottage.
The 2 most well known politician-turned-painters came out of the battlefields of the World Wars. It’s as if the only way to spend a life at rest after staving off the hun was through art, and both kept to the portrait/landscape blueprint. Winston Churchill took up painting in his 40’s, focusing primarily on scenery as if to give himself a new location to have a drink in every night. The other, Dwight Eisenhower, captured what most conservatives would in their art - farms and grandchildren, whose names might as well have been Apple Pie and War Bonds Eisenhower. And then of course there was their foil and most renowned artist to emerge from the early 20th century - Adolf Hitler - who also painted primarily landscapes and portraits. Though, in a completely expected twist, Hitler would add the tattered remains of World War 1 into some of his pieces as if to give out early hints that he had the ability to be one dark bastard.
Luckily for Bush, he is benefiting from the name recognition that other artist-politicians have garnered with their work, being able to sell artwork and get the gallery attention without having to cut off any appendages or die penniless in coal heated attic beforehand. Eisenhower recognized this injustice when he told Richard Cohen that “They would have burned this [expletive] a long time ago if I weren’t the president of the United States” at the 34th President’s gallery show. In 2007, an Al Hirschfeild-like doodle by soon to be President Obama sold for over $2,000. Similarly, former president Jimmy Carter has original paintings, such as his piece “I Think it’s a Bird,” bring in big Benjamins for the Carter Center. Sure, an impressive feat, but it’s certainly no Billy Beer.
When art sells solely on name alone, though, there can also be complications. As is no secret, many politicians are monsters, but in some cases the artwork of tyrants can sell for big bucks on novelty alone, completely casting any concern for their misdeeds by the wayside. You’re almost obliged to look back at Hitler again, whose art in any other world would be buried 75 pages in to a deviantArt search, sold for nearly $15,000 in 2009 with a price driven up solely because of his historical atrocities. Of the same era, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s (actually quite good) paintings can be seen in the book "The kindness of Franco" - a title that Spaniards may find something to pick at. Despots showing their creative side isn’t a 20th century fad, either. While not a painter, Ivan the Terrible caught himself a musical fever and proved himself somewhat of a composer. In a way that’s beautiful to Russian ears and terrifying to everyone else, he wrote himself some little ditty’s for his new serfdom to toil away into the night.
As you can see, Bush is joining an illustrious group of greenhorn virtuosos. Leading figureheads from Ulysses S. Grant to Queen Victoria have pushed paint around canvas to take them away from the high-stakes pressures of ruling a world. It will be interesting if Bush can take his amateur workings and run with them - I could possibly see one or two mid-western housewives pining to have an original W. hanging next to the Precious Moments figurine display. After all, George W. Basquiat could have a nice ring to it.
Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.
If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.
Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.
Bob McDonnell Virginia, Republican
Crime: A thirst for looking fabulous.
Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef Todd Schneider began leaking information to authorities that revealed a sordid relationship between CEO of Star Scientific Jonnie Williams and the McDonnell clan. In exchange for lobbying on the part of his dubious medical products, Williams gave the McDonnell’s the standard political gifts that totaled upwards of $165,000. Perhaps spurred on by the fact that they were at the bottom of the economic barrel for a ruling class, the McDonnell’s used much of the gifts to pay off credit card debt and other common-folk priorities.
Chris Christie New Jersey, Republican
Crime: Trying his hardest to be a New Jersey stereotype.
What hasn’t Chris Christie been accused of at this point? He’s the rotund Shao Khan in the Garden States Mortal Kombat tournament. Closing down bridge lanes in a show of top tier ball-busting? Check. Extorting a mayor to tow a party line in exchange for hurricane relief funds? Check. Using said hurricane relief funds to film a campaign commercial? Check. The only thing missing in this Tri-State opera is a horse head under a sheet, but to make up for that there has been plenty of backstabbing to satiate a New Jersey party boss fantasy.
Bob Taft Ohio, Republican
Crime: Being the cheapest date in Ohio.
In 2005, then-governor Bob Taft was charged on four criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report upwards $5,800 in undisclosed gifts. The list of lackluster presents that read more like last-minute Secret Santa scramble includes rounds of golf (obviously) with Republican fundraisers, tickets for the NHL’s most prestigious Columbus Blue Jackets (thanks?), and a photograph with accompanying medal from the Defense Supply Center (oh… you shouldn’t have). Even more embarrassing than Taft’s apparent taste is the fact that in 1999 he issued an executive order requiring ethics training for everyone in his cabinet. Now that’s practicing what you preach.
Eliot Spitzer New York, Democrat
Crime: Making every night ladies night.
In 2008 Eliot Spitzer’s trousers dropped and his career followed shortly after. After North Fork Bank threw up red flags due to Spitzer’s odd monetary transactions, the governor came under the ever watchful eye of the U.S. Government. While acting as a lawful Peeping Tom, the federal agents discovered an accumulated bill of up to $80,000 of taxpayer funds spent on putting ladies of the night “through school.” Facing potential impeachment, Spitzer would resign his office on March 17, assumedly due to exhaustion on account of his nightly calisthenics.
Mark Sanford South Carolina, Republican
Crime: Taking a “walk” on the wild side.
In June of 2009, then-governor Mark Sanford let his staff know that he was taking a vacation to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then he promptly boarded a plane to Argentina to simmer in the Sofrito of his Latin American mistress. The plan was fool-proof, except that Sanford decided not to answer phone calls while he was off on his own “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure, leaving everyone in South Carolina to assume that their governor was lost in the woods. The mystery was solved when a reporter intercepted the southern Carmen San Diego arriving from Argentina at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and not strolling in from the Appalachians with a walking stick and full-grown beard.
Rod Blagojevich Illinois, Democrat
Crime: Being too frugal.
In 2008, Rod Blagojevich was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of soliciting bribes for, among other things, trying to sell off the vacated Senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama. You see, maintaining gaudy hair like Blagojevich’s didn’t come cheap, and Rod knew it when he uttered the infamous quote “I’m not just giving it up for nothing.” Instead of getting campaign funds or a prestigious new job in exchange for the vacant seat like he anticipated, Blagojevich received the less enviable prize of impeachment and 14 years in prison. But lest Rod fear that it was all for nothing, he can take solace in the fact that he will go down in history as the seventh Illinois Governor to face criminal charges.
With a possible evasion from the fire sale directed at the Detroit Institute of Art’s city owned collection, this could be a nice reprieve from art once again being taken to the woodshed to extract every last piece of copper to make up for budgetary tomfoolery. A group of foundations and individuals has stepped up and is attempting to donate enough money to offset an auction of the DIA’s portfolio, the city may hopefully be on a track to keep the cultural treasure.
The question is why should the DIA’s art be held responsible for covering the ground lost on Detroit’s pensions? Looting the museum is a patented short-sighted plan that gets drawn up in rough times and often does nothing more than shoot the craftsmen in their feet. Tearing up the DIA would not only disrupt one of the cities biggest tourist attractions and the dollars vacationers may bring, but attacking the arts could drive away the young crowd that cities so often depend on to pedal into their blighted areas and paint it over with a fresh layer of gentrification, using their elbow grease to put artisanal kale-only bistros in formerly abandoned libraries and beautifying the city with typography posters from Etsy.
Let’s not think that art is the only asset of value that men in suits can send down the river for wealth. Detroit boasts 3 professional sports teams who chase other colorfully dressed men over fields of tax payer funds. With their conception in 2000, The Tigers’ $300 million Comerica Park was 38 percent funded by the taxpayers, and the Lions’ $430 million Ford Field was 36 percent funded by the taxpayers to consistently disappoint the public in. Even just last year the Detroit Red Wings were recently awarded public money for their new $450 million arena. To cover ground lost, why is there no discussion about levying an extra tax on athletic tickets/concessions to recover Detroit’s fly-by-night economy? Or even better, why is no one asking why Detroit should be giving money for a new stadium while they can’t afford the lights to see it at night? The answer’s easy - we value sports, or really anything, above art.
Celebrate! I have a new website, and needless to say that whole process has been cutting into the time that I have to create work for here. But, it’s done! Now, back to the politics. As well as weekly posts, I’m working on creating video content as well.
Until then check out the new site: http://www.macnaughtonillos.com
As I look back on 2013, I’m looking back on a very hectic year for myself. The highlights included (yet another) cross country move and the publishing of my first written piece.
My blog has been pretty silent this month. Aside from the mandatory year-end busy work, I have been in somewhat of a rest mode to prepare myself the new year. After 3 years of doing this blog, I can honestly say that writing has become just as much of a passion as art, and in 2014 I plan on going all out on Art of the Union.
So embrace the new year with me and hopefully you will be pleased with what’s to come.
I don’t have any writing to go with this. Sometime down the line I would like to have an art show based on my favorite historical time period - the Cold War. Naturally, I kicked off the series with my idol John F. Kennedy in Berlin.
On today’s date in 1963 at 1 pm, the United States would lose it’s last free president, the last politician with a dream for the future. With President Kennedy’s death, our country’s path towards an era of peace and optimism was diverted off course and lead into a time of war and corruption.
This month, there have been plenty of people who have willfully chosen to mangle Kennedy’s time in office to portray any picture they pleased of him - whether it be one of a war hawk, an ineffective leader, or any other chosen narrative that they have in their head. But Kennedy was none of those, rather, he acted as a temporary stopgap to all of the standard Cold War chicanery up until his election and which proceeded after his death.
The standard lines against Kennedy are that his inexperience led him to fumble the Bay of Pigs invasion, but that’s usually about as deep as it goes. Of course history is never that simple. Kennedy was fighting a daily battle with the powers at be when it came to Cuba. The scheme was originally concocted by the Eisenhower administration (who seemed to have a warm spot in their heart for planted revolutions), and gifted to Kennedy upon his arrival. Kennedy had to fight tooth and nail against the war torn hotheads in the CIA and and his Joint Chiefs of Staff who ideally wanted to shift Cuba from a banana republic to a glass landscape by dropping nukes, all while they poured sugar into Kennedy’s ear about how the invading force was assured a victory. But Kennedy’s hands were tied, he was hamstrung by the fact that if he did not enact the invasion, he would be painted as the President who wouldn’t follow Eisenhower’s plan to liberate Cuba.
You see, opposite the popular opinion that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior,” in reality he was an avid peace seeker. The fear he had of over-extending military might in Cuba also guided his hand with the rest of his foreign policy. Take for example Vietnam (another Eisenhower gift). Kennedy is often painted as being the most anti-Communist President in history and intended to continue escalation in Vietnam when, to the contrary, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 which ordered the beginning of U.S. forces withdrawal from South Vietnam. The same can be seen in Laos, where Kennedy went against the advice of the Eisenhower Administration to pursue military involvement and instead opted to negotiate for neutrality with Russia. Even when it came to the baddest boy of the red threat – The USSR - Kennedy was pursuing back door peace negotiations with Khrushchev behind the backs of the warhawks in Washington.
Some would label me as a Kennedy apologist or a romantic for inferring these ideas. And if that’s so, then so be it. Kennedy saw what we were told was the enemy for what they really were: humans.
As President Kennedy said at American University, “We all breathe the same air.” The country witnessed what happened after Kennedy’s death, when greed and narcissism were allowed to replace a hopeful outlook. The Vietnam War, military actions in Cambodia, and a Cold War that would last over 30 more years to engulf the world in a constant fear of annihilation. As such senseless mindsets took hold again, the Kennedy world of peace and prosperity was pounded into one of turmoil and war. To honor Kennedy, we traded in philanthropy for pure force. But at our most cynical and darkest hours we can look to Kennedy for comfort that it is possible, even if for a stitch in time, to elect a leader with a promise of a better tomorrow.
"And to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
That is my favorite quote, delivered during the inauguration address of my favorite president and favorite American.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of John F. Kennedy. The man inspired many, including me. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and art inspired by Kennedy, analyzing various aspects of his Presidency. It won’t all be fawning praise, as his presidency was just as subject to it’s downfalls as any other. It will be an opportunity to shed some light on my hero, and I hope you will enjoy reading/viewing it as much as I enjoy creating it.