State-Craft or The Art of Leadership in George W. Bush's Paintings

Photograph from George W. Bush Presidential Center's exhibit on The Art of Leadership

Image Credit: Kim Leeson / George W. Bush Presidential Center

Last year, an adventurous hacker found and leaked pictures of paintings made by former President George W. Bush, including two revealing self-portraits from the shower. Now, the private hobby has been made public by President Bush himself. The George W. Bush Presidential Library, up the road in Dallas, has just opened an exhibit, The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy, which features portraits Bush painted of the world leaders he once encountered as President, paired alongside mementos from his travels and his musings about statecraft. However, what makes these paintings remarkable for viewers?

Convicting Capital Punishment in Art

 A black screen with white print that says 'I love ya'll.'

Image Credit: Screenshot from Tiny Subversions

When you live in Texas, you get used to people asking you to verify certain popular stereotypes: cowboy boots, country music, ten-gallon hats, and conservative politics. And—a belief in the capital punishment.

Children, Monsters and the Anticipation of Mayhem: Analyzing the Horror Photography of Joshua Hoffine (NSFW)

child before scary clown shadow

Image Credit: Joshua Hoffine

With Halloween on the horizon, I thought I'd take a break from the horror show of the campaign to consider some more visceral scares, and photographer Joshua Hoffine provides viscera aplenty in his works. The image above is one of Hoffine's tamer outings, though it is still disturbing. A small child stands outside before a clothes line hung with drying laundry. The sun shines behind a large white sheet, casting the shadow of a clown holding a bunch of balloons in one hand and displaying a set of menacing claws on the other. Hoffine uses children in many of his photos, contrasting the innocence and helplessness of childhood with the savage agency of monsters human and supernatural. Before we look at other photos, I suggest readers consider the images below the fold not safe for work or for those who prefer to avoid depictions of bodily violence and mutilation, death and decomposition, children in life threatening scenes, or children posed near their dead, violently murdered, parent's corpses.


Fusterlandia, pic 1

(Image credit: David Schroeder)

Last night I was online looking for photos of Cuba’s baseball league, and I stumbled across the work of Cuban pop-artist José Fuster. Specifically, I stumbled across Fusterlandia, a ceramic wonderland that’s grown to include Fuster’s home, studio, and neighborhood. This world is a cartoon that’s come to life. In addition to ceramics, Fuster also works with canvas, graphite, and engraving, and his studio work is often shown in France and Britain. And since we don’t hear a lot about individual Cubans down here in Texas, save their aging leader, I thought I might take a moment in this week’s blog post to highlight the work of José Fuster. Fusterlandia is visually stunning, to say the least.

Objectifying the Office - Michelle Obama and the Spanish Magazine Controversy

Cropped image of the magazine cover

Image Credit: cropped version of Karine Percheron-Daniels magazine cover image

Even the First Lady can't escape the objectification of black women's bodies (at home and abroad).

The Internet has had a lot to say about the Spanish magazine cover unveiled last week depicting Michelle Obama bare-breasted, swathed in an American flag.  Most reactions have been vehement condemnations, accusing the artist (Karine Percheron-Daniels) of racism at worst, and poor taste at best.  The image involved certainly raises a lot of questions (about race, art, censorship, and objectification), and I'll get into more detail when you see the (theoretically) Not Safe For Work images after the jump.

The Artist's Speech

Intertitle from The Artist; white letters against a black background say, "Speak!"

Image Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

H/T: Emily Friedman

The audience hears violins sawing tensely as they watch a man scream on screen; only, he is mute.  He moves his mouth, but we only learn his words through intertitles:  “I won’t talk!  I won’t say a word!!!”  So opens the 2011 Academy Award-winning film The Artist.

Becoming Animal: Feeling Horsey

Laval-Jeantet near a horse

Image Credit: Miha Fras via we make money not art

While in Star Wars, Lonesome Dove and True Grit we saw particular examples of the relationships humans have with horses —relationships that always seem to oscillate between recognizing horses as companions and treating them as bare property. And while with Jasha Lottin (NSFW) we saw in her slaughter and photo shoot the extent to which these animals are splayed out as props for both viewers and those actually interacting with actual horses. With a piece titled Que le cheval vive en moi, May the Horse Live in me in English, and created and performed by Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoit Mangin (together they compose Art Orienté Objet) we can begin to see the emergence of a differently possible relationship between humans and horses.

Marc Chagall's Exodus: Another Visit to the Harry Ransom Center's King James Bible Exhibition

Exodus Frontispece

Image Credit: Marc Chagall via Spaightwood Galleries

It's a bit surprising to walk into the Harry Ransom Center's current exhibition on the King James Bible and see Marc Chagall's Exodus series on display, but, considering his origins in a Hasidic family, the Jewish artist's works are a surprising addition to any gallery. Chagall's work was an uncomfortable subject for his parents and, later, his in-laws--telling your Hasidic parents that you're going to grow up to be a painter is a bit like telling religious Christian parents that you're going to be a stripper. Despite shocking his parents by painting nudes, Chagall would continue his work to become the foremost Jewish artist of the 20th century, earning respect from his contemporaries for his understanding of color and his ability to use a limited palette with eye-popping results.

An Art Deco King James in the Orientalist Vein: François-Louis Schmied’s Engravings of the Creation and Ruth Stories

Schmied Creation Two-Page Spread: French on one Side, Animals on the Other

Image Credit: The Harry Ransom Center

Just before viz. took a break for spring, we visited the Harry Ransom Center’s newest exhibition, The King James Bible: Its History and Influence. Instead of finding only illuminated manuscripts, we were surprised to find contemporary art, literary manuscripts, film posters, and even a sculpture of a golden calf. The exhibition is not just a collection of well-preserved historic Bibles—it’s a unique collection of visual artifacts tangentially related to the King James Bible. As the viz. team walked around the exhibition, one grouping of images caught my eye. Art Deco engraver François-Louis Schmied’s artwork to accompany a French translation of both Genesis and The Book of Ruth from the King James Bible is absolutely stunning. The artwork is most interesting for its fusion of the geometric lines of Art Deco with the Orientalism of its creator and the lyricism of the Biblical stories it illustrates.

Unmarking Death

Debra Estes, from Stephen Chalmers's Unmarked series

Image Credit: Stephen Chalmers

H/T: Lauren Gantz

Death is often in the news, whether it involves major singers, local Austin celebrities, or Twitter death hoaxes.  Yet when we visualize death, it’s typically in memorials, not actual pictures of dead bodies.  We’ve come some ways from the Victorian memento mori photographs which attempted to render the corpse vital and to serve, as Jamie Fraser notes, “as a keepsake to remember the deceased.”  While traditional burial practices, which use embalming fluids to delay putrefaction and decomposition, likewise make the corpse appear as lifelike as possible, most people don’t make hair rings or take pictures of the dead to remember them.  In this way, we remember the dead as not dead—as lively.  In his photography series Unmarked, Stephen Chalmers presents an alternative way to represent death.

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