When Tennessee Loveless and I started working together on his project Art Outsiders, we were moved and overjoyed at the reception and reaction it got from collectors and fans around the world. Since the start, he has built a solid foundation for the collection, having created images of “Art Outsiders” in a wide variety of important fields, including Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Alan Turing, Billie Holiday, Amelia Earhart, and Divine. It’s been quite a ride so far, and this very exciting rollercoaster doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Tennessee is also going full throttle with his own project, Drag Landscapes, and still making great DJ sets through his Beautiful Noise Broadcast, and I’m working to build several other collections with artists, as well as writing interviews and film reviews on Cinema Siren. Enter Vox Populi and PoMo Patriots…
We apparently didn’t have enough to do, so of course we decide to do another project together.
It started during the election. No matter your political affiliation, there’s no denying this country has been pulled apart and an ugly underbelly has been exposed. People’s rights are being taken away, the integrity of mainstream journalism is being brought into question, there are alarming ethics issues rearing their heads, and that’s just for starters. Yes, those on the side of the new administration will say all sorts of other things. The point is, our country is going to hell in a handbasket faster than anyone thought possible, and that’s saying something.
The forefathers and mothers of our country did not fight for our freedom and create a new country so we could light a match and put it to flames. Those same fathers and mothers stood up when they saw injustice, and over hundreds of years, they and countless critics of those in power have spoken out, risen up, and used democracy to keep America the inclusive, welcoming, melting pot it was born to be. As has been said many times, freedom isn’t free. We have to fight for it. We also have to fight to bring this country back together again.
Patriotism isn’t just a word for conservatives. All kinds of people, whether they’ve been in America for one day, or their family stepped off the Mayflower, love this country. It’s with this in mind we have started a new American flag project called “Vox Populi”. We are both incredibly passionate about it, and have been talking about it a lot: why we both feel we have to speak through art right now, why we want to call upon the many different voices of dissent in our country’s history, and why we are uniquely placed to do so, since ArtInsights is within easy driving distance of DC and the belly of the political beast. We both might be very busy, but together we decided we couldn’t NOT do it.
This President’s Day, many of us are reflecting on our current state of affairs and how we can make a difference to inspire change. We thought it would be the perfect time to release the first piece, “PoMo Patriots”, (or an abbreviated version of Postmodern Patriots).
The Sunday before Presidents Day, we went all over Washington D.C. taking pictures of Tennessee holding the original art in front of the monuments to the various people quoted. Below are some of the pictures of our adventure introducing the art to Washington and its important historical landmarks:
We saw license plates from more states than ever before as we drove around trying to find parking on an extremely crowded 70 degree day in the Nation’s Capital. Surprisingly, we encountered mostly positive responses, ranging from polite curiosity to awestruck enthusiasm. A few people were truly moved, which I hope meant they got the intense, emotional aspect of how Vox Populi came to be, the passion with which we are approaching every aspect of its release, and what it the project means to Tennessee and I as an artist and an art gallery owner.
To be fair, we did also get a fair amount of shade and side-eye, which would have been more helpful if they could have actually created cover for our exposed ginger skin. What, though, could they possibly have against two redheads carrying an interpreted symbol of our country? I’d say we all have a lot of work to do.
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better…..This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Abraham Lincoln
Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression…..because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action. Malcolm X
Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never given. It is won. A. Philip Randolph
There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained. W.E.B. Du Bois
We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers. Bayard Rustin
Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down. Eleanor Roosevelt
Finally, let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win. Bernie Sanders
So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy. Roger Nash Baldwin
A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil. Grover Cleveland
If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. Barack Obama
Hope will never be silent. Harvey Milk
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King, Jr.
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage…. on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. Harry S Truman
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington
I wanted to include Tennessee’s perspective on this new project , and his impetus for bringing Vox Populi to life:
“I love America.
I love my fellow Americans.
I love my fellow Americans even if they hate me because I’m queer.
I still love them.
I love America so much I am willing to use whatever ability I have, to fight for people to be here.
I love America so much that I am willing to create art as a mirror to show people, even though we were founded on a poisonous colonialist and ongoing imperialistic structure (which I dislike greatly and will continually fight against) that this ‘MELTING POT’ exists because of activism for ALL EQUAL RIGHTS.
I love America so much, that I have used my blood, sweat, and tears to create a piece about a pattern I am ironically terrified of because of people confusing “patriotism” with “nationalism”.
I love America so much that I used quotes of people who fought for inclusivity and equality like Malcolm X, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin and more…
I love America so much that I turned their quotes upside down on the flag so that my fellow Americans had to contort themselves beyond the pattern to read what America was about.
I love America so much that I flew to DC with this portrait and stood in front of every monument, INCLUDING THE WHITE HOUSE to talk about the state of our administration.
I love America so much that I fought through my fellow American’s jeers, shade, and disdain for what I was doing.. and yet I was overwhelming met with hugs and tears.
I love this country enough to know when its absolutely backwards and fighting itself… because EVERYONE BELONGS HERE.
I love America.
and yet I am afraid of the thing I love.
Regardless I will fight as an advocate with my cis white privilege ..
because my weapon and shield is a brush and my voice.”
We also displayed the art in ArtInsights, and PoMo Patriots got exactly the kind of reaction Tennessee was looking for, over and over and over. And…in fact, we could have sold the original four times the day it was seen for the first time, and all to collectors far more conservative than we would have expected!
Everyone contorts themselves and changes their perspective to read the many important messages of those who have loved and worked for the freedom of our country:
We have limited editions of this piece, (which was sold immediately upon displaying it) and you can find information on it HERE. If you love what you see, stay tuned for more from this project. We are so excited for you to see it come together! (ps. a percentage of proceeds from the sale of limited editions goes to the ACLU)