Art Openings and Closings

Pushing buttons and playing games in the Bush Error

The more repression, horror, and tumult, the better the art that springs forth—if you can live long enough to produce it. The Bush regime has brought forth a flowering of creativity, even from artists who were already ingenious.

Multimedia artist Wendy Cook has been known for her work with vintage buttons, but the political games of 2004 have taken her back to her childhood, and she's inventing new games and gewgaws to fit the current age.

Check out Trouble Maker, "the axis of evil game," Electoral Process, and other images here. My favorite is Ticket to the White House, a ducat that says, "ADMIT NOTHING."

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Cook tells me that she was in her home/studio, across from the WTC, on 9/11. After that trauma, nostalgia, "a common thread" in her work, is just not what it used to be for her. She was moved to produce Pin the Pretzel on the Prez in 2002 and, later, such pieces as Unwelcome Mat, inspired by fake-grass suburban welcome mats but, she notes, comprising "hundreds of little green army men with guns all pointed at the daisy."

She's now working on refashioning the board game Risk. "Creating these pieces," she tells me, "was—is—a way that I can express how I feel about the current political clime and the 'war on terror.' "

Of course, you never know what's going to happen to political art. Case in point is Picasso's Guernica. A huge tapestry reproduction of the painting inspired by the horror of the Spanish Civil War hangs in the U.N., just outside the Security Council chamber. But when Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered his now infamous February 5, 2003, speech calling for war on Iraq, and he spoke to reporters afterward, blue draperies covered the Guernica tapestry behind him. U.N. officials insisted that the coverup of the dying children, women, and animals ("collateral damage," in today's parlance) wasn't the Bush regime's idea, though other diplomats disputed that. "We needed the right background that would work on television," a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Read Newsday's account here; it notes that the Guernica tapestry is typically seen in the background while diplomats address reporters. Wayne Grytting succinctly summarizes the episode on American Newspeak, noting, "If only Picasso had painted happy faces."

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