Even when John Ashcroft is beaten back, as he was in Congress in his attempts to set up neighborhood watches to rat out suspected terrorists, he sets the tone for others operating on their own to stem the terrorist tide. Northern California artist Chuck Bowden had won second place in the Redwood Art Association’s fall exhibit in early December in Eureka, California, bringing him a $300 prize put up by a local businessman. The Tactics of Tyrants Are Always Transparent is an 11-by-14-inch work—done mostly in pencil and ballpoint ink—depicting Bush, wearing both a halo and crown, standing on a grave, his hand dripping blood. In the background, bodies fall from the WTC. Bowden said that the work was meant as a tribute to those who were killed on 9-11 and that it aimed at placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Bush. The frame shop owner who put up the prize money didn’t see it that way: Paul Bareis said he withdrew the money because “you’ve got to stand up and fight for what you believe in and I think that’s what our president’s doing and that’s what I’m doing. That conspiracy stuff is bunk.”
An anonymous donor made up the $300, but the arts group refused to show the work, saying its public presentation would raise “insurance issues.” Bowden said of the contest, “They shouldn’t call it ‘open to art.’ They should call it ‘open to Republican art’ or ‘open to closed-minded art.’ ” First prize went to a watercolor called Spirit Fishing Fading Light.
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel, Phoebe St John, and Alicia Ng