Good-Bye to the Old

“Say Good-Bye to…”, the exhibition currently on display in the Clifford Art Gallery in Little Hall, opened its doors on October 15. The exhibition features art protests, lamenting the controversial actions of the Bush regime, focusing on the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

“Marion Wilson was the one that first approached us about the concept,” one of the exhibition’s central organizers and Associate Professor of Art and Art History Lynette Stephenson said. “She and Donna [Harkavy] already knew each other, and decided to curate the exhibition together.”

Wilson is one of the artists featured in the exhibition, contributing “It’s Always Suppertime in Texas” and “Last Suppers: Texas.” These two pieces are the only works on display that focus on Bush’s time spent as Governor of Texas. Each protests his support of the death penalty by listing the contents of condemned prisoners’ last meals.

The rest of the featured works take deadly aim at Bush’s two terms as President, oftentimes in an exceedingly bitter fashion.? For example, “Line Up,” by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, takes portraits of the central members of Bush’s administration, including Bush himself, and fashions them into mug shots through digital alterations to each photo. Likewise, Wayne Gonzales’s “Somewhere In Texas A Village Is Missing Its Idiot,” which is essentially its title spelled out in white font over a black canvas, and “So Long Suckers,” which places a scowling photograph of Dick Cheney over an upside down American flag, take on a similarly angry tone. All of these pale in comparison, however, to Michael Patterson-Carver’s “George the Terrible,” which depicts Dick Cheney executing Iraqi women and children, as well as American soldiers, while Bush stands next to him wearing a Ku Klux Klan style head-dress and bearing a Swastika-topped walking stick.

?”Most of these pieces were contributed by young artists who are relatively well known on the international scene,” explained Stephenson about the artwork.

Given the time-sensitive nature of most protest-oriented art, it would be easy misinterpret the exhibition’s aims as being to simply dance on the Bush regime’s ashes as it makes its way out.

“I think there’s definitely some of that going on,” said Stephenson, “but I think it’s got more to do with thinking about where we are as a country, decision making and about the way our government works.”

Stephenson also stressed the idea of loss as one of the exhibition’s fundamental themes.

“Although the curators obviously aren’t very big fans of Bush, I think in a lot of ways the idea of loss became more important than just bashing him,” Stephenson said with confidence. “There’s a lot here on the war, but the Katrina-related works also play a large part in establishing the theme,”

Stephenson admitted that the staff was concerned at first about the level of hostility in the exhibition’s criticism.

“At the opening there were a lot of questions about some of the pieces, and whether or not they were too didactic or in-your-face,” Stephenson said.

“In the end, I think the reason that people really accepted the exhibition was because it started to be seen as a place where students could potentially begin a dialogue, regardless of whether or not they agreed with what they’re seeing,” Stephenson added in a final statement.

“Say Goodbye To…” closes December 12.