Category Archives: Art

Art of the Resistance [C.K. Itamura]

28 November 2016

I’m with my daughter, Sophia, at Gallery 300 and we are looking at an art series of American flags created by C.K. Itamura. We’ve come over directly after having a conversation about the American presidential election that happened nineteen days earlier. 

I’ve already been given the rundown on the exhibit so this is a special excursion for my offspring.

C.K. explains the meaning of the four American flags arranged like a storyboard and screwed directly into the wall instead of hung. It’s a deliberate choice, signifying a country getting screwed. 

The flags are made from sheets of white cotton fabric painted black and ripped into two-inch strips and I comment that they look like bandages. C.K. says they are, in fact, meant to be reminiscent of bandages used on the wounded during the American Civil War.

C.K. tells us that there were 19 states that voted for Clinton and 31 states that went to Donald Trump so, in the first flag, she glued all 50 stars on the flag and after it was partially dry she ripped off 31 stars and threw them on the floor.


In the second flag she did the same but ripped off 19 stars and threw them on the floor. And this flag is hung upside down.


In the third flag, fake stars are spray painted to symbolize a pretense that everything will be okay, but the flag is still upside down to show that everything is actually still messed up even though some Americans will be trying to fake it.


In the fourth flag the stars are missing and replaced by US currency of $1s, $5s, $10s, and $20s because CK feels that money is winning and the wealthy and all the corporations are now in charge of America. 

The stars that should be on the flag are now across the room in a dustpan. 


But, at least they’re still in the room—a message of hope that the stars will be restored to the flag.

***

Readers can see more of C.K. Itamura’s work by going to Peach Farm Studio online or visiting her gallery at 300 S A Street in Santa Rosa, California.

***

See more Art of the Resistance in my profile of artist Peter Crompton.


Follow 336 Journal on Facebook.

The Art of Resistance

Twelve days into the presidency of Donald Trump and artists all over America and throughout the world are resisting in the clearest and most articulate way we know how—through the expression of our art.

Artists that have never created a piece of political art are suddenly discovering that they are compelled to communicate their displeasure with the direction that America is heading.

Artists like Peter Crompton—a set designer and stagecraft teacher at Santa Rosa Junior College in California—are now inspired to create art as resistance.

After the November election, Peter sketched this American flag flying with stars downward in the officially recognized signal of distress—a perfect analogy for a world turned upside down.

Distress Flag (2016) by Peter Crompton

His next sketch shows the dismantling of the Statue of Liberty and represents the fear that many of us have that our civil liberties will be taken away.

Aftermath: Time to Rebuild (2016) by Peter Crompton

That sketch grows darker and becomes a little more Piranesi and less Planet of the Apes.

Aftermath: Second State (2016) by Peter Crompton

At last, the initial inspiration leads to the message that education is a better alternative to mass deportation of immigrants. 

As an educator, Peter believes this is the best path forward as Donald Trump was supported by the most conservative and the least educated among us. And that is partially true, but it doesn’t include people that are simply ignorant of the big political picture and are so disaffected that they will vote for a populist like Trump. And those of us that are highly educated and come from a more liberal and open-minded cultural world view can’t simply dismiss Trump supporters as stupid because it feeds into the narrative that liberals are elitists that look down on regular Americans with smug superiority.

Art can be the switch that turns on the light inside our minds to illuminate those dark places where territorial dogma crouches in chains, growling and straining against its short leash.

Art as resistance to educate everyone is what is most needed now to cultivate a sustainable society for all people.

***

Readers can see more of Peter Crompton’s art by following him on Instagram. 

***

See more Art of the Resistance in my profile of C.K. Itamura.

Please follow 336 Journal on Facebook.

Turning mugshots into art

I’m at my favorite coffeehouse in Santa Rosa chatting with my friend, Cat Kaufman, a mixed-media artist with an art studio in the neighborhood.

Cat texted me a few days ago, after reading some 336 Journal pieces, and asked me if I would be interested in collaborating on a piece combining my writing and her art. 

Hell yes, I texted in response. I’ve admired Cat’s art since I brought my daughter into her studio for an art appreciation date.

As we’re speaking, Cat shows me a delightful series she created a few years ago using mug shots taken in Australia in the 1920s. I ask Cat what drew her to those images and she tells me that she loves that the photographic subjects seem to be showing their authentic selves in their mug shots. I agree.

The first piece is called Fay and it depicts a woman clutching a handbag tightly as if it is going to be taken away from her immediately after the photograph is taken. Cat agrees with me and adds that she seems to be clutching the bag as a security item. We both see the fear and trepidation in her face, imagining what she may have felt in those moments before going to prison. This could be the last photograph of herself she would ever see. 

The second piece is called John & Oswald (1921) and it seems to be full of piss and vinegar—to my eyes—radiating an air of supreme confidence from both men.

The third piece is called Remorseful May and it shows a woman that refuses to face the camera. We can imagine it is shame or merely dejection and surrender to her fate. Such is the nature of art—interpretation is in the eye of the beholder and we all behold things differently.

Cat tells me that the woman was sent to prison for performing an illegal abortion, but she admits that the backstory could be something she invented because she doesn’t remember the details behind the original photograph.

***

Wait—before you go you must watch this delightful video! The marriage of music and mugshot photography is inspired. 


This 336-word piece was written and published in realtime at Atlas Coffee Company in Santa Rosa, California. 

Feels like it’s still in the first draft stage, so I’m not done with it.

Follow 336 Journal on Facebook.

Thanks for reading.