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A drawing about an insurrection

I was recently invited to participate in a group show at Maus Contemporary in Birmingham, Alabama. The invitation came a week after a mob of Trump supporters broke into the capitol building in DC. The exhibition, titled "Capitolism: The Normalization of Political Violence in the United States," is a response to the current political climate and is a group show featuring artists represented by the gallery and new artists, like myself. I did not have a piece immediately available but was given the opportunity to make a new work.

The image is a drawing of the DC capitol building with Trump banners draped over the walls and text by Eugene Victor Debs below the image. The text reads “In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.”
"Canton / Wanton," charcoal and graphite on paper, 5.75 by 8.6 in

The piece that I made features imagery caught in video footage during the riot on January 6th. I paired this with a quote from Eugene Victor Debs, a labor organizer and Socialist Party presidential candidate. He delivered an infamous antiwar speech in Canton Ohio in June of 1918. The goal was to pair the shocking imagery of today with something of the past, linking the present to a history that explains its possibility. When asked to write a few sentences about the piece, I took the opportunity to provide some facts that hopefully contribute to a greater understanding of our current political climate.

Project Statement

FACT: After delivering the Canton Speech, Eugene Victor Debs was accused of violating the Espionage Act, which declared anti-war statements to be illegal. The Washington Post wrote of his “disloyalty” as they announced the news of his 10 year prison sentence.

FACT: Joseph McCarthy did not have a list of 205 names of Communists working in the State Department.

FACT: In 1990 Newt Gingrich authored a memo titled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” in which he encouraged Republicans running for office to use the word “sick,” “pathetic,” and “traitors” as adjectives to describe Democrats.

FACT: On May 29, 2020, sitting Republican President Donald Trump retweeted a video that stated “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

The exhibition runs from January 20th to April 24th. It is viewable in person by appointment only and has a virtual presence here:

Exhibiting artists include Alán Carrasco, Willie Cole, Derek Cracco, Florian Heinke, Mathias Kessler, Dawn Kramlich, Sonja Rieger, Bayeté Ross Smith, Travis Somerville, Catherine Tafur and Melissa Vandenberg.

Maus Contemporary

2411 2nd Ave N

Birmingham, AL 35203

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