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Sep 27, 2008

Art For Obama: Authenticity And Purity Of Race And Patriotism

Ewald 305


I wanted to direct you to an online auction for the benefit of the Obama campaign.

Titled Art For Obama, fifty of the country's most prominent artists and photographers have donated their work for this cause. The auction will run from October 3, 5pm EST through October 10th, 5pm EST. All proceeds from the auction will go to which is supporting the Obama campaign.

BNN offers you a look at two of the works up for bid. The first is by Wendy Ewald, titled "White Self, 1997" from the series Black Self/White Self.  Ms. Weald is  known for her photographic collaboration with children on issues of race, class and identity.

The second is by BAGnewsNotes contributor Nina Berman, titled “Little Patriots,” 2003, from her new book "Homeland," due out next month. (Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction.)  Nina has been working on the "Homeland" series since 9/11.  The images address issues of militarism and security in contemporary America.  If you've been a regular here, you'll probably remember our discussion of Nina's shot from the Atlantic City air show, as well as three rather troubling images from New York's Fleet Week.  If you click to Nina's thread here at BNN, the (currently) third through the sixth post down offer those images from her Homeland series.

It’s interesting to consider these photos while watching the candidates grapple with the construction of winning identities to suit the demographic of the moment and the constant questioning of authenticity and purity on issues of race (is Obama white enough or black enough?) and patriotism (who loves American more?). As always, I'm interested in your reactions.

Take a look at the images and participate in the Art for Obama auction here.

(image 1: Wendy Ewald, 1997. image 2: Nina Berman. July 4, Ridge-field Park, New Jersey, 2003)


Wow, what a fascinating juxtaposition.

At the Obama Store, Runway for Change, doesn't offer one-offs, but the professionals'designs are varied and fun to browse.

The 4th of July has become somewhat troubling to me. The memories of the old fashioned FOJ parade, with kids not too different from the kids in the picture, are very much a part of my childhood. It was exciting and loud and colorful. The flag was always big and we all stood up and saluted. I didn't think we turned out too badly, but now I am beginning to wonder.
Now, the flavor of it all is more akin to nationalism; Germany (of course) in the '30s comes to mind. When bush started talking about 'homeland', red flags and alarm bells went off in my head. And ring louder and get more colorful with each insult to our constitution and our country.
But were we free of such influences 50 or 60 years ago? Post WWII, I think not.
These children have no idea how they have been co-opted by adults who have tainted their gameplaying and fantasy world. And in retrospect, neither did I, growing up.

The masks in both pictures are interesting (!) Two things strike me: Hiding behind a mask is far safer than being out in the world. And that there are secrets here that are not nice or pleasant.
The young woman perhaps feels safer behind a white facade, but almost certainly she is there due to some sort of fear: racial or sexual abuse? The children, well a mask allows a bully to be what he (or she) wants to be; the most obvious connection being the KKK .

"A book is a mirror: If an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out" (G. C. Lichtenberg--a.k.a. "Lord Dunsany). Same principle holds for all other forms of art and communication. Don't know whether it marks me as an ape or as an apostle, but I definitely feel considerably more inspired by Berman's images than pathologically insulted.

* * * * *

Anyhow, I'm reminded of how, early in the campaign, some talking heads were claiming that Obama was too black, others that he wasn't black enough.

I'm also reminded of an article I read recently on Huff-Po, about the way agencies are eagerly seeking models who are "ethnically ambiguous." (By "ethnically," they mean racially, not culturally.) In other words, success depends on at least partially hiding who you really are.

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