|Thugs in Suits|
When I started to paint full time, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t an abstractionist (I like content too much), and I hate pretty landscapes, so I fell into social commentary. As a newcomer to Stamford - a small, conservative New England city, I found a lot to work with: corrupt politicians, narrow-minded clubwomen, self-satisfied business leaders. An outsider always sees things from a different, more critical perspective. Satire, to my way of thinking, is one of the best weapons a social critic has. Politicians, for example, hate being laughed at more than anything (except maybe being indicted for fraud). Rather than call someone corrupt, venal or stupid (even if they are), I can always poke fun at them to make my point and, hopefully, there won’t be any reprisals. “Just kidding,” I can always say.
Over the years, I have completed several series of satirical paintings and drawings, including one I never show in public. The first was “Local Clubwomen,” based on those silly, staged group photos you see in the newspaper “Society Pages.” Then there was a series of imaginary Mayors, “Thirty Years of Good Government: a Portfolio Suitable for Framing” that poked fun at local politics. After that came a larger-than-life cast of cardboard “Thugs in Suits” (developers?) and my “Real-Live Women” paper dolls. My “Seven Deadly Sins ” are ongoing, (as in real life) but I also have an x-rated (never to be shown outside my studio) series: “Men’s’ Locker Room,” 24” high cut-outs of “true-to-life” men with removable towels over their middles. Not a pretty sight.
There are practically no satirists around today, at least not in the art world. First of all, everyone is terrified of being politically incorrect; I recently got one of my paper dolls pulled from an exhibit because someone thought she looked “Hispanic.” This means you can only satirize rich white men and women and since they are the likely buyers of art, don't expect to sell a lot.
I’d like to revisit this topic in the near future, so let me know your thoughts. Perhaps by analyzing the great satirists from the past, from Hieronymus Bosch to George Grosz, I can get more insight into the nature of satire, including who they made fun of and why. Anyhow, it’s a pretty meaty subject and I have barely touched the surface.