Friday, February 21, 2014

POST #27: GEORGE WASHINGTON: Father of His Country?

Early in his career, the famous 16th century Flemish painter, Pieter Brueghel, (aka Peter the Droll) did a series of paintings known as “Wimmelbilder,” paintings teeming with life (peasant style). One of his most famous was called “Proverbs,” where he took over one hundred common sayings and illustrated them literally, i.e. “He pisses at the moon,” (meaning, attempts to do the impossible). When I taught Art History a decade ago, I would try to make the painting more meaningful by having the class take figures of speech they used all the time and illustrate them literally, the way Brueghel did.  It took a while for the class to catch on to the joke, but they quickly got into it and the results were often hilarious. Unless you stop to think, you don’t realize how often we use theses colorful colloquial expressions today: “armed to the teeth,” “the blind leading the blind,” or “throwing money out the window.”

Anyhow, for today’s subject, George Washington, (after all, his birthday is coming up), I decided to do a Brueghel-ian version of “George Washington, Father of his Country.” What if I took the phrase literally? After all, there were rumors during the Revolution that George, despite his reputation as a faithful spouse, might have cut a romantic swath through the female population of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Could honest, incorruptible George actually have been a womanizer? What if George Washington, Father of his Country, had some truth to it? Everyplace you go, you see signs that say “George Washington Slept Here,” but nobody says with whom.

And, that is how this piece came into being. I drew George (both on his pedestal and off) holding an American flag (of course) surrounded by a dozen very pregnant women of all sizes, colors shapes and ethnicities. Then I photocopied my drawings, enlarged them, cut them out, glued them onto foam core and created a 20”x30” maquette which I submitted to a show of “Women’s Art” in SOHO. I also blew the drawings up to life size on the architectural copy machine at Kinko’s, but never made them a free –standing installation. So far, they’ve remained rolled up under my worktable for about twenty years and since they are “politically incorrect,” (I’m an “equal opportunity” satirist), they’ll probably remain there until I die and somebody tosses them out.

In the meantime, let’s cut Washington some slack. To the best of our knowledge, all those mix and match babies in America have nothing to do with him,
(But then, one never knows).


  1. This is one of the best yet! I laughed out loud! Thank you.

  2. Love this but more importantly, I look forward every saturday to reading your blog! Many thanks!