Politics have always been somewhat facinating to me, being raised by a political cartoonist for a father (Jorgy), politics and art have always been a constant in my life. . . thus said, last night I was glued to the presidential debate. I watched it on C-Span so I wouldn't get any bias. Afterwords I watched the MSNBC coverage, then the Fox News coverage (to get equal spin from either side).
As I was watching the Fox News coverage in late night replay my eye was drawn to the painted set dressing behind focus group pollster Frank Luntz and his crowd of "undecided voters."
I was curious about these political portraits, so did a quick search for Frank Luntz on Youtube and found that in his polling for television the crowd has traditionally been sat in front of a blank wall or a plain curtain. But in Madison, Wisconsin on June 5, 2012, Fox News had a townhall poll about the Wisconsin Recall Election, and it was populated by not only the 25 "random" Wisconsinites. . .
. . .but a pretty hefty set of larger than life political figures.
Franklin (The face of the hundred-dollar bill but never a president) sits next to Reagan.
Lincoln, and Washington come next. These paintings are very dark, muddy, and not very well lit for TV.
Next comes, I'm guessing Jefferson? Could also be Bea Arthur, not very well rendered. Followed by T. Roosevelt.
The last two are a little more confusing.
Ok, that seems to be Obama, followed by. . .
. . .wait a minute. Who the fuck is that? It's either one of our founding fathers, Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption, or a former governor from Massachusetts. . . Really, Mitt Romney, painted into the American Hero Lexicon.
Well, since Ben Franklin wasn't a president, I guess he can squeak in by technicality. He is off to the side, hardly on camera. Nobody is pointing it out, or really making a big deal about it. Maybe they won't even notice (consciously that is) But it gets worse, let's jump to last night.
In Denver, Colorado, Wednesday, October 4, 2012, Frank Luntz has gathered another group of people together, this time it's the "undecided voters," and a whole pile of new paintings. Ben Franklin didn't make the cut this time around, it's just dead presidents as far as the eye can see. In the FOX timeline of American presidential heroes it goes JFK, American Flag, T. Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jefferson, George Washington. Nobody else really existed right, at least not anyone to be mentioned in any speeches or debates, that's for sure.
Seen closer up you notice they have been repainted in a much "warmer" more TV friendly palate. Reagan and Lincoln glowing in reds and oranges in the middle of the frame, sandwiched in between Roosevelt and Jefferson. Obama and Romney are missing from their original line-up.
Where Romney's painting used to stand, now stands THE FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY, George MOTHER FUCKING Washington.
The camera cuts to Luntz who stands in between a large mural depicting a distant Obama on the far left, looking up and to the left (unlike all the other portraits of the forefathers), cropped just above his eyelid. On the right is Romney, full face, head facing forward (much like all the other portraits of the forefathers) looking quizzically towards Obama.
What the fuck are those odd colors on Obama's face? Purple patches on his cheeks like dimples? Orange stars on his cheeks above the purple patches?
Romney gets the dignified red half light(much like all the other portraits of the forefathers), but Obama is too far from them to catch their light and instead is catching some odd purple half light (from where?)
This is one of their biggest political events Fox News gets to cover in it's 4 year election cycle, the sets aren't just left up to chance. Let's not be Naive, everything is planned, and thought out far in advance.
The props, paintings and otherwise, are not just random accidents, they are where they are and look like they do for a reason.
I'm speaking from experience, as an artist who has been commissioned to do portraits dozens of times for major magazines. These portraits were commissioned pieces of art, art directed to meet certain aims. If I were commissioned to do a portrait and randomly decided to throw purple circles and orange stars on the cheeks of a standing PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and the art director didn't want them there, they would be gone in the blink of an email.
Remember, if they didn't like them they always had the Brooks-was-here portrait to fall back on.
These are things unsaid. Things not implied with words. These are things that hit you on a subconscious level. Visual sensory cues. The popcorn flying by during the "turn off your cellphone" animation at the movie theater.
Confusing as it is, are they trying to suggest somehow the blue in the American flag is somehow exuding purple light which wraps around Obama's face just to kiss him on the dimples, or is he becoming transparent and we can see the stars and color fields through him? It doesn't make sense, in that the artist obviously knows how to paint. These are choices. These are not just weird oversights. Purple? Heavily shadowed neck. Beaten down eyes. C'mon. We know where this is headed.
The artist forgot the nose.
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