An Update on my series “Betsy McCall, Ready for (Almost) Anything in Post Katrina NOLA”

I’ve been a little amused by, “Storm Troopers: Celebrating Hurricane Sandy’s First Responders”, the Vogue photoshoot Annie Leibovitz did with the Hurricane Sandy responders and devastation used as a backdrop for fashion models. Such as this Bagnewsnotes blogpost

There’s been a lot of talk on whether or not the photo shoot was inappropriate.

Back in 2007, after Katrina, I did a series of 4 digital paintings titled “Betsy McCall, Ready for (Almost) Anything in Post Katrina NOLA”. My inspiration had partly been what we see in fashion magazines boosting fashion and attire as making women powerful by virtue of their clothing and ornamentation, but the women presented are little more than cut-out paper dolls. Other inspiration had been what I was observing at the time in certain internet forums, again how youth so broadly accepted various types of fashion as not just representing empowerment but being empowerment in a manner that had nothing to do with women as strong individuals but, again, as little more than mannequins–and, most frequently, abused mannequins, or, absurdly, “power” mannequins bound and gagged in sado-masochistic fantasies. I put two and two together and thought that it was only natural we would eventually be seeing fashion shots against future real life cataclysms, scenes of devastation as perfect backdrops to these absurd fetishes of women whose fashion choices made them invincible goddesses, and yet they were also affectless, voiceless and powerless. A lack of real social preparedness and the harshness of subsequent privations, observed in Katrina, seemed to me both a perfect foil and complement to these notions of power.

An every-day runway example are women carefully striding on “power” shoes, which aren’t built for walking, toppling off them, scrambling to upright themselves and being lucky not to break an ankle in the process. From where does the idea of power emanate in this hobbling? Is it the strict restraint and inability to do anything (not a part of the working class) that communicates power in these fashion idols? An ivory tower disregard? A bubble effect (as observed with the Leibovitz shots) wherein these supposed fashion power goddesses can glide through devastation and be absolutely unscathed, their unstained dresses glowing white, their make-up pristine, and, again, their expressions absolutely removed and disconnected?

The privilege of big money is certainly observed in the ultimate, bubble effect disconnect of fashion.

The lead in paragraph to the Vogue article illustrates what I’ve written above on fashion as power, however hobbled and removed in its bubble effect: “When Hurricane Sandy hit, the city’s bravest and brightest punched back. With the area now on the mend, we paid these stalwart souls a visit, dressed up in the best of the New York collections. Call them New York’s other finest.” A parallel is being drawn between fashion and the responders, the “city’s bravest and brightest”. Or at least a feeble effort is being made. For it doesn’t work. The parallel is a fatuous one, for the models in their power fashions are not meant to be on par with the responders. They stand out against the scenes as goddesses descending from on high, scarcely interacting, their peculiar mystique presented not only as a kind of morale builder but fashion’s “power woman” penultimate example of a job so well done that the cut out paper doll, ready for anything in her power fashion gear, is untouched by flame and flood.

Ready for Almost Anything with Betsy McCall in Post Katrina NOLA
Ready for Almost Anything with Betsy McCall in Post Katrina NOLA
25 by 24 inches
Digital Painting 2007

The rest of the “Betsy” series is here.

Annie Leibovitz, 2013, Hurricane Sandy photo shoot for Vogue

Janet Kearns Photographs Herself for Facebook

Digital Painting of Janet Photographing Herself
Digital painting of Janet Kearns Photographing Herself for Facebook

Janet Kearns is an unrelated artist living in British Columbia. I created this digital painting based on a photograph she took of herself for Facebook. It occurred to me at the time it might be fun to do a project of people photographing themselves for Facebook.

“Fat Man” at the Hanford Dorm Club Christmas Dance

Dancing with the “Fat Man”

"Fat Man" at the Hanford Dorm Club Christmas Dance
Light box enlargement

“Fat Man” at the Hanford Dorm Club Christmas Dance
Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project
16 by 20 inches
December 2011

Continue reading “Fat Man” at the Hanford Dorm Club Christmas Dance

Digital Painting, Engrained Series – Ahna Between Here and There


Ahna Between Here and There
Digital painting
35 by 20 in.

From a new series. Digital painting based on a photo of Ahna Hartico I happened to see and liked. Thanks to her for allowing me permission to use it as resource.

Access a larger view off its gallery page on my art website.

Another new Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project painting

The Fire Prevention Parade
The Fire Prevention Parade
Digital painting, 2009

Light box enlargement

Read the introduction to the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project paintings

What the Hanford Declassified Project archive shows is that life was one long parade in Richland

Parades are a recurring theme in the Hanford Declassified Project archive. Their intent was to build morale and a sense of community among a non-local citizenry shipped in from all over the country.

Another common theme is fire prevention, and for good reason. The last thing anyone wanted was a wall of flame barreling down on the Hanford plant, though by “anyone” I don’t necessarily include the children who were conscripted to participate in fire prevention parades for an opportunity at center-of-attention costumed fun, because it’s doubtful that any of them were aware that fire posed a more potent threat for nuking the area than the much-dreaded Cold War villain, Russia.

For the children, the drilled dread was that fire might destroy their homes, rather than rush off to Hanford through the desert and cause a nuclear meltdown.

The big guns that showed up at the parade were heady confirmation the government loved the little desert hamlet of Richland, and if you did your part in protecting your homes from errant sparks cascading off the cigarettes of careless parents, then Nike missiles and cannon would save you from a Ruskie Slim Pickens. Having parents who smoked–and whose parents didn’t smoke?–I recollect well my own vigilance, attentive and en garde when cigarettes were wielded too casually, ash missing the lip of an ashtray and falling on the table. With every red spark, I could hear the tumbleweeds scream. For the message given us was that our parents weren’t responsible enough to not burn down their homes. Adults were something like mindless idiots who might behave at their day jobs but could be counted upon, at night, to drink too much, forget where they lived, that they had a house and children at all, and pass out in an eventual, self-medicated stupor with cigarette still lit. We, their dependents, had the job of protecting our progenitors from themselves each night, so in the morning we would all wake up with a roof over our heads.

That it was our responsibility was impressed so greatly upon us by our teachers, I remember asking one of them what of single adults who had no children to care for them and their cigarettes? Who would keep them from burning down their house?

Continue reading Another new Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project painting

Nuclear Family Shelter

Nuclear Family Shelter
Nuclear Family Shelter
Digital painting, 2009

Read the introduction to the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project paintings

What every nuclear bomb shelter needs a magic vacuum

Light box enlargement

A new painting for the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project series, this one showing a cozy nuclear family bomb shelter, with my addition of Kirby, a Japanese character who protects Dream Land with its ability to inhale creatures much larger than itself. What better a protector for Richland, than Kirby at its dream town gate, able to absorb dark nuclear shadows and annihilate them with its relentless cuteness and positive attitude.

Peculiarly, this was the only image of a bomb shelter that I came across in the Hanford Declassified archives. A headline on the newspaper in the photo reads, “Eisenhower Should Declare Intentions Now, Morse Says”, which perhaps places this photo in the 50s.

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