Thursday, August 30, 2007

Avoiding Controversy

Having credited Agence France-Presse for its coverage of that 147-page report on the Virginia Tech massacre, it seems fair to note that I had to go to SPIEGEL ONLINE to learn about a rather interesting approach to composing a portrait of President George W. Bush. The composition is by Jonathan Yeo, a British artist who apparently went through several cycles of receiving a commission to paint a portrait of Bush, only to have that commission rescinded. Here is how the Spiegel report describes the consequences of this situation:

In the end, though, the artist decided to go ahead with his artistic portrayal of the 43rd president, even if he wasn't getting paid for it -- and created a portrait of Bush using a collage of pornographic images.

For those who must know, the article includes an image, both reduced and enlarged; and, yes, I did examine the enlarged version! I was reminded of the story of the proper British matron who complemented Doctor Samuel Johnson on how well he had avoided including any offensive words in his dictionary. Johnson's reply is now classic: "We're you looking for them, madam?" My own opinion is that one would not take the trouble to find what Spiegel called "offensive elements" in its caption without knowing the artist's source material; and, even then, it is quickly apparent that Yeo's use of his materials is far from blatant.

Needless to say, this latest exercise in artistic expression has succeeded in provoking:

The tribute has not gone over well with Bush's supporters. A spokesman for Republicans Abroad International described the portrait as a "cheap stunt" in an interview with the British tabloid The Sun. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Republican Party in Bush's home state of Texas didn't find much humor in the portrait either. "This picture is very distasteful," he told the paper, adding angrily, "Why would anyone want to make a picture of our president from pornographic material?"

The Spiegel article actually provides Yeo's answer to that question; however, since I suspect that many readers will have answers of their own, I shall let them dwell on them before consulting the Spiegel hyperlink!

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