The weeks prior to the election have spawned an outpouring of political sentiment among D.C. artists. But some museum patrons deemed the exhibit’s hostility towards the current administration unpatriotic and unsuitable for viewers.
“This lady came in and she and her daughters had Cheney and Bush stickers all over, and she said to me, ‘You people do terrible things to the American flag here,'” said John Aaron, Curator of Arlington’s Museum of Modern ARF. “I think we do beautiful things to the American flag here.”
After the woman left the exhibit, she found a police officer on the street and asked him to investigate a show that she said was “demonic, sadistic, obscene, and highly unpatriotic,” he said. He gave the officer a tour, and when asked to place a disclaimer in front of the museum, Aaron pointed to the already existing one in large print.
“Breaking the Silence II: Questioning Power Now More Than Ever” is Aaron’s second political exhibit. Many works in the show parody the president. The exhibit also features a coffin that was used in an Oct. 2 protest in front of the White House, and many of Aaron’s own works. He has installed his large porcelain sculpture depicting the history of the Bush administration in the window of a nearby storefront.
“War and Peace,” curated by Molly Ruppert and Judy Greenberg, is an exhibit at the Warehouse Gallery that also features controversial art.
“The opportunity to create and show a piece in this city at this time was really the perfect storm,” said Gard Jones, one of the gallery’s exhibitors Jones’ sculpture, “Collusion” depicts an empty oil drum with 200,000 pennies spilling out.
Despite the $2,000 in cash left on the floor, visitors can enter the exhibit unescorted. Jones has never experienced theft from any of his sculptures created from money. “The penny is the foundation of our economy, but in and of itself, it’s worthless,” he said. “People can literally walk by $2,000, but it’s not worth it to gather it up.”
Jones and Aaron said they have different ways of dealing with those they have offended.
“My reaction is always the same – if my art has affected you like that, I consider what I’ve created to be a success,” said Jones.
“I tell people that are upset, ‘I sense that you may be religious. Please ask your god to end all of this madness,'” Aaron said.
The Warehouse Gallery is located at 1021 7th St. N.W. The Museum of Modern ARF is located at 1116 N. Hudson St. in Arlington.