& Other Political Worries of Hunter C. Levinsohn's
Closing reception on Sunday, September 14, 2003 from 5 - 7 pm
Featuring work titled "Security Alert Purse with Tom Ridge - Paper Doll & 6 Outfits" and "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," many of Levinsohn's mixed media pieces can be explored to find messages inside.
Some of Levinsohn's pieces are highly critical of the Bush administration, as evidenced in "Bush's Bomb Bag" and "Checks and Balances in the Administration of Bush." The price for these pieces states: "You can’t afford this, none of us can."
When questioned by a town employee about "Trying To Make Black and White Out of the Red, White and Blue," a mixed media piece featuring an American flag that contains the shape of a crooked cross of stars, Hunter explained that it was created during the first Bush administration, when our civil liberties were called into question over people's right to burn the flag.
"While I don't agree with someone who would want to burn the flag," says Levinsohn, "I do agree that the right to do so should not be taken from us."
This particular piece (not shown) and a smaller version of it in a set of twelve mixed media flags were deemed too disturbing for Carrboro Town Hall. After receiving several complaints, Mayor Pro Tem Alex Zaffron removed the pieces from the exhibit.
"If the artist could be here to explain the concept for the piece to everyone who bristles when they see the shape, that would be great. She can't be though, so we removed the disturbing pieces," explained Zaffron.
People often come to the wrong conclusion upon first seeing Levinsohn's work. Without hearing the story behind the piece, it's often easy to assume a meaning that isn't there. Hunter, who is Jewish, is in no way promoting the Nazi regime, but merely defending every American's right to chose what they want to believe and create art that coincides with their beliefs.
Mayor Mike Nelson had been out of town when the exhibit was hung and had this to say when he arrived home and saw the exhibit on July 4th:
"This is the strongest art exhibit we've had to date in Town Hall. Some of the pieces are cute and sweet, some are angry and critical. What is truly poignant about the show is that the artist succeeds in exploring the meaning of patriotism, through the symbolism of our flag, in a way that both reaffirms our patriotism and challenges us to ask tough questions."
Much of Hunter's work, such as "Fairway, Fair Way?," reflects larger societal problems. Many images from the civil rights movement including Malcolm X and folks carrying signs can be seen in the body of the piece, while at the bottom the country club crowd is depicted playing golf, oblivious to the issues at hand.
The Chapel Hill artist has long been recognized as an outspoken critic of the war, but is a patriot through and through. Hunter could be seen (or not seen) dressed in a plastic and duct tape burka at an antiwar demonstration earlier this year in Chapel Hill. "No one would even look at me," recalls Levinsohn. "People went out of their way to make sure their eyes didn't meet mine. It was a sad statement about our society."
Hunter's Artist Statement, Flag Art statement, and a list of work in the exhibit can be seen below.
Carrboro Town Hall is located at 301 W. Main St. and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 until 5 pm, and some evenings when meetings are scheduled.
It is not only a valid and legitimate question but one that I have asked myself. My answer would be that I think the Town Hall is an appropriate place to express a political opinion. In making the piece and displaying it I am exercising my 1st. amendment right to free speech. But I honor the gentleman’s right to ask the question and I think there are good reasons to ask it.
In our culture we stretch the bounds of the appropriate so often that many of the rules no longer apply and we truly do not know what is and is not appropriate behavior. My take on it would be that it is the office of the president that one honors or dishonors; the man holding the office can be held up to the light for inspection but I am interested in hearing other opinions on the subject. There is blank paper in the back of this notebook, please feel free to leave me a message about how you feel.
In preparing for this show I have been giving a lot of thought to the current political situation in this country which I find dismaying. Where is political discourse and discussion? What has happened to the concept of an honorable opponent? When did we become so polarized? Issues are not black and white; they are many shades of gray.
Hunter C. Levinsohn
July 1, 2003
The next evening we went over to Brevard to a concert. As the program began we rose to sing the Star Spangled Banner. She leaned over and whispered “Does it make you uncomfortable to sing the national anthem? And I whispered back “I’m not un-American, I’m just a liberal!” I’ve been doing flag art ever since. I love the American flag; it changes with the country and reflects our union of states. When you compare it to the flags of other nations it is sort of gaudy and definitely complex. I almost think they should have kept adding stripes beyond the original thirteen states! It is a wonderful vehicle for expressing an opinion!
I did a piece for a show in 1990 called “Hands On America, Participate” It was a replica of the flag (not exact) and people were invited to participate by drawing an outline of their hand on the flag; within the outline of their own hand they could put anything they wanted but they were asked to leave the space outside of the outline unmarked. I thought it was a great paradigm for expressing the concept of a democracy, a definition of public and private space. What happened was that people wrote all over the piece; I was really upset and decided never to show it again but a couple of years later I decided that my original idea was the ideal of a democracy and what people did with the piece was the reality so I did show it again.
“Fairway, Fair Way?” is from the mid-nineties. “Ice Nine Exists” is a study I did while I was working on a show about the bombing of Hiroshima. “Weapons Cache, Weapons Cash” is a piece about the US military arsenal and the US arms trade.
The two flags on roofing tin just happened in the studio a couple of years ago; I’ve had the one in the Council Meeting Room hung on the outside of my studio since 9/11. The other pieces were done during the Residency of George W. Bush.
TRYING TO MAKE BLACK AND WHITE
OUT OF RED, WHITE & BLUE
Mixed Media, $500.00 each
(removed from exhibit)
12 SMALL FLAG PAINTINGS
Mixed Media, $30.00 each
(1 removed from exhibit & sold)
“FORK BABY III: SOLITARIO”
Mixed Media, $150.00
“FORK BABY II”
Mixed Media, $150.00
“FORK BABY I: FORK BABY AND
SCREW BACKED BY MADONNA AND GLITTER”
Mixed Media, $100.00
“FLAG I” Oil paint
on roofing tin, $125.00
“CHECKS AND BALANCES IN
THE ADMINISTRATION OF BUSH”
Mixed Media. You can’t afford this, none of us can.
“FLAG POLE TRIPTYCH
DON’T –EXPLETIVE DELETED- WITH THE FLAG”
Latex and Oil paint on canvas, $1500.00
“SECURITY ALERT PURSE WITH TOM RIDGE
PAPER DOLL & SIX OUTFITS”
Mixed Media, $200.00
“BUSH BOMB BAG”
Mixed Media, You can’t afford this, none of us can.
“FAIRWAY, FAIR WAY?”
Mixed Media, $500.00
POSTER: “JULY 4TH, 2003, WHICH WAY IS UP”
Copies are available from the artist for $5.00 each
“WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING” PURSE
Mixed Media, $200.00
Please feel free to touch this piece and examine the contents.
“ICE NINE EXISTS”
Mixed Media, $500.00
“CONGRESSIONAL ACTION FIGURE”
Mixed Media, $125.00
“FLAG II: VERY FRAIL, LET’S TAKE CARE OF IT”
Oil paint on roofing tin, $125.00
“WEAPONS CACHE, WEAPONS CASH”
WITH COLD, COLD WAR COMFORTER” Mixed Media $1500.00
Downtown Carrboro Map | Events | Prices | Restaurants | UniqueOrn Enterprises