March 27, 2009

Justine Lai paints herself having sex with each of the Presidents, beginning with George Washington.

"I am interested in humanizing and demythologizing the Presidents by addressing their public legacies and private lives. The presidency itself is a seemingly immortal and impenetrable institution; by inserting myself in its timeline, I attempt to locate something intimate and mortal. I use this intimacy to subvert authority, but it demands that I make myself vulnerable along with the Presidents. A power lies in rendering these patriarchal figures the possible object of shame, ridicule and desire, but it is a power that is constantly negotiated."

67 comments:

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Also known as, "How many pomo cliches can you use to try to justify shitty artwork?"

(I feel like commenting today. It's the springtime in me!)

Henry said...

I'm glad she's starting with George Washington. She shouldn't leave anyone out.

This does make Hillary Clinton's failed bid for the presidency that much more interesting.

Maguro said...

I wonder who performed the best? My guess would be Millard Fillmore.

MadisonMan said...

Good luck with James Buchanan, honey.

When she's done, she can work on all the Vice (heh) Presidents. And then the Secretaries of the (heh) Interior.

LarsPorsena said...

I wonder who performed the best? My guess would be Millard Fillmore.

My bet is Andrew Jackson. Why do you think his nickname was "Old Hickory".

Salamandyr said...

Chester A. Arthur.

He has to be good for something.

LarsPorsena said...

Zachary Taylor..."Old Rough and Ready"

LarsPorsena said...

..and lest we forget, Teddy Roosevelt, the "Rough Rider".

bearbee said...

I guess she has nothing to say.

Is that her real name?

Donna B. said...

I can't wait to see what she does with Cleveland and Taft.

And then there's Carter... will there be a sinister rabbit involved or just thoughts of lust?

rhhardin said...

to subvert authority

Turning is so versatile: avert invert revert animadvert pervert evert convert divert revert.

You could supervert authority with woman on top.

Pogo said...

Those paintings are just bad, a 1970s porno mag done in paint-by-numbers style.

Fred4Pres said...

So was Abe really the rail spliter Justine?

Bissage said...

I hope Ms. Lai's paintings are anatomically correct and she gives the diminutive James Madison an enormous schwanzstucker.

john said...

I think it goes "Those that can, do; those that can't, paint". Jennie Jerome left no great works of art, but her bedding the Prince of Wales, half the MPs and most of the crown heads of Europe is a true legacy dwarfing Justine's little fantasies. Of course, Jennie was an incredible beauty (and her marriage to Randolf cetainly got her access). The extra cash and influence also helped her son Winston get established.

Also, Justine should get out of watercolors.

Pogo said...

Justine Laid. Fixed.

amba said...

The politically-correct language of her statement is completely . . . subverted . . . by the image of the chopped-up snake, which reveals her true agenda.

Palladian said...

Blow jobs? You mean Photoshop jobs?

"Also, Justine should get out of watercolors."

The "paintings" are claimed to be oil on canvas but I think that's a lie. They look like someone's clumsy use of the various "Artistic" filters in Photoshop. Can you say "Publicity Stunt"?

"Those paintings are just bad, a 1970s porno mag done in paint-by-numbers style."

They're not paintings at all. They're a few bad Photoshop collages she knocked together (heh) to get linked on Boing Boing because she knew Cory Doctorow would get a woody for an Asian lady being all sexy and "subversive" and PoMo.

Henry said...

So many words, so little imagination.

Justine should paint herself having sex with a nickel.

DADvocate said...

William Henry Harrison is probably the worst as he was sick and dying his entire time in office plus he talked about himself a lot.

Yeah, too bad Hillary didn't win. She could have done Bill and Hill, creepier than the two Bushes.

Fen said...

Like I said a few days ago, our "artists" are crappy because they don't suffer enough. Let the beatings commence.

ironrailsironweights said...

If those pictures accurately depict Ms. Lai's body, she is a wonderful woman. Appropriately bushy, just like an adult woman should be, rather than a slavish devotee of the hideous pedophilic Bald Eagle look.

Peter

memomachine said...

Hmmm.

If I can make $50,000 a painting then I'm taking up a brush and taking off my clothes.

Soooooo. Who is my first customer? I ain't going through the hassle of learning how to paint myself naked without some advance sales to make it worth my while.

Michael E. Lopez said...

Of course this would have nothing to do with Lai's ego, and her capitulation to traditional feminine notions of obtaining power through sexual congress with powerful men.

Oligonicella said...

The artwork is mediocre, the publicity unpaid for. Kaching. The only relevant message to this artist.

The worst one can say about her is that perhaps she actually thought this relevant and important.

Henry said...

My bet is Andrew Jackson. Why do you think his nickname was "Old Hickory".

Followed by The Little Magician.

Fen said...

her capitulation to traditional feminine notions of obtaining power through sexual congress with powerful men.

/cue Valenti

pduggie said...

So she actually expects someone who looks at her pictures to overturn any thoughts of authority these men have/had?

Why couldn't she have done the same thing by just painting them naked without "inserting herself"? Then she wouldn't have had to make herself vulnerable.

PatHMV said...

Well, it looks like General Grant, at least, is intent on punishing Ms. Lai for her impudence. ;-)

Henry said...

She could have just painted them as they are -- which, mostly, is dead.

Or, except for 43 and 44, enfeebled by age.

The great poets knew what it is that humanizes and demythologizes the powerful -- and believer it or not, it isn't sex with young women.

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

traditionalguy said...

To rebel against Authority is a half-way activity. It is soon followed by a life lived under another Authority. People cannot live with no authority to structure their lives. That is why Traditional Authority offer us a tested and refined product, but the latest revealed Ideal of good governance (always reformed and re-made under other names) is usually a disaster forced upon us.

David said...

Next: Justices of the Supreme Court taking a poop.

ak said...

"I attempt to locate something intimate and mortal. I use this intimacy to subvert authority, but it demands that I make myself vulnerable along with the Presidents. A power lies in rendering these patriarchal figures the possible object of shame, ridicule and desire, but it is a power that is constantly negotiated."

It'll always be the 1970s for some people, won't it?

Sofa King said...

Ann and Justine

are somewhat akin -

both see themselves

in Madison

Burma-Shave

Palladian said...

"It'll always be the 1970s for some people, won't it?"

Yes, but realize that she's just parroting the discourse that's been rotting like a backed-up septic tank in the world of academic art since at least 1970. Most of the losers who've screwed up the arts are like this woman, failed English majors who aren't smart enough to be real academics and aren't talented enough to be real artists. So they learn the word "signifier" and figure out how to "locate" themselves in the "discourses of power" and they're suddenly STARZ, BABY!

Joe said...

People, people. Obviously the best performer would have been "Tricky Dick" Nixon.

dbp said...

Justine Lai is by no means a great (or even particularly good) artist, but I find her work to at least be entertaining.

It certainly has the potential to be more interesting when she works her way up to the presidents of our own time.

traditionalguy said...

"The Presidents put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do." Now does everybody feel a little bit better? Sex, Sex, Sex... doesn't anyone have the strength to be respected for doing the good Husband/Father role anymore? The President has been our national symbol of the good Husband/Father using Constitutional authority to protect the citizens of the Republic from thieves and murderers. Rebel against that, and you will only find yourself at the mercy of new Rulers, the Chinese perhaps.

paul a'barge said...

I went to her personal website.

Abe Lincoln is one lucky man.

Henry said...

Yes, but realize that she's just parroting the discourse that's been rotting like a backed-up septic tank in the world of academic art since at least 1970.

It's funny just how tame and and old-fashioned Lai's work is. There were two transgressives in my graduate program back in the late '80s. One was pushing gay transgressive sex; the other was pushing fetishist transgressive sex.

My two friends were clearly competing with each other for the most transgressive title and no one else much cared.

BJM said...

Uh-oh... this sort of thing and public kissing catches on and we'll soon have a tax on love.

Sigivald said...

The paintings aren't that bad, though they're not spectacular.

I see no reason to disbelieve that they're oil on canvas, though I would have assumed gouache, myself.

The fact that Photoshop-filter-created works look vaguely like the style suggests only that the "artistic" filters are better every iteration.

DADvocate said...

Joe reminded me of the old joke.

Why did Richard Nixon see "Deep Throat" three times?

It took that many times for him to get it down Pat.

TMink said...

Would that she were as talented an artist as she is a self promoter.

Trey

Chip Ahoy said...

If she says oil on canvas then they are oil on canvas. Why dispute this? Although, from the photos they do look like watercolors to me.

I would like to know this Justine Lai. She seems like a saucy little tart, the exact sort of person I'd gravitate to at a cocktail party and become bestest of friends.

Palladian said...

"If she says oil on canvas then they are oil on canvas. Why dispute this?"

Because if you're looking to create a stir and publicity for yourself, then why go to the trouble of making a bunch of oil paintings. Far easier to fake them up in Photoshop. Besides, it's not about the paintings, is it? No one will ever see the paintings in person because they don't exist. She faked this whole thing up in a few days as a publicity stunt.

How postmodern. How subversive.

Pogo said...

I think Palladian's right. The style seemed too familiar; that's why.

pj (not PJ) said...

Cutting through all the formal bullshit, the traditional or even current female perspective is often dismissed as trash or gossip writing because it's personal/sexual.

It's mildly interesting that her academic art world prose _de_humanizes and mythologizes her work as it seeks to humanize and demythologize historical authority figures.

BJK said...

I heard President Clinton has offered to pose for his...

Bill Clinton prefers photographs, if you know what I'm saying.

I can't wait for the press conference on the Clinton one. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman....this time."


President Bush was told there would be WMDs, and felt bound to investigate.

[There's a joke about Dick Cheney not being the only person to shoot someone in the face, but I don't want to script it out.]


Barack Obama? Nothing to see here, move along.

blake said...

MadMan--

She's pegging Buchanan.

Which means Sofa King's Burma Shave riff would work better with him than Madison. But it does screw up the meter a bit.

But, yeah, this doesn't seem to be about American history much.

Henry said...

The style seemed too familiar; that's why.

It's a pretty familiar style -- the opaque, overlit nude. Philip Pearlstein, Lucien Freud, and Erik Fischl all come to mind (admittedly at a much higher level of ability).

Not sure why it would be at all suprising that an art student would learn to paint in an imitative style. She has time to kill. Why wouldn't she be doing the paintings herself?

Revenant said...

Rule 34 notwithstanding, I wonder how many of the Presidents have been portrayed having sex? The famous and/or recent ones, obviously. But is there actually Taft Porn out there? I'm at work and can't check.

RR Ryan said...

I don't know what this stuff is, other than dreadful. It's the kind of thing we laughed at in New York back in the eighties. I can't tell you how many conversations I endured while the artist explained her vision. Their bottom line: I hate Reagan. Really tedious, but amusing after a few drinks. These folks are easy to provoke, though because they tend to be thin skinned and humorless. Again, endless fun if one is in the mood.

TMink said...

Polly Jean wrote: "It's mildly interesting that her academic art world prose _de_humanizes and mythologizes her work as it seeks to humanize and demythologize historical authority figures."

I find well executed art much more interesting than poor art with attending blah blah blah. If the paintings do not work as paintings, they suck.

Trey

Palladian said...

"It's a pretty familiar style -- the opaque, overlit nude. Philip Pearlstein, Lucien Freud, and Erik Fischl all come to mind (admittedly at a much higher level of ability).

Not sure why it would be at all suprising that an art student would learn to paint in an imitative style."

This stuff looks nothing like Pearlstein, Freud or Fischl. Well, perhaps Fischl because he uses photographs as source material, but the difference is that he paints pictures of the photographs. She fiddles around with them a little in Photoshop and puts them up. As I said, the paintings themselves are not the point of this, so why bother doing them? The point of this is to get headlines, blog posts, commentary and the like, based on the subject matter and her God-awful writing.

There has never been a worse event in the history of writing than the advent of the "artist's statement".

But really, this whole episode is so blah. Boring idea, bad fake paintings, silly writing, tiresome pretend "transgression". It's hard for me to think about it too much. It's making me sleepy. It's too early for early 90s retro, especially while the world's falling apart.

Ann Althouse said...

I never meant to imply that the paintings deserved respect. To me, they look like the painted version of those awful "Joy of Sex" drawings.

I posted because I thought the idea and (especially) the description were incredible bullshit.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

Art critic Peter Schjeldahl once wrote of a particulary insufferable artist: "he gives bad art a bad name."

Later the artist thanked Schjeldahl for the memorable phrase: "it helped launch my career in europe."

I guess if Lai isn't photoshopping, she should be. She could be making even bullshittier bullshit.

section9 said...

Ann, please, to call this episode of galactic self-indulgence "bullshit" is to insult hot, steaming, turds all across the nation.

What did pieces of shit do to deserve to be compared with this, this.....SHIT!

What we need to find out was who wrote her grant request and who fucking approved it.

Jesus, a thought just occured to me. What about FDR? How'd she manage the wheelchair?

AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!

Speak like PYRATES!!!!

KULCHUR!!!!

max wood said...

According to her website, she's been producing these since 2006 (when she was 21, according to her CV) but just this month launched her website.

And unless she tricked her alma mater, Stanford, into playing along with her "fake paintings" trick back in 2007 (when it looks like she had about ten of the paintings done), they're real: http://www.stanford.edu/group/studentarts/cgi-bin/home/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=111&extmode=view&extid=437

Also, it wasn't hard to find this via Google: http://www.sindylee.com/2007/11/28/art-exhibit-sign-join-or-die/

Milbarge said...

Obviously, she's going to do a threesome with both Cleveland presidencies, right?

TMink said...

Palladian wrote: "There has never been a worse event in the history of writing than the advent of the "artist's statement"."

Right on brother.

In preparation for the CSN&Y unplugged episode, the director was going through the drill with the guys, explaining how they would talk about their songs, explain them, then perform then. Neil reportedly said "I don't need to talk about it. That is what I wrote the song for."

Trey

Ben said...

I have to confess, after looking at the samples on her website, I kind of like it. Some of the paintings are worse than others, and she seems to have chosen whether to represent each President as cartoonish or relatively realistic at random, but overall fairly clever and lightheartedly evocative.

Palladian said...

"lightheartedly evocative"

If ever there were a better euphemism for terrible sex and terrible painting, I haven't read it. Bravo!

Sheepman said...

But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

glebourd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R said...

'tis a pity some of you don't get "art" and just boil Ms. Lai's work down to "bullshit"

I'm very thankful I don't have your mediocre thinking.