Just to prove the wisdom of the old adage ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same,’ I ran across some photos from an art show I had in Seattle back in 1995.
The show was entitled “Pan Man: the Right Icon?” and featured a group of vaguely male-looking plaster casts covered in decorative bead work. Each of the 10 figures was graced with a large penis made from a variety of found objects ranging from pieces of rusted metal to a strange looking wood-working tool. The figures were inspired by a cartoon I did during the 1994 US midterm elections when Newt Gingrich and his fellow Republicans took control of Congress.
In the cartoon, a politician speaks through his penis–perhaps the ultimate symbol of male domination–a fitting artifice since it’s my belief that the machismo expelled by men in positions of power is merely a lot of dick-waving in the air. You know, the ‘mine is bigger than yours syndrome’ that’s so prevalent these days in Washington, DC and a number of other national capitals.
The Pan Man series was based on the idea that the deeds done by men in positions of power are (often) inherently selfish and evil. They were meant to represent not only politicians but all men who abuse their positions of trust and power.
The current list of Pan Man impersonators would have to include (but is not limited to):
Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moro
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
and…drum roll here…US President Donald Trump
Life can seem so absurd at times that words fail to convey our feelings and we must resort to using visual elements to make a point. I was compelled to adopt a visual approach then and it still seems relevant.
As I said at the beginning, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Now, almost 24 years later, it’s up to each of us to ensure that men who abuse their power are held accountable for their deeds.