Monday, March 26, 2007

Joel Peter Witkin Imagines Bush's "Ship of Fools"

"The Raft of George W. Bush" © Joel Peter Witkin, 2007

by David Schonauer @

The art world has come to expect any number of grotesqueries in the work of Joel Peter Witkin. The Albuquerque-based fine-art photographer built his reputation with images containing cadavers, hermaphrodites, and various human and animal organs, all of which, somehow, were transformed into profoundly beautiful (if shocking) compositions. So the Witkin image here may come as a kind of revelation. As far as we know, this is the first time it’s been seen in the United States. I present the image with a warning, however: Supporters of George W. Bush may want to look away. Witkin’s image is one-sided and ruthless in its sarcasm. But, while Tony Snow might disagree, we think it is brilliant political allegory. It’s also informed by art history, so perhaps it’s not as much of a departure for Witkin as one might think.


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