Sculpture as Political Commentary

Rich Doty describes his work as visual commentary on the state of American life and politics. His work is like a good cartoon. He sculpts his commentaries in three dimensions, then he takes photos so those of us who can’t see the sculptures can still share the commentary and the laugh.

Rich Doty is a graphic artist who lives in Houston. I met him over 30 years ago when I lived there. He, his wife Sarah, an educator, and I were part of a young adult professionals group at a liberal mainline Protestant church. Every year since, I have looked for their Christmas card in the mail because it always made me laugh. Last year, he did a series of “Logos of the Season,” artfully designed. They included:

“Virgin Travel: Egyptian Get-Away Specials!”
“Roman Empire: Homeland Security, Messiah Division”
“Caspar, Mechior & Balthasar L.L.P.: Astronomical Forecast Modeling” and
“Expect a Miracle: The Yahweh Fertility Clinic.”

I was back in Houston at the end of September, and, when the three of us went to lunch, he showed me photos of his latest art work. I think Dog Canyon readers will get as much of a kick out of Rich’s work as I did that afternoon.

As an artist, he describes his work as visual commentary on the state of American life and politics, and “a million years ago” he studied at Texas Christian University to be a political cartoonist. Of the different direction Rich took, he says “I’m grateful for my job and it sucks,” which captures the paradox of working in corporate America today and the ironic tone of much of his art.

Though he went a different route, his work is like a good cartoon. He can capture a whole world of issues in one image. Unlike a cartoonist, he sculpts his commentaries in three dimensions, then he takes photos so those of us who can’t see the sculptures can still share the commentary and the laugh.

He got into sculpture when he went back for a Masters degree, following an urge to do something that was not commercial art: no standards, no customers, no compromise. His wife Sarah collaborates both as an inspiration for some of his ideas (like the one about education, below) and as a critical eye to whether or not they work.  After a short hiatus of a few years, he’s back at it and is working on a paranoid screen door.

A strong narrative line characterizes his sculptures and their ironic humor, and the title is key to the point. As Rich sends me photos, I’ll keep posting them here for the enjoyment of DC readers. I recommend not looking at them with a mouth full of coffee. You could hurt yourself choking while laughing.

When Cows Want to Sit
No Child Left Behind

Target, You Are Dead to Me

Target + Tom Emmer = love? Damn. Target, you’re dead to me.

Oh, how it hurts to write that. I dearly love Target. This is one big-box store that fits my budget and, I thought, my politics.

Like Costco (my other favorite store), Target has received a lot of my business over the years. One of the ways in which I assuage my guilt about favoring these businesses over local or independent ones is the fact that both companies donate substantially more money to liberal and Democratic causes than they do to conservative or Republican ones.

Apparently this is no longer so, at least in Target’s case. In the past week, the Internet is buzzing with the disturbing, dismaying, surprising fact that Target Stores has contributed over $150,000 to the innocuously named political action committee Minnesota Forward. This PAC exists for one purpose: to promote the candidacy of Tom Emmer for governor of Minnesota.

Here is a good rundown of Emmer’s destructive, idiotic, unconscionable, irrational, and far-right-wing opinions and causes. In short, he is fiercely anti-gay marriage, anti-women’s reproductive rights, and pro-Minnesota sovereignty — meaning, he wants Minnesota’s state constitution to block federal laws. (Wtf?)

As long as Target supports a candidate like that, I can’t support Target. I actually think this is going to be tough for me.

On the other hand, maybe this can be the nice, clean break that pushes me to put my money even more squarely where my politics are. I’ll purchase my cheap, cute clothes at local thrift stores (farewell to my favorite clothing designer Mossimo, hello Room Service and Blue Velvet), my affordable cosmetics at Wheatsville (both local and independent) or HEB (hey, at least they’re local), and my toys for children’s birthday parties at Terra Toys or Toy Joy (both local, independent, and fabulous). And — whew — as far as I know, Costco’s still good for bulk TP, organic dairy products, and bags o’ chicken boobs. It’s a relief to know some things are still sacred…for now.

The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights”

Today, June 10, marks a landmark in reproductive rights and women’s sexual independence — the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Pill. Somewhat embarrassingly, my perspective of reproductive rights has always been largely self-centered, stemming from my own reproductive needs of the moment. From when I became sexually active until I became pregnant with my son, that was the need to avoid pregnancy.

A longtime committed proponent of access to sexual education and contraception, I view the abortion issue rather simplistically: Like it or not, abortions are going to happen; therefore, they must be kept safe and legal. My likely romanticized image of the sexual revolution of the 1960s is one of women finally being able to explore their sexuality without fear of pregnancy. For much of my life, these ideas and goals were things I believed in largely because they dovetailed so seamlessly with my own interests.

Only when my reproductive needs changed did my narrow-minded perspective broaden a bit. This is probably utterly obvious to everyone else, but I did not realize until my pregnancy and the birth of my son that reproductive rights include the right to choose not only whether to reproduce, but also how to reproduce.
Continue reading “The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights””

Habeas Coyote Corpus

elmer_fudd11“The more ignorant you are, the quicker you fight.” – Will Rogers

The governor of Texas is a weinie.  I can’t reach any other conclusion after reading the report about him shooting a coyote that threatened his daughter’s puppy.  Rick Perry said that he was jogging on a hill country trail near where he lives in a rented home and the animal came out and threatened his little dawgie.  Governor Gun pulled out a Ruger and sent the coyote to the big lonesome and empty prairie coyotes go to when governors gun them down.

But I’ve got some questions, your governorship.

First, I can say I’ve run thousands of miles on trails in Texas and I have never once thought of carrying a gun.  Well, yeah, a squirt gun.  I used to have a Doberman that came after me on a dirt road and I solved that by mixing some ammonia into water and putting it into a little squirt gun.  Got the big dog in the eyeballs next time he came barking after me and when he saw me pass by a few days later he ran away more like a chicken than a dog.  No shot fired in anger.

Perry said he carried the gun because he was afraid of snakes and that a number of people living in that area have lost pets to wild animals.  Well, Governor Gun, that’s the way nature is ordered.  Big fish eat little fish.  Wild animal eat domestic animal.  You don’t want your cat turned into a coyote hairball, keep it in the house.  But afraid of snakes and you carry a gun?  I don’t know any trail runner under the Lone Star sky that hasn’t come across a rattler or seven.  And not one of them ever said, “Hey, I think I’ll carry a gun and kill rattlers the next time.”  Unless you surprise a rattler, it’s going to slither away real danged fast.  And governor, I’ve seen you run; you aren’t going to surprise a snake or a turtle.

Perry's nightmare - a 9' 1" rattler found near Tow, Texas this spring
Perry's nightmare - a 9' 1" rattler found near Tow, Texas this spring

Too much of yer yarn just doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.  Whenever I see you plodding around Lady Bird Lake, you generally have two DPS guys, but always at least one trailing you. Sometimes they run.  Often they are on bikes.  And they have guns.  What the hell do you need a gun on a running trail for when you’ve got, according to the AP story, two DPS security guys running with you?  Three guns and one coyote?  That’s just not an honorable way to handle these things governor, and not the way we do it in Texas.

more at the jump…. Continue reading “Habeas Coyote Corpus”

Politics is a Funny Game

Umpire_BTo paraphrase something Joe Garagiola once said about baseball, politics is a funny game. It happens that I read, or looked at, Garagiola’s book, Baseball is a Funny Game, when I was eight years old and on my first ever trip to Austin, a trip that included lunch at the Austin Club and an overnight at the Driskill Hotel. My older brother and I spent most of our time playing on the hotel elevators while my father met with the lobbyists for his small trucking company. Years later I discovered that sneaking around the hotel was an adult game in Austin, too.

Politics and baseball are funny games for many of the same reasons. Things go hilariously (or tragically) wrong, as fallible humans sport in public. Case in point. There’s an old story about a guy stealing second base. The catcher’s throw beats him, but the shortstop drops the ball. As the runner slides into the bag, he picks the ball up with his hand. “You’re out!” cries the umpire. “Out?” shouts the runner. “He dropped the ball. Look, it’s in my hand.” “In that case,” the umpire smirked, “you tagged yourself out.” I think that was the precise legal logic of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 in the Bush v. Gore case.

Other commonality: In politics, as in baseball, the umpires are usually blind, a circumstance denied in both spheres. As far as baseball umpires go, there’s no need to elaborate on the obvious. In politics, though, it’s easy to forget that most of the calls are made blindly. At the very least, political umpires are often out of position. They can’t see the play, so they guess.

Continue reading “Politics is a Funny Game”