The Head of State


In front of the Richard McKey Studio in Fondren stood a recognizable form—President Barack Obama—until it wasn't anymore.

As long as there have been politics, there has been political art. From ancient times to modern, political art has found its place in society. Bansky—the unidentified but infamous graffiti artist—has tagged his political statements across England and other parts of the world making unequivocal statements with his drawings. Take, for example, his message in the Bristol Zoo: "I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring."

A Brooklyn man dubbed "Poster Boy," aka the "Matisse of the Subway," among city dwellers produces cut-and-paste posters that often express the frustrations of others who are never heard, much like the piece Poster Boy dedicated to Sean Bell, a New York man slain by plainclothes and undercover police officers.

And then there's Jackson's own Richard McKey. In front of McKey's studio on North State Street, an artistic rendering of President Barack Obama once stood, its wire frame wrapped with a tawny brown, slightly weathered material. But once, the head was life-like. Now, a few people have said it looks like a caricature in its current incarnation.

McKey says there isn't any symbolism or significance for changing the Obama head to its current, more cartoonish state. "If there is, I don't know what it is. I just wanted to change it. And to me, it's more of a mask. It's been put over his face. But I don't know. I'm not real sure what it means. I'm waiting for someone to explain it to me."

The artist goes on to say: "I don't interpret my art; I let other people interpret it for themselves. And sometimes I go along with their interpretation."

Artists have myriad responsibilities. Some of them report what's happening, some respond, and others inspire change. Still others, like McKey, simply obey their creativity and leave artistic interpretation up to their audiences. Whatever their intention, Theresa Bayer, a Texas artist known for her political caricatures, says artists cannot avoid being political.

"Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine," she says. "When we stop singing, it's a sure sign of repressive times ahead."

In these political times, there's plenty to sing about.

Previous Comments


After all, this is America; still. Or is It? Or better yet, has it ever been? Any way. Leaving the interpretation to others, I would say the art piece represents the fickleness of society. Kinda like a verse in the Sinatra song. And thinking of Nancy Sinatra, she always reminded me of southerness, in a strange sort of way. The verse, though in the Sinatra song, sings "riding high in April, shot down in May" - Now, that's what the song says. [Sort of a disclaimer in a retaliative responsive insurgent society. You know, say the wrong [or right] thing and you're before the proverbial fire-ing squad.] All, things considered though, from prominent "dream merchant,hope advocate and change agent to rascal" of the moment. The multi-hued monstrosity, declares what we already know. America eats its young & Kills its prophets. What's new!! Does not it also depict the rainbow discoloration of society that no-one really wants to deal with? You know, "doesn't matter if you're black white" the MJ song. I say the rainbow, discolorization, because the world of Governor Janet Brewer's society does not accept the brown, depicted in the bottom lip of an evident caricature. God Help Us All!!!!!!



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