Two Comparisons via Diorama-Like Assemblages
Only seventeen years old, and one Charlestown, Rhode Island, high school student already has the contemporary “no thought required” art world all figured out:
Jeffrey Eden devised his award-winning project less than 30 minutes after his high school art teacher asked him to express a thought or two in a three-dimensional way. …
The student’s diorama-like assemblage juxtaposes Hitler quotes with statements by Mr. Bush, Nazi swastikas with American flags, desert-colored toy soldiers with olive plastic figures. And so on.
He’s got the Rhode Island education establishment figured out, too. Apart from an A from Lynn Norton, his teacher, Eden took home a “silver key” at the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards, and the work, “Bush/Hitler and How History Repeats Itself,” is on display at the Seekonk, Massachusetts, Alperts Furniture Showplace. And to cap it all off, he’s gotten art-world manna: publicity.
The man who “phoned TV stations and newspapers to complain about a high school student’s art project” has gotten publicity, too. The Providence Journal begins its follow-up article by reporting that a “few of Paul Lewis’ friends called him an ‘angry Republican’ yesterday.” By way of contrast, the grownups who’ve pushed young master Eden into the spotlight haven’t anything to say — teaching our state’s youth another important lesson about the liberal strongholds of education and art:
Leaders of the art association refuse to identify the three judges who picked the project entered by Jeffrey Eden, a junior at Chariho Regional High School, to be one of the winners in the three-dimensional category.
Mary Wayland, who chaired the awards committee, and Christine Mullen, a teacher at Mt. Hope High School and president of the Rhode Island Art Education Association, say they want judges to have the freedom to make decisions without worrying about a public outcry.
No explanation of opinions is required. Standing up for principle isn’t the job of the fifteen “teachers and professional artists.” Even Ms. Norton doesn’t step forward to edify the public about the work’s merits — or defend the A that she gave it. Instead, the initial article saved that space for Jeff Eden to illustrate his further mastery of the artist’s empty-nuance dodge:
He thinks they show that the work is comparing Hitler and President Bush — not equating them.
“I felt I was clear about what I was trying to get across,” he said. “I believe those who misconstrued the artwork didn’t take the time to really read into it.”
Those who do take the time to do some reading would discover the following:
To the right of President Bush, Eden’s handwriting said “No justification” and “Saddam had no affiliation with the Taliban and there are no weapons of mass destruction.”
We can only speculate that the fact that nobody has ever cared whether Saddam was affiliated with the Taliban was the reason Ms. Norton withheld the “+” from the grade. Or perhaps the artwork is brilliant after all… if its point is that one needn’t be concerned with facts while making facile “comparisons” of the sitting President of the United States to one of the greatest monsters of the twentieth century.
Either way, there are at least sixteen adults who would be well served by the multipart educational supplement that Rocco DiPippo suggests for the seventeen year old. Perhaps during the “hour of post-liberation death camp videos showing the bodies of Hitler’s victims being bulldozed into mass graves” one of the professional artists could contrive a “diorama-like assemblage” comparing bitter New England liberals with Iraqis dancing in the street and crying for joy at the opportunity to vote.
Of course, the desire of the former to secure the “freedom to make decisions without worrying about a public outcry” has meant that one side of the juxtaposition would be faceless. Luckily, the other side would have plenty of pictures, even though they were provided at the risk of their subjects’ losing the freedom not to be decapitated.