As Forward Theater Company gets ready to open 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, it also prepares to unveil a multi-media art exhibit that will run in conjunction with the play. Highlighting work from 48 local artists, FTC’s “44 Presidents by 44+ Artists” will kick off on September 8 in the Playhouse Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts.
The artwork will feature interpretations in various mediums, including photography, painting, print making, paper and collage, fiber art, computer/graphic art. FTC’s Artistic Director, Jennifer Uphoff Gray, and Communications Director, Gwen Rice, both feel the collaboration was a great success. The exhibit will run at the Overture space from September 8 through the end of October, and will move to the Sundance Cinemas Gallery to run from November through January (election to inauguration).
And because FTC is so amazing… they’ve agreed to let us share a sneak peek of some of the amazing work with you!
Chester A. Arthur
Artists’s Statement: Chester A. Arthur’s administration marks a period of transition in American politics. The era was characterized by civil service reform, which would eventually weaken the grip of traditional ethnic and party loyalties. Despite having advanced in his career through managing the New York political machine, Arthur showed tremendous flexibility and a willingness to embrace reform. By ignoring outside political influences and focusing on what the country needed, he isolated himself. It is because of this isolation that I have chosen to portray him as an island. He stands as an important transitional figure in the reunification of the nation after the bitter turmoil of the Civil War and Reconstruction. “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired … more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”
Artists’s Statement: Grover Cleveland has proved to be an exciting subject for me to explore. I’m not a portrait painter, so this took me out of my comfort zone right from the start. Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms; hence the two Grovers shown. During his second term he faced a nationwide fiscal crisis that his steady approach was ill-suited to weather. Adversity informed his character, and this was an immensely difficult time for him; I have shown the shadow planes of his face in scarlet. I have tried to portray the man that my research began to shape: solid, conventional, sturdy, with an uncompromising attitude toward corruption on any level. He successfully fought Tammany Hall at a time when it took great courage to do so. I’ve indicated a shade tree in the background, separating the two faces of his terms in office and providing a metaphor for his strength and resolution.
Warren G. Harding
Artist’s Statement: Many historians rank Warren Harding as one of the worst presidents ever. His ineptitude is summed up by his own words: “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” In my painting I focused on Harding’s most infamous feat, which was the Teapot Dome Scandal. The scandal is named after a federal oil holding in Teapot, Wyoming, where Harding’s Secretary of the Interior allowed cronies to tap into government oil reserves for modest bribes. During his short presidency (1921 to 1923), Harding also busied himself with golf, poker, alcohol, cigars, and a mistress. He had difficulty making decisions on almost everything. Harding died in office. Though the cause is still a mystery, many have suggested stress as the likely culprit.
Artist’s Statement: This bold and complex piece emphasizes those same qualities of our 42nd president, Bill Clinton ‑ a man of great strengths and great weaknesses. An “unfinished” portion of the piece represents this president and his wife’s unfulfilled attempt to bring healthcare reform to our country. The colors signify a man whose connection with the middle and lower-income person is his particular brand of patriotism.
When you view “The Comeback Kid” I hope you will join me, no matter your political bent, in considering the humanity behind Bill Clinton and the enormous energy he gave to his presidency.
Forward Theater Company’s production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents will run September 20 – October 7, 2012 at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI.
You can find more information on the theatre, the art exhibit, or how to purchase tickets via their website!