Presidential candidate Ben Carson is in black face. A red smile frames his white teeth, and an overall friendliness exudes from the man in the rumpled suit and bowtie. The straight-out-of-a-minstrel-show portrait by Las Vegas artist Lance Smith represents the irony he sees in a black Republican, and the idea of a “safe” African American in a fervently divided country where fear leads to shootings, protests and fluid definitions of justice.
Carson is one of many political faces in Mug Shots, a Diane Bush-curated satirical art project launching this week at Brett Wesley Gallery in which Bush invited artists to exercise their freedom of speech by lampooning and supporting candidates and ideas amid “election-year media bombardment.” The group show features a collection of diverse works by 10 artists. Images of Hillary Clinton are defaced old-school (ink beard and mustache of crocheted yarn). Bernie Sanders secures his place in American history with a megaphone and microphone in a large oil-on-canvas work, and an arrogant Donald Trump is featured on artist-designed collectible mugs along with the quote, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
Amid patriotic bunting, the humorous and serious works capture the circus of the American election season and its players, while tapping into overriding concerns from the divided electorate.
Las Vegas artists include Susanne Forestieri, Sarah Lee Marks and Strych9. Blair Baskin, Brian Duffy, Jerry Ross and Timothy Hutto and Ellen Furstner live in other cities on the East and West coasts. This exhibit is the first of a series of pop-up shows in the project that Bush has titled "Dishing it Out 2016."
Mug Shots Through February 20; opening reception January 21, 6-9 p.m. Brett Wesley Gallery, 1025 S. First Street #150, 702-483-8844.