Portfolio > Tyrants

The Tyrants series probes the maze of narcissistic mandates that despots have inflicted on their people—from the self-aggrandizing autobiography that was legally required reading for Turkmen during the mad reign of His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov; to the addiction of marrying teenagers participating in the bare-breasted annual Reed Dance, from which Swaziland’s King Mswati III has chosen thirteen of his fifteen wives; past the grandiose building projects, as overblown as they were unnecessary, of Nicolai Ceausescu, who bankrupted Romania; and the monarchy of supernatural fear and private militia terror presided over by Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Tyrants portrays these leaders as both heroes and cowards, concurrently imposing and hollow, like the statues that coerce their personality cult. These works are self portraits by the artist, who asks the viewer, “What would you do if you possessed unlimited power?” He has asked himself this question and become ashamed at the answer. Therefore, embodying these despots is a form of playing dress-up—as done by the dictators themselves who, with their self-awarded medals and assumed majestic titles, ascend from deluded fabulist to lethal autocrat—and an anchor of humility.

Don't Get Up
Digital Print
Variable
2000
Don't Mention It
Digital Print
Variable
2001
I Give You My Word
Digital Print
Variable
2001
Fire in His Wake (Mobutu)
mixed
24" x 24"
2015
It's My Pleasure
Digital Print
Variable
2002
Papa Doc (Self portrait as)
colored pencil on paper
24" x 18"
2016
Perish the Thought
Digital Print
Variable
2004
King Mswati III of Swaziland
wax pencil on canvas
30" x 22"
2012
You Flatter Me
Digital Print
Variable
2004
President for Life
mixed
40" x 40"
2010
Your Pain is Mine
Digital Print
Variable
2006
Mobutu
Acrylic on Paper
30" x 22"
2010
Think Nothing of It
Digital Print
Variable
2006
Omar al Bashir
wax pencil on canvas
30" x 22"
2011
Bokassa
was pencil on canvas
30" x 22"
2010
Gaddafi
was pencil on canvas
30" x 22"
2014
Charles Taylor
was pencil on canvas
30" x 22"
2012