I’ve been told that Governor Shumlin’s wife is a fan of this blog. Oh well, let’s alienate another regular…
Apparently when you’re married to the governor, you get to use his ceremonial office as a sounding board for your pique.
That’s the lesson I drew from Katie Hunt’s art installation, on display in hubby’s ceremonial office at the Statehouse. There are two works, each comprised of a set of papier mache figures. And it’s hard not to see them as Hunt’s own personal Festivus celebration with the Vermont media as the recipient of her Airing of Grievances.
Deets, and pictures, after the jump.
The first tableau, entitled “Judgment Day”: A cow on its hind legs, which are bowed outward to give full display to its bright pink udder, is facing three seated bovines with menacing expressions and bared, jagged teeth. The standing cow is reportedly Ms. Hunt herself — either that, or a sub rosa endorsement of Sue Minter. The “demon cows” represent the media. Their ID tags, respectively, say “Dairy Free Press,” “Bovine Days,” and “cowpiedigger.org.”
Hahaha, that’s… almost funny.
Sorry, TV reporters and Vermont Press Bureau. You are apparently not beastworthy.
The other installation includes two figures: a standing peacock holding a long gun and a disemboweled cow lying dead on the ground. This one is entitled “P-cock went hunting.” “P-cock” refers to Peter Shumlin. (I hope to God it’s not also her pet name for the governor.)
But it begs the question. If reporters are portrayed as angry, demonic cows in one tableau, and Governor P-cock has just killed a cow in the other, then, well, should our media try to avoid Shumlin’s East Montpelier manse during hunting season?
Perhaps this was all meant as lighthearted satire, but it struck me as sour, bitter, and vengeful. And I wonder about the appropriateness of the setting: this is tourist season at the Statehouse, and there’s a steady parade of visitors wanting a glimpse of the ceremonial office. For most of them, the installation must be a puzzling distraction. It’s certainly out of character with the room, which is full of antique furniture and portraits of Dead White Governors. The artist is identified as “Katie Hunt,” but there’s no mention of her marital connection to the office’s official occupant.
And there’s a dissonance between the tenor of the work and the pretentious, wordy Artist’s Statement on view (pictured nearby). She claims Bread and Puppet Theater as inspiration, and posits her work as “satirical critique of events in my life, specifically when groups of people exercise authority and power.”
Problem #1. It’s not the media who are “exercis[ing] authority and power” in that setting. It’s the Governor and his officials. The ceremonial office is the embodiment of the pomp and power of its occupant. The media do not possess the authority or the power. They might be annoying, but they are (to quote a baseball player whose name I do not recall) “flies at the show.” So the theoretical framing of the piece is off kilter —unless you live your life on the “authority” side of the media/authority divide.
Problem #2. I sincerely doubt that Bread and Puppet Theater would accept this construct. From my knowledge of their work, they would be likely to portray the government officials as demon beasts. The media would be depicted as irrelevant or clueless — or possibly as David figures battling a governmental Goliath.
My visit left me a bit unsettled. And, honestly, wondering how this all came about. The only explanation I can come up with is that the artist is married to the governor. Doesn’t that strike you as, well, a bit off?