You're in Good Hands

You're in Good Hands

Mixed Media 44" x 57" 1991

Text (paraphrased):


Paper glued down on canvas stretched over wood. Money ran out doing stretchers and I couldn't buy canvas. Working part-time time leaves time and energy for artwork, for living. I can survive and get by. I just built a darkroom.

With this piece I wanted to play a bit more with text. Earlier pieces were just one layer of images. Trying to break away from that in this one. Fracture the words a bit more so it doesn't come accross that easily. When you recognize what the slogan is, the lens comes into focus. When you understand the words, the irony comes across.

I tried using cliche images, easily recognizable. This is the RUC, occupied army in Northern Ireland, but it could just as easily be any police force. Initially I chose the red cross just because I like the color, but since then I've noticed the meaning that has come about. INS and RUC accidentally connects the INS here and RUC in Northern Ireland. Red Cross, WWII, Korea... I hadn't taken the next step that these guys are Nazis. The other underlying symbolisim, the nature of large institutions that offer protection or assurance, but what is it they are actually offering? What is the Red Cross actually offering? Like the Peace Corps. How is the Red Cross manipulated by US policy? But the main thing is police brutality. This was done after president of the Oberlin called the cops who brutally beat people, and then to save face put victims up on felony charges. I new very immediately what it felt like to be framed. I didn't do anything at the demonstration, neither did anyone else. Six people fought in court for 1-2 years, at a cost of $10,000.

This piece was a way of venting my anger and frustration. The demonstration was a broadly defined march against bigotry. In the months leading up to demonstration, there had been violent hate crimes, asian guy chased with baseball bats, latino guy getting death threats, gay guy with graffiti on his door. People got frustrated that nothing was happening. The demo ended up on the grass in front of the president's house, where the cops attacked.

There was a Philipino speaker, Steve, who had been involved in much activisim over the years, a thorn in the side of the administration. Steve was talking about his shitty experiences with financial aid and the administration. Cops gave some kind of incoherent order to disperse, that came accross as garbled static. Jumped on Steve and started choking him. To get to him they had to walk over people, and kicked and clubbed people out of the way. It got to be a melee. People clubbed here, choked there. Two guys and women dumped into police cars. Standoff for a few hours, eventually the women and guys were released. It was a big scandal, the president had called in the cops, it had never happened before that the administration called in the cops to break up a demonstration at Oberlin. Dozens of people went to police station to file complaints of brutality. Over 60 complaints were filed.

The administration's charges against the women were dropped. The six guys were charged. I had done work about political prisoners or police violence before then, but this was like a watershed. You may think you are immune, but the system will eat it's own children if necessary.

"If they come for you in the morning, they'll be coming for me later that night." James Baldwin said to Angela Davis. (The actual quote is:"Some of us white and black know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprescedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, were are worse than the murderers hired in our name. If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own - which it is - and render impassible with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night" - James Baldwin from "An Open Letter to my Sister, Angela Y Davis) That was the net effect of the police attack at Oberlin. They actually surrounded my house and tried to arrest me, I had to sneak out of there. Feeling viscerally the politics that had been more abstract due to the level of priviliege I have.