Arturo Ugalde: Orlando based gay/queer performer, comedy and burlesque writer. One of his more recent (and relevant to the current topic) works include Polylust: Burlesque Queering History.
Vanessa Barros Andrade: Orlando based artist, curator and now writer for Artborne Magazine. One of her more recent and relevant works include a series of terribly drawn anime characters in neon pink gel pen on non-archival newsprint.
Act 1 Scene 1
Vanessa and Arturo walk up to The Gallery and immediately read the following didactic/press coverage of the solo exhibition before observing the work.
“The first time that I remember seeing Scheidly’s work it was through an Inglourious Basterds-inspired contribution to Spoke Art‘s initial Quentin Vs Coen themed art show, held at NYC‘s Bold Hype gallery in 2011. That piece, which featured an image of Hitler dressed entirely in a wild berry color scheme, instantly caught people’s attention and gained some traction as it popped up on various sites across the internet. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more controversial figure than Adolf, but by dressing such a notoriously brutal figure in soft pastels of lavender and carnation pink, the painter toyed with the way that viewers processed his imagery, crafting and presenting much more than a one-dimensional figure for shock value. What happens when the symbolism tied to the subject matter is at odds with the symbolism engrained in its color palette? Clearly, any image of Adolf Hitler is going to inherently set off a few emotional triggers, simply based on what the subject symbolizes historically, but part of the power that Scheidly‘s work possesses stems from a muting of power, or perhaps, simply a redistribution of it. In other words, some of the shock that it generates is from a lack of shock. While some might appreciate the implied weakening of such a menacing figure, others question the choice to soften the public image of such a tyrant and view it to be a potentially dangerous decision. The artist’s “gay Hitler” was nothing short of hilarious to many who despise all that the German leader represented–it was taking him down a notch, if you will–and I’m sure that any militant, Aryan, white supremacist youth that saw it didn’t appreciate some “pussy artist that doesn’t know shit, trying to make der Führer look like a fucking cock-biting queer!” Then there’s the larger question beyond all of this and that’s why/how homosexuality equals a lack of masculinity. And the question that looms even larger than that is why using a different color palette insinuates homosexuality, or a supposed weakness in the first place.”
Startled and confused by this statement both characters step into the gallery where they first see a painting called “Emo Hitler”
Act 1 Scene 2
Vanessa: Who wrote that? Why are they insinuating these things about the subjects used in the paintings? “Gay Hitler?” I don’t see a “gay” Hitler here…
Arturo: The questions that were being asked in the statement… “Why does associating Hitler with homosexuality make him powerless?” “Why does this color scheme rob them of their power?” That’s all old new to people like me, to the queer community and to women.
Vanessa: Yeah, I can tell you exactly why there’s an “implied weakness” or a “muting of power” in these images with knowledge from experience alone.
Arturo: It’s associated with homosexuality and yes, with being a women, and also with infantilization and feminization. These paintings are coming across as offensive.
Vanessa: How would that statement not be offensive to anyone else? It feels like it was done naively. That statement is so offensive, I really don’t think he could’ve made these paintings with that intention.
Arturo: I just noticed all of the icons are very masculine presenting. There are presidents, and even the fictional characters… Boba Fett is an assassin.
staring at a painting of Obama dressed as a pimp and Kim Jong II in lavender heart sunglasses.
Vanessa: These are all paintings of men.
Arturo: Is that Obama dressed as a pimp?!
Vanessa walks over to a painting of Putin dressed in purple and immediately start asking 21 questions in what seems like pure confusion
Vanessa: I would honestly wear this Care Bear Putin look? This isn’t a joke to me.
Arturo: The artist is taking these masculine and powerful figures and dressing them in pink and asking us “why is your perspective changing? why is this picture so funny” but the thing is, it’s not a joke to me either.
Vanessa: So I’d want to ask, if you’re using color theory to change perspective. What do these specific colors, used in this way, say? What do the colors pink and purple insinuate? I wanna understand what the perspective is and what these colors mean in our society. I have a few ideas.
Arturo: Pinks are silly, right?! Because they’re feminine and gay. We can mock murders and dictators by using these colors.
Vanessa: Is this a mockery? Is he mocking these figures? I’m really trying to break this down here. Could he be trying to make them more likeable? What is the intention? There is some connotation of hate here. Hitler, Trump, Jong II are all figures that are despised.
Arturo: His hate manifests in what feels like an anti-women and anti-gay way. Why would dressing up an evil or masculine figure in pink be a way of mocking them?
Vanessa: I’m trying to understand why this juxtaposition of evil or masculine and pink would be important or what is it trying to say.
Arturo: if you are consciously infantilizing Kim Jong II, what is the goal? Why would pink take away someone’s power?
There’s a few paintings of weaponry that immediately catches their attention
Vanessa: There’s a Hello Kitty face on a gun.
Arturo: I don’t understand the direction.
Vanessa: I’m trying to take something positive out of this with me, but there is nothing happening thematically here that makes any of this positive.
Arturo: We are looking at masculine subjects and violent objects painted in pink. This feels like it is also linking masculinity to power.
Vanessa: The artist is, to me, I wanna say unintentionally, perpetuating all of these oppressing ideals.
Arturo: Like the idea of colors being gendered…
Darth Maul comes up in a painting towards the end of the room
Vanessa: It’s not just the colors, the cartoon characters that keep showing up throughout the series, he uses Strawberry Shortcake and then symbols like hearts and flowers. Does Darth Maul have flowers coming out of his horns? Did I forget that?
Arturo: ….no… You can take someone’s power away by making it hard to view them as masculine and that is what is being done by using all of this imagery. It doesn’t only read as a hatred towards the subject, it’s also reading as hatred of how the subject is presented.
Vanessa: If it were to read as, the artist hating the subject, it would also mean, he hates the color pink and what it represents.
Arturo: The subject is being attack with the color pink. It’s homophobia. It’s strange because it seems unintentional but it is so blatant.
Vanessa: It feels like he’s feminising male subjects as an attack.
Arturo: What are other people doing? Are they laughing? It sucks because I honestly think it’s aesthetically pleasing. I would love a pink frame with a picture of a pink boba fett.
Vanessa: If it wasn’t an unintentional attack against women, I would love some of these paintings too. I’d definitely wear some of these looks. It’s the Boba Fett next to Trump and next to Hitler that makes it an attack.
Arturo: It’s not for us but it is about us and that’s what makes it insidious. They’re playing into homophobia.
Vanessa: It is also perpetuating sexism.
Arturo: Calling a man, a little girl is a trope.
Both characters leave The Gallery and immediately tweet all of their thoughts.