heteronyms (Spiritual America), 2016
Diptych, archival inkjet prints on paper
44” x 54” each
heteronyms (Spiritual America) takes the dual meanings of the word “appropriate” and represents them side by side, as knock-out texts presented on top of an image of a gelded horse’s groin. The image comes from a thumbnail of Alfred Stieglitz’s 1923 work Spiritual America, scanned from a photography book and enlarged to make the depicted horse life-size.
This gesture of rephotographing Spiritual America is itself a link in an art-historical chain to Richard Prince, who appropriated Steiglitz’s title and applying it to his appropriation of a famously disturbing and controversial image of Brooke Shields as a child, posed seductively and nude. My print diptych therefore operates as an art historical palimpsest, commenting alternately on: the relative appropriateness of depicting a castrated horse’s groin, or a child’s troubled nakedness; on the cascading legal battles and cultural and critical re-assessments that the artistic practice of appropriation has triggered; and, finally, on the indictment of American culture and politics inherent in the “Spiritual America” title being applied to these images, then as now.