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. This image that serves as the carrier for the heteronyms was made from a scan of a reproduction of iconic photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s 1923 work titled Spiritual America. This gesture of reproducing and appropriating work by Stieglitz is itself a gesture copied from appropriation artist Sherrie Levine who famously rephotographed and presented as her own famous images by Alfred Stieglitz from reproductions of his works.
A further link in this chain of art historical references is to the work of another iconic appropriation artist, Richard Prince, who appropriated not only the name of Evans’s gelding image but also the provocation of pairing this title with a picture of genitals—which in Prince’s case he applied 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.