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“Patriotic Descent” Brings

Dissent To Miami, Arizona

Collage of some of the featured works that are part of the "Patriotic Descent" art show.
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"For Sale," by Ashley Casey.
"New World Order," by Brian Harrison.
"McShit," by Martin Truther King.
Sidewalk art by Peggy Plews and others that support her views.
After A Successful Run At The Firehouse, An Art Show Examining The State Of American Patriotism Moves To The Miami Art House

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 10, 2012 — Revolution and art go together like Mitt Romney and tax evasion, or Barack Obama and predator drones: You just don’t get one without the other. So the members of Phoenix’s Firehouse Gallery, 1015 N. 1st Street, took the logical step and merged the two for this summer’s “Patriotic Descent” art show.

“The idea of the name was the play on words, of course,” said Brian Harrison the curator of the show, “which was kind of fun because of how many people sent us upset emails that we were misusing the word or that we didn’t know what we were doing.”

Harrison came up with the idea for the show at a Firehouse Gallery members meeting and the members decided summer time would be the best time for an art show focusing on  show.

“Considering July fourth and all the patriotism surrounding that we thought it might be time to express some of the revolutionary ideas that are coming out of the community,” said Harrison.

The art show, which, according to Harrison, features at least five first-time artists, is a collection of paintings, protest photos and artifacts, as well as drawings from both first-timers and veteran artists.

The subject matter was so powerful and the collection of debuting and established artists was so impressive, that The Firehouse is moving the show to its sister gallery, the Miami Art House, 509 Sullivan Street in Miami Arizona. The opening will be held Saturday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m.

“I saw it as a form of protest,” said photographer Jennifer Michelson who is among those who are showing for the first time.  “It was just another way to get the message of revolution out creatively.”

Also among the first timers are Ashley Casey, who hung an interesting picture of an American flag made of barcode numbers and lines called “For Sale.” Martin “Truther” King hung five paintings including  “McShit” a Ronald McDonald defecating into a McDonald’s food container and serving it to Mickey d’s customers.

“I don’t think any show has that many brand new artists or people who have never viewed themselves as artists before,” said Kristy Theilen a veteran artist and member of the Firehouse Gallery. “Because it’s so relevant to what’s going on right now and people are so apt to want to put their message out everywhere. It was definitely because of the theme of the show that there were so many new artists.”

Theilen is no stranger to expressing her political opinion through art. One of her more well-known paintings — which hangs in the back room of the Firehouse and depicts Shiva dancing with the decapitated head of a police officer — got even more extreme for this show. Her entry called “S.N.A.F.U.”, which Harrison admitted was his favorite, used an upside down American flag as a canvas to show the imagery of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

“I started with just wanting to be able to use this flag to represent what the U.S. really is, and for me, the initial genocide of the people who lived here before these European colonizers came here is very significant about how this country is, and how it treats the people who live here and how it treats other countries,” she said.  “It’s very important that we don’t forget that battle at Wounded Knee when a bunch of white guys, soldiers, just shot a bunch of people who were dancing to keep the world they had created.”

“We are bringing a message forward,” said Harrison. “Like the story of wounded knee so much of it is told from the male, patriarchal, Judeo-Christian point of view, ‘they were savages they were doing wrong things so we had to shoot them’ so the idea is that we should do artwork to show they were human beings.”

Harrison believes this show had to hang at an independent art house because, “anything commercial might be afraid to try something like a giant upside down flag painted with Wounded Knee imagery.”

Theilen agrees.

“There were a lot of places that were afraid to even put ‘I don’t support SB 1070’ signs in the windows cause people think they will lose business if they have any opinions at all,” she said.

The show didn’t just stay within the walls of the gallery either for the shows June 8 Firehouse opening, award winning sidewalk chalk artist Peggy Plews made a mural for those who lost their lives within America’s prison system called “SOS from Arizona’s other death row,” and had guests of the gallery and artists alike write in the names of the fallen.

Jeff Moses is a freelance writer and photographer from Teaneck, N.J. and is currently living in Mesa, Ariz. He has been published in The Mesa Legend, OccupyUprising.org and The Highway Herald. Contact him by calling 727-385-0624.
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