Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. - Noel Langley, spoken by Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1939
The Assassination of Judy Garland - A Metaphorical Portrait of America - Part 1 is a personal reflection on American political mythologies. Why? Because for better or worse, America is at the epicentre of seismic shifts in what we describe as 'normal' today. However, I didn't take a particularly normal route to understand this subject.
I used the life of actor/singer Judy Garland (1922-69) - the narrative arc of her life - as a metaphor for what is happening in American political life. I then drew analogies with French medieval epic poetry - the chansons de geste - as a metaphor for the American political narrative's propagandist elements which are not unlike the Middle Ages when chansons de geste described the Christian/Islamic conflict of the Crusades. I wove these three disparet threads together using a queer lens to acknowledge the margins on the global stage with iconic Hollywood and Broadway musicals. But what's normal anyway?
It continues the story from my 2006 exhibition Sedition and Other Bedtime Stories which documented my early journey through this queer post-9/11 world.
The paintings fuse surrealism with images inspired by contemporary urban environments; including street art, old subway posters and 60s airport paperbacks. Most are acrylic paint on stretched canvas, some using cut stencils and other photo stencils. I alternated between the use of spray cans and screen prints adding 22k gold leaf where needed.
As freedom of expression has become both suppressed, and distorted, I realised that to assassinate the creative spirit within a nation - any nation - is a tragedy of epic proportion. And the war on terror is an assassination of that creative spirit represented by the best of America in Judy Garland. Judy was a conflicted, flawed, unconscious genius. Over 4 years I learned 2 uplifting truths beginning with the word 'never'. Firstly, our queer cultural history was never about soft power; and it stands equally with established political theory today. And secondly, Judy Garland's life proves that evil can assassinate our body, (both physical and political) but it can never destroy the creative spirit that resides within it. Like Judy, our demons are forever with us. But Judy never let that stop her from seeing the truth or giving her best to her audience.