CURT LEMIEUX "PRESIDENTIAL PORTRAITS"
SEPTEMBER 29 - OCTOBER 20
There is something very soothing about flipping through the pages of The Golden Home and High School Encyclopedia. Originally printed in 1961 and designed for frequent use, the paper is thick and durable and the volumes are rich with illustrations on a variety of subjects. Throughout the set are entries on each President of the United States of America beginning with George Washington and ending with John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Each entry includes a crudely printed reproduction of a presidential portrait originally rendered in oil paint. Richard Nixon also appears, via a black and white photograph, as a smiling young politician who had served as a senator and vice-president at the time of publication. The format for the work in this series is the actual encyclopedia page itself with the presidential portraits serving as foundational imagery. Enamel paint is applied directly to the page and built up layer by layer. The face of each individual remains untreated and isolated amidst a field of color and graphic details.
The guiding principle behind my process is the idea that, as the artist, I attempt to embody the mindset of a high school student while I am painting and drawing. My goal is to become like a half-awake adolescent who sits at his desk doodling while the history teacher delivers a lesson on a given president. The kid hears only a small portion of content with random thoughts and facts ending up on paper as stylized text and drawings. Chester A. Arthur is depicted as a mermaid. A distorted Richard Nixon displays his signature double-handed peace sign and James Monroe is shown with two women in black face. The likeness of Grover Cleveland appears sunken by candy red enamel and a giant blue ball hovers over his head. Many of the presidents wear wigs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt shares a composition with Andrew Johnson - Johnson in a yellow wig and Roosevelt in a giant blue wig shaped like a papal hat.