Kathy Griffin and artistic expressions of violence | Arkansas Blog

Kathy Griffin and artistic expressions of violence

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Comedian Kathy Griffin has been roundly denounced in a bipartisan chorus for displaying on Twitter a Tyler Shields depiction of the bloody severed head of Donald Trump. She removed the image, but it lives on thanks to the web and TMZ, which originally dug it up.

She's now been fired by CNN, lost a major sponsorship and several gigs and also apologized, though it hasn't stopped continuing condemnations, including from Donald Trump himself.

Vox steps in with some context. Griffin had said she intended no violence, only to mock Trump, particularly his infamous remark bout menstrual blood flowing from Megyn Kelly. It observed:

This isn’t the first time the suggestion of violence against a US president has been used as an artistic statement — it isn’t even the first time this presidency.

For example, in 2012, the first season of Game of Thrones featured a scene in which a prosthetic model of former President George W. Bush’s head could be seen impaled on a pike in the background of a shot. The showrunners claimed it was an accident devoid of political meaning, and HBO distanced itself from the action.

That same year, conservative provocateur Glenn Beck submerged a bobblehead doll of President Barack Obama in a jar of urine as a way of mocking politicized art. (Beck was responding to another famous piece that featured a crucifix in urine.) And most recently, rapper Snoop Dogg provoked a media cycle’s worth of controversy — and the ire of the sitting president — after filming a video in which he assassinates a clown stand-in for Trump.

The violent nature of the Griffin photo is also in keeping with its creator’s artistic tradition. Shields’s photographic art often flirts with violent themes, even when it’s not actively targeting political figures. For instance, in 2011 he collected blood from celebrities for use in his art, and later drenched his studio, Lindsay Lohan, and other performers in it.
Vox delves into other artistic expressions.

While it’s arguable that none of these artistic statements were as shocking as the picture of Griffin holding Trump’s decapitated head drenched in fake blood, it’s also important to understand that Griffin and Shields’s photo recalls another artistic tradition: images of women beheading men.

The artists Lavinia Fontana and Artemisia Gentileschi painted recurring images of the biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes. For Gentileschi in particular, the story allowed her to assert her empowerment through the metaphorical beheading of men with positions of political and sexual power over her. Modern artists like photographer Cindy Sherman have also turned to this theme.
I doubt this will change any minds about Griffin. But I wonder how many on the alt-right would have started showering lefty complainers in snowflakes if a bloodied Hillary head had been held aloft by Ann Coulter.


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