Art & Oppression: Artist's Statement

Kathleen Clark

The Republic

The turmoil of the American election of 2016 led me to investigate a country built in beautiful language and lofty visions–its ideals, architecture, expression and idolatry. The eloquence of our founders was clearly at odds with the harsh contradictions of slavery, slaughter of native peoples and profiteering land grabs. I thought about the elegance of thought and speech and debate versus the caustic knee-jerk, childish rhetoric and gang-bang mentality sweeping through conservative America. I didn’t expect by year’s end to be dealing with fascism and a thuggish plutocracy, aided and abetted by foreign intervention.

In coming to understand the U.S., I also needed to understand the role of my own family. In exploring my lineage, the trail led to significant Native American historical figures and to the earliest colonists; officers in the Revolutionary War; to soldiers in both the Union and Confederacy; to the struggling and well heeled; farmers and women who died of influenza and in child birth. When research led to slave owning ancestors, and some directly tied to the roots of plantation culture, I felt a shudder of liability I hoped to never feel. A lifetime of egalitarian beliefs did not prepare me to hit that wall.

How does one reconcile a heritage built both by Native Americans and the Colonists? Patriotism is complex. My country straddles a morality stuck between progressive and extremist. I wrestle with all of it–a baptism by fire.

The White House China is a sub-set of images within the overall body of work that comprises The Republic. My submission consists of a selection of images from that grouping.