Rebellious printmaking

| Scene Reporter


Printmaking has long been regarded as a subversive art form. The history of printmaking includes a long list of radical artists who have used their medium as a way to disperse their own social commentary. In the new exhibit “The Rebellious Tradition of Printmaking,” on display until Nov. 15, these themes of social criticism are explored through a new large-scale triptych, “The Transformation of Brandy Baghead” by Tom Huck, as well as the prints that inspired Huck by classical printmakers, such as Albrecht Dürer, Max Beckmann and Pieter Bruegel.

The crown jewel of this exhibit is the triptych “The Transformation of Brandy Baghead,” which is the first installment from Huck’s “Booger Stew” cycle of prints. This series of woodcuts stands 82 by 24 inches, 82 by 45 inches and 82 by 24 inches. While anyone can marvel at Huck’s meticulous attention to detail, his intricate carvings and his thought-provoking compositions, the themes of this piece are quite ghastly.

This set of prints presents a perverse and warped scrutiny of American culture through its representations of reality television. In this piece, Huck considers the extreme lengths that some people undergo to transform themselves into what is deemed more acceptable and mainstream by society, as inspired by the television show “The Swan.”

In the first frame, “The Transformation of Brandy Baghead,” Brandy is seen as the wholesome fall festival queen at a vegetable-themed fair. The second frame, “Part II: America’s Next Top Omelette,” shows Brandy as she is savagely cut, poked, prodded and injected by a team of doctors. Brandy’s doctors, who resemble mad scientists, use cat entrails, nails, crowbars and tape to stitch their patient together, as they strive to make her a superior ice-skating chicken species. The last frame, “Part III: Skating with the Scars,” completes Brandy’s transformation as she skates beautifully on television as her new chicken-enhanced self. It also explores America’s peculiar fascination with figure skating, while poking fun at absurd TV shows, “Dancing with the Stars” and the short-lived “Skating with the Stars.”

Huck dissects American culture and the entertainment that fuels it through these outlandish scenes. In this exhibit, Huck sensationalizes the foolish ideals of the American mainstream with a fearless sense of humor. Some of the other prints in the exhibit include Albrecht Dürer’s “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Pieter Bruegel’s “Pride” from the series “The Seven Deadly Sins” and several of Max Beckmann’s circus-themed prints. On the subject of these landmark works being included in his exhibit, Huck said, “They represented to me a wonderful lineage of graphic satire that I wanted to be a part of.”

This intriguing and bizarre exhibit is worth seeing because it illuminates the media’s proclivity for unwarranted sensationalism. It’s not everyday that you can see a figure-skating chicken-woman; so when it’s in proximity, it’s a must.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.