Operation Provoke Via Art of Michelle Obama Fails

My favorite hacky, controversial sculptor Daniel Edwards of all things celebrity and tacky is at it again.

After giving us the Paris Hilton autopsy, Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug, Oprah as an Egyptian royalty and a “dead” Prince Harry, Edwards has taken up the visage of Michelle Obama and … well, it’s kind of meh.

Edwards said: “The goal is to create a look for Michelle Obama that eliminates excessive comparisons to Jackie Kennedy.”

The bust, entitled “Michelle Obama’s Makeover for America” goes on display at the Leo Kesting Gallery in New York on October 1 …

Molding her as an Egyptian queen with a bald eagle afro pick and “magic boobies” with the American flag carved across them I felt this was a fail for Edwards.

As I told reader Brett Thursday night, this art wasn’t meant for any of us to actually like. It’s supposed to evoke a response or challenge the audience. In that sense, his greatest success was the piece he did on Prince Harry. It was “successful” because he achieved his goal — to shock people into the realization that they’d become “desensitized” to from the Iraq War while insulting the monarchy for being some ultimate form of celebrity culture married with religion and nationalism.

Denigrating pop starlets and their offspring — like Paris, Britney and, in one case, the fake, bronzed poop of Suri Cruise — is like miming a more morbid version of Andy Warhol and his famous fifteen minutes.

Long story short, the Michelle bust isn’t denigrating enough to fit in with the pop starlet exploitation and isn’t shocking enough to fit in with jarring visceral response of a dead prince. There’s something almost romantic and tragic in Edward’s depiction of a real English prince, lost in the field of battle with coins on his eyes to pay for his cross over the river Styx. In his hand, Harry is clutching a cameo of his mother, another powerful symbol, Princess Diana of Wales. It invokes a response, especially in the finished version of this piece where Harry’s ears are severed off as prizes for those who killed him.

It was daring because that could have happened, especially since Harry did go on to serve in Afghanistan, albeit secretly, until he was found out. And it’s exploitive because it shows how the world cared dearly if the man third in line for what is largely a ceremonial British crown was killed, but other soldiers’ deaths are footnotes at the bottom of newspaper columns. The sculpture showed how obscene celebrity culture can be when met with the reality of our rapidly changing world.

The Michelle bust looks like a high school art project. It’s not good in the way Edwards would want it to be. He’d want something that would get people talking or protesting. I gather most will either think it’s funny or shrug.

12 thoughts on “Operation Provoke Via Art of Michelle Obama Fails

  1. When I look at it, I see an African woman branded (like a captured slave) by the company, in this case the USA. It was just the first thing to come to mind.– S&S

  2. He must not really want the response from the black community.**fumes for five minutes**I mean, the “magic boobies” were enough for me just from initial glance. I mean I’m already tired of the portrayal of women as sexual objects in the first place–then to make it a BLACK woman.I mean, then the American flag.**fumes for another five minutes**I understand that goes hand in hand with her “for the first time I’m proud to be an American” comment (I am too sista!) but, yeah, I’m with the first anonymous comment. It screams of being branded.And then it poses wayyyyy to weird of a juxtaposition between the Egyptian and the American world that…it…meh. I use that word too, that’s about the best description of it.But at least it’s real art to me, I don’t like it, but compared to the other ish we’ve seen…

  3. I’m not offended by the Michelle bust. The sculptor is one of those shock artists trying to make a point–whatever it is. I was upset, though, by the statue commissioned to a Chinese sculptor for a Martin Luther King Washington memorial. This sculptor, to me, misrepresented King with a likeness that was angry and confortational, which wasn’t what King was about. My only complaint regarding the Michelle bust is that it’s indeed hack work.

  4. Couldn’t help but think it was demeaning to Michelle. The strange thing is if you scroll down to the last Sarah Palin pic, you’ll see her actual beehive hairdo is strikingly similar to the one the artist gave to Michelle. Just an interesting observation.

  5. Oprah and Michelle Obama look nothing like these sculptures at all… I wonder if it speaks to some psychological distance in the eyes of White beholders of Black faces..This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing. On the cover of the DVD for the movie Boogie Nights<A HREF="http://www.freecovers.net/preview/0/185ec16399d8dc9ccfa83218786e73a7/big.jpg“ REL=”nofollow”> http://www.freecovers.net/preview/0/185ec16399d8dc9ccfa83218786e73a7/big.jpg is a cartoon rendering of all of the major characters in the film. The likenesses of the White characters are captured just fine in the artist’s rendering, but Don Cheadle and Nicole Ari Parker don’t look a damn thing like those generic scooby-doo-meets-the-harlem-globetrotters-looking negro cartoon figures..What’s up with that? White readers are especially encouraged to chime in.. thanksbtw “Brett” prefers to go by his alter-ego in this domain (for the sake of consistency, if naught else 🙂

  6. bklynbam: I will remember that in the future. But I get all of our ids, egos, super egos and alter egos confused with the sheer volume of MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Yahoo, Plurk and FriendFeed names rolling around in my laptop. ;-)And, yeah. I remember that special edition of Boogie Nights cover and thought the same thing. But you do realize that we all look alike, right? People confuse me Whoopi Goldberg so often it’s not even funny and sometimes I can’t tell Vanessa L. Williams from Vanessa Williams even though one is about eleven shades lighter than the other. It’s just so hard to tell!

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