If I could be so bold…

This four-day furlough president’s birthday weekend leaves much to be desired in the ways of free time for me. Instead of kicking back I am force-feeding myself a never-endingĀ  diet of scholarly JSTOR articles and library books that have not been checked out since 2008. Such is the life of someone voluntarily taking a second writing intensive course, just for the fun of it. It’s not been all bad though; the paper will compare and contrast the work Fucking Hell, 2008 by Jake and Dinos Chapman with Gassed, 1918 by John Singer Sargent. The paper will mostly be about the atrocities of war, manipulative propaganda, cruelty and brutality of humans, and how all of this is represented or not represented in art. David M. Lubin’s “Losing Sight: War, Authority, and Blindness in British and American Visual Culture, 1914-22” identifies Field Marshal Herbert Horatio Kitchener, hero of British Victorian imperialism. This guy:

Alfred Leete's "The Britons (Lord Kitchener) Wants YOU" British WWI propaganda poster1914

oh those glorious whiskers. The article explains,

“That mustache, according to one biographer, ‘was justly celebrated not only throughout the Army but throughout the Empire. It’s length and bushiness were unique, and it would be easy, but wrong, to dismiss it with a smile. It was the ideal of drill sergeants throughout all the armies of Europe, and in that exaggerated form it became a symbol of national virility. During the 1914-18 war, a British recruitment poster showed Kitchener, his mustache dark and heavy as ever, jabbing his finger at the viewer and pinning him with a severe gaze, while beckoning him to fulfill his duty as a citizen and join the military,”

(Lubin, David M.Losing Sight: War, Authority, and Blindness in British and American Visual Cultures, ART HISTORY. Vol. 34, no. 4 (September 2011): 797.

At this point in the game I should also point out the significance of the mustache symbol in today’s context. The mustache has embedded itself deeply into the “hipster” culture of the late 2000’s serving as another stereotype for people dressing in flannel, skinny jeans, dark rimmed glasses, while drinking PBR, riding bicycles and fussing about liking bands before you ever heard of them. Mustaches can also be found in many works of the growing Steampunk phenomena which combines alternate history, speculative fiction and science fiction notions of time travel, gadgets, Victorian-era Britain, invention and innovation.

Each viewer will ultimately create the connotations of the final piece based on their personal experiences. Even though this project focuses mainly on identity, given that it is in fact a self-portrait, I am embracing all the mustache has to offer.

Steampunk Bizarre Exhibit: "The Unknown" at the Mark Twain House

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