A LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Dear President Obama,

I’m writing to recommend Mr. Juan Manuel Delgado – a young artist from Costa Rica — as eminently qualified to paint your official portrait representing you as the 44th President of the United States.  After researching Juan Manuel’s portrait of Pope Francis for my online magazine artcopyblog.com, I concluded that his style was appropriate for a monumental portrait of an American president who has unequivocally changed the country and the world for the better.   The artist’s portrait of Pope Francis exemplifies his ability to capture not only a likeness but also an individual personality.

The photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and a photographer for the Vatican
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Delgado.

Mr. President, you uplifted cynical generations on June 3rd, 2008 in your persuasive speech as the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee.  In so many elegant words, you said that change wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.

Those words will be remembered for generations:

if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.  This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. 

In truth, your presidency has revealed that there is more work to do to protect human dignity for every soul than most imagined at the time. Nevertheless, you defied considerable opposition and set far-ranging and lasting reform in motion, and have forever transformed the way that many of us see our communities.

Juan Manuel’s experience with and reverence for Pope Francis also speaks to the dreams of another humble optimist who is guaranteed nothing but presses forward anyway.  His aspiration to paint and present Pope Francis with a portrait were not without real barriers, but he proceeded with faith and gratitude.  Some miracles happened along the way.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Miguel Delgado and a photographer for the Vatican.
This photograph is courtesy of Juan Miguel Delgado.

As Shephard Fairey’s posters galvanized a hopeful nation on the verge of electing a great President, Juan Manuel would represent the likeness and personality of one of the most beloved Presidents in American history.

"Hope" by Shepard Fairey. This picture is courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute. Barack Obama as presumptive nominee
“Hope” by Shepard Fairey. This picture is courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute.

As Pete Souza has captured thousands of irresistible glimpses of a charismatic first family that make us smile and reflect,  Juan Manuel’s style would bring grace and quiet drama to a transformational American Presidency.

This photograph of President Obama was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza and is courtesy of petapixel.com
This photograph of President Obama was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza and is courtesy of petapixel.com
This photograph is courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov. This Official White House Photo was taken by Chuck Kennedy
This photograph is courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov. This Official White House Photo is by Chuck Kennedy

In my online article, I argued that Juan Manuel’s portrayal of Pope Francis is evidence of his awareness of his place in art history, as well as his ability to portray monumental people who transcend time.

When Juan Manuel was in Rome to meet and present His Holiness with the portrait that he painted, he received an e-mail from the Post Office in his home country of Costa Rica who had seen press coverage of the event and wanted to include a picture of the artist’s portrait on a special issue stamp.  These symbols of the exchange of love between His Holiness and the humble artist allow everyday people to hold a piece of this sacred embrace.

This photograph is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado and was taken by a Vatican photographer.
This photography is courtesy of Juan Manuel Delgado.

Mr. President, you’ve lived up to your promises.  I suspect that many Americans would like to be able to buy a stamp symbolizing the moment when the world changed, much as the people of Costa Rica wanted to share in Pope Francis’s embrace with the humble dreamer.  For these reasons, I hope you’ll consider Juan Manuel Delgado to paint your official portrait as President of the United States while capturing your transformational personality and a disarming historical legacy.

Warm regards,

Brenda Haroutunian

DEJUAN HUNT II’S ART AND INVENTION

DeJuan Hunt II’s art coalesces around invention, play, and superhero creativity that expand definitions of art.

DeJuan Hunt II's art and invention, "New Persuasive Art"
“New Persuasive Art,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

After exploring Hunt II’s stylistic invention New Persuasive Art earlier this year, I concluded that his art falls within the parameters of traditional art history. At the same time, it offers the possibility of lateral, rather than binary analysis.  The artist sees himself within art history. He recently said that he’s going through his variation of Picasso’s blue period. The selfie of him meditating with Rodin’s The Thinker shows the artist playfully tapping into the creativity of another artist who questioned convention. His friends liken him to Raphael because he realized success at a young age. His fascination with inventing new styles is not unlike Da Vinci who saw himself first as an inventor.

This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II
This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II

While art history is easy to understand, it is often misleading. The art world traditionally defines art through a process of qualification and disqualification and retroactively plots the art object on an evolutionary continuum that begins with prehistoric art and concludes with contemporary art. Typically, a coffee table monograph summarizes art history in a big picture book that is easy to understand and asks few questions. In practice, it pairs glossy photos with narratives that rely on too much speculation.

DeJuan Hunt II's New Persuasive Art, and invention.
“New Persuasive Art” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt.

The academic world subscribes to a similar invention. Unfortunately, we’re in quicksand from the beginning. While science provides general dates for prehistoric imagery, it knows little about the people who made it.

There are similar problems at other plot points. Ancient culture employed skilled craftsmen to make magnificent work that glorified the city-state. The medieval faithful created imagery that served devotional and didactic purposes. Neither the ancient laborer nor the medieval maker of religious imagery would be considered artists according to a modern definition of who an artist is, though the art world assumes it so. It’s inconceivable that these societies viewed imagery as a contemporary culture would. The notion of art as the residue of humanity’s creative impulse dates roughly to the time of Michelangelo. The idea has been reinterpreted by countless artists since.

"New Persuasive Art," an invention by DeJuan Hunt
“New Persuasive Art” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Artists who don’t fit are excluded, or poorly represented. Artists from remote areas making modern abstract art, rather than preconceived notions of tribal art, are allotted an awkward slot in the archaeological branch of art history that takes explaining.

Ironically, these cultures manufacture objects for tourists interested in taking home a souvenir. Masks and spears are made and sold only as commodities. While these objects may be aesthetically appealing and well-crafted, they nevertheless do not reflect the local art community.

Finally, placing these objects in museum spaces for aesthetic analysis further supports a methodology that values easy categorization over nuance. While urban societies value technological advancement in their cultures, they expect faraway communities to remain fossilized in time. Although art scholarship has a legitimate stake in accurately defining art, the art world continues to perpetuate this myth of an evolutionary worldview.

DeJuan Hunt II's imagination and creativity, New Persuasive Art
New Persuasive Art, by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of Dejuan Hunt II.

In his book entitled, New Persuasive Art: an Art Style I’ve Inventedthe artist challenges the binary order of things by shifting attention to an archaeology of meaning that persuades the viewer to see their world differently. He layers photographs, cut-outs, and written words on top of a painted canvas to create a unified image. He asks his viewer for an accidental or unexpected — rather than a calculated — response. Hunt II’s art reads like an inner monologue, or a directive, an alter ego, or any number of things, according to the audience’s imagination.

"New Persuasive Art," an invention by DeJuan Hunt
“New Persuasive Art,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

New Persuasive Art was exhibited in New York in January of 2014 at the Niagara Arts and Culture Center. In the video below, the artist says that every painting and drawing tells a story.  He says that the title, Another Way Out, frames his unconventional approach.   The style that he invented provided him with an avenue for creating deeply resonant art. New Persuasive Art gained international recognition in February with an exhibition at Flyer Art Gallery in Rome.  Presently, Hunt II is working on new projects  in New York in preparation for Art Basel.

Hunt II’s process offers an analog for art history. An archaeology rather than a false continuum permits fresh possibility. For starters, it challenges us to explore our bias. It allows us to be honest in acknowledging what we do and do not know about other people, about alternative artists and offers a valuable opportunity for new analysis. Instead of just comparing objects in aesthetic terms, it offers additional potential for learning about other people with a sense of wonder and respect.

DeJuan Hunt II's art and invention
DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Besides New Persuasive Art,  Hunt II also invented and wrote about Real Illustration with books available worldwide. This invention outlines a fresh approach to illustration. It appeals to people of all skill sets and encourages everyone to be an artist.

Invention, and Graphic Novel by DeJuan Hunt
Graphic Novel by DeJuan Hunt ii. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt.

The artist has also written graphic novels that feature miraculous inventions secret to man until this very moment. The artist describes Mr. Axe. Birth of a Titan, as a live action-packed story that also asks readers to look at creativity differently.  In this way, he encourages his audience to consider a larger picture.

"Old Buddy Grey," by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.
“Old Buddy Grey,” by DeJuan Hunt II. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Finally, Hunt II is a community animator who makes art for cancer patients in Cleveland, Ohio. He feels that surrounding people with art give them strength as they undergo treatment.  His community art, like his New Persuasive Art, sees love operating everywhere within the global community.

Community Art by DeJuan Hunt. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.
Community Art by DeJuan Hunt. This photograph is courtesy of DeJuan Hunt II.

Of course, change is slow in the art world as it is in reality. Art history, an invention by white men for white men, is no longer viable within global culture. Scholarship did not analyze or examine women, people of color, or others until the twentieth century. History has not remembered these other artists. As a result, coalitions still struggle today for equal representation within disciplines that continue to emphasize white patriarchy. By displacing the notion of an evolution of art, with a layered approach would allow art history to step closer to truthfully recognizing people across time with available context.

It’s past the time to offer nuanced explanations that are easy to consume. Because we are competing in an academic world that values objective reasoning, we have more explaining going forward to avoid inventing exclusive histories that privilege a few, and find a correct slot for those who contradict its persistent white male bias. Art history can be respectable. Because it stands at the crossroads of multiple disciplines and offers a fresh vision to a contemporary global culture. In many ways, DeJuan Hunt II creates identifiable urban heroes who persuade the viewer to think differently.