Bryan Anthony Moore isn't shy about his opinions on political history, and has made a career out of saying so through art. Still, his newest exhibition at the College of Idaho Rosenthal Gallery of Art, Brazen Bull: A Natural Mythstory of North America, is a bold stroke: In one image, inked on a nine-foot-tall sheet of Tyvek paper that covers a freestanding gallery wall, President Donald Trump's face is transposed onto the rear end of an elephant; on another wall, Trump's head is attached to a bear's body, with a grinning Vladimir Putin sitting inside its hollow chest, wielding the controls.
- Lex Nelson
Images like these cover the entire gallery in a larger-than-life red, black and blue display that's impossible to ignore. It's a marked contrast to Moore's political work circa 2011, which was often tightly controlled and focused on revealing the subjectivity within supposedly objective history. When Moore began working with political themes, he created ink and graphite drawings of past presidents, whose heads he grafted onto dinosaur bodies to comment on the slanted "mythstory" perpetuated in textbooks. But Moore said that when Trump took office, his bold narrative convinced him that "today's news is tomorrow's history," motivating him to bring more current political themes into his work.
"I think [Trump] is very cunning and canny at telling people things that they want to hear," Moore said, "And I don't agree with his message at all, but at the same time I thought, 'He's right on point, on message, saying all the things that he needs to who his target group of voters are.'"
Moore's work has been ongoing and open to the public since he became C of I artist in residence in January, and he collaborated with seven portraiture students early on to cover the entire Tyvek-draped gallery with political imagery. The students crafted portraits of people they felt were authority figures, like Steve Bannon, Oprah Winfrey and Rosalynn Carter, and Moore layered artwork, quotes, media blurbs and snippets of his own verse over and around them.
Rosenthal Gallery Director Garth Claassen said the long-term, evolving nature of the project is something new for the C of I gallery.
"We thought [the open gallery] would be a great opportunity for people to chat with [Moore]. And he actually thrives on that. He enjoys the input of viewers and he doesn't mind getting into debates with people. He has a disarming manner, although he has, as you can see, very strong political feelings," Claassen said.
Many of the animal or part-animal images Moore chose are based on exhibitions at the C of I Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History nearby. Steve Bannon's head, for example, is surrounded by a classification of insects, while another wall features an ostrich with its head buried in a lake of oil, meant to symbolize the GOP response to climate change.
Moore said the title of the exhibition is a nod to the brazen bull of ancient Greek myth, a bronze torture device said to have been commissioned by the Sicilian tyrant Phalaris. When the bull was placed over a fire, it would roast anyone trapped inside, and its machinery would make their screams sound like a bull's trumpeting call.
- Lex Nelson
"The irony of the story is that the people who created the bronze bull were the first ones it was tested out on," said Moore. "So I thought, what a metaphor for the Wall Street bull and the bull market. The people who created it are now being consumed."
Brazen Bull is still ongoing, and the gallery will be open for visitors through Saturday, April 14, when a closing ceremony will end Moore's stint as artist in residence. Plus, for those who want to dive into the politics of the display, a reception and gallery discussion featuring C of I Political Economy Professor Jasper LiCalzi, Political Economy Assistant Professor Erin Hern and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Douglass is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3.