When It Fits

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Fan - 3 Expert - 4

This painting started with a simple question. What happens if I just wanted to paint a simple red cap? One of the comments I got a lot of was, “is that a MAGA cap?” Even when I choose to mix it up with other forms of head gear, it still generated comment. I came close to making the title, “Make Red Caps Wearable Again” That wouldn’t have worked would it? 

Oil, Tar and Acrylic on Canvas. 


Responses (1)

!piece @user #hashtag
John Crowther
John Crowther Critic

January 09, 2022

Uzo’s "When It Fits" addresses contemporary cultural and political concerns but also delves into the concept of symbolism, how long it lasts, the power it has, and the results it cultivates. Rendered in a style echoing Neo-Expressionism, Street-Art, and Folk Art, "When It Fits" is a genealogy of symbolism and the prejudices and emotions it evokes.

Symbolism is a powerful, dangerous, useful, and lasting tool utilized for unity or division with equal impact. Ideally, it would be objective and equitable, something that brings all of humanity together in a common cause. This ideal, however, is rare, or more likely, unprecedented in human history. Unity, almost ubiquitously, entails division. When people unify under a common banner, it is usually in opposition to another group. Even when there is no direct enemy of your groups’ banner, it is intrinsically exclusionary. Take, for example, a country’s flag; we are all meant to feel some commonality with every other citizen the flag claims to represent. Ipso facto, we are automatically separated from every other country's flag; they can be allied with us, on friendly terms with us, but they will always be the other. International unity cannot exist while the presence of nation-states and nationalism persists. A flag is meant to symbolize pride, home, security, and the power of a unified whole. However, these associations do not unanimously extend beyond the borders which the flag represents or even within those borders.

The American flag—one of the most globally influential and recognizable symbols and something American youth are compelled to pledge allegiance to every single day —does not evoke the same feelings of security and pride for much of the world as it does for many Americans. For Native Americans, the Stars and Stripes do not conjure up images of opportunity, safety, and equality, but decimation, theft, and injustice. Some proudly hoist the red, white, and blue banner high, while others burn it. Without a doubt a powerful symbol, but not a unifying one. Some celebrate it, some scorn it, but all feel its persistence and impact.

The potency of its propaganda is palpable. People the world over (even countries that have been cut in half by the voracious expansion of the American empire) see the American flag and yearn for the opportunity it claims to represent. People go through hell to try and realize the elusive American Dream. For better or worse, symbols are among the most effective and dynamic tools humans have at their disposal. The swastika was once only a Hindu symbol connoting prosperity and divine coupling, and for some, it still is, but for the majority, it is irrevocably symbolic of evil. In just 12 years, the Third Reich mangled beyond recognition, a symbol that maintained its meaning for thousands of years. While history is still taught and remembered, for most people, the meaning bestowed on the swastika by the Nazis will never change. So, how long does it take for a simple red cap to have its simplicity returned?

The present work contains four evocative hats. Will the jester’s hat on the upper right corner ever connote anything other than an entertaining fool? No, as long as cultural texts and images portraying it as such exist. Will the admiral’s hat on the lower right ever convey anything other than militarism and authority? No, as long as militaries and authorities exist (yes, the style could change, but a Roman legionnaires helmet has not become a symbol of peace even 1000 years after it was in fashion). For the reader's sake, I will not repeat this rhetorical exercise with the cowboy hat, as I imagine you get the picture. We are now left with the familiar, formally simple red cap on the top left corner of the canvas.

I can safely say that before 2015, a red cap drew no more attention than any other color, and I can also safely say that this unremarkable appearance is gone. Uzo is quite right in his assertion that our initial reaction to a red cap—even devoid of lettering—is almost ubiquitously associated with the MAGA movement. Its simplicity, its unobtrusiveness, is a thing of the past. As noted in previous newsletters, the past does not stay put. It follows us. It is inextricably woven into the present and future. How long does it take to restore the initial meaning to a symbol hijacked and manipulated by ideology? I'd ask the Hindus.

The conversations "When It Fits" provokes, the paths of contemplation it sends us down, are all we need to know about its immense value as a work of art and the value of art as a whole. I envy the person who purchased this painting.        






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Abstract Expressionism, Fauvism
Mixed Media - Unframed
Oil, Acrylic, Canvas, Other
72.00 inches wide
60.00 inches tall
2.00 inches deep
25.00 lbs
Houston , TX, US