September 21, 2005

Leon Golub: Prophetic Art

I saw this painting, Interrogation II (1981), in person on a recent trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. It's a very large painting (120 X 168") on unstretched canvas. It just sort of hangs there on the wall, without a frame. It's definitely one of the most overwhelming paintings I've seen in person. Based on this experience, I can't imagine what it must feel like to see Picasso's Guernica.

The painting is part of a series of that Golub executed in the late seventies/early eighties in response to the revealation of atrocities during the Vietnam war and events in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America. Along with another powerful series--ironically titled "Horsing Around"--"Interrogation" calls attention to the prevalence of sadistic behavior among soldiers, no matter the war and how the behavior, for the most part, goes unpunished. Ultimately, the paintings are illustrations of how masculinity and cruelty become elided.

The paintings are very interesting their two-dimensionality. The figures all occupy the same ground--no one figure is more prominent that the others, like a snapshot. In fact, if you notice, the men seem to "horsing around" for the audience, smiling, making gestures toward the hooded prisoner; it makes it hard to resist comparisons to the Abu Ghraib photographs.

I'm still trying to find a way of working Golub into my book. He's such an interesting figure, but I'm already giving space to Francis Bacon, the troubled Irish-born painter whose paintings are no less violent, but definitely more abstract.

September 18, 2005

Army Interrogation Techniques Designed by....Hollywood?!

On Friday, a declassfied investigation lead by the Army's Inspector General released to the ACLU via a Freedom of Information Act suit revealed that officers in the Army's 4th Infantry Division interrogated prisoners "using interrogation techniques they literally learned from the movies." However, the report still maintains that "systemic" break downs were not the cause of prisoner abuse.

My Book Now Available for Pre-Ordering at (click here)

I'm very excited to say that my book, A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America, is now available for pre-ordering at Search: A Good War is Hard to Find. The above image is a prototype of the cover designed by Brett Yasko ( Brett's design has already been named one of the Top 50 book designs by the AIGA, the National Professional Organization of Graphic Design. I hope this is an omen of things to come.

Soft Skull Press is publishing the book ( They are the most fearless indy press in the country. Based in Brooklyn, NYC, they have had huge successes as of late, most recently with David Rees' Get Your War On, a comic strip lampooning attitudes toward the War on Terror and. The release date is set for early February '06.

My book will be the first book published by Soft Skull dealing with political and cultural issues from a Christian position. Richard Nash, the head of Soft Skull, told me that in order for the press to stay true to its indy spirit that they must publish the most challenging and fresh points of view out there. For this, I am grateful. (Check out their site for their latest project: publishing fiction by inner-city New Orleans youth.)

More on the book: The first chapter of my book was published at last June under the title, "A Good War is Hard to Find: Flannery O'Connor, Abu Ghraib and the Problem of American Innocence."

Another of the chapters, "Prime Directive," is out this month is the new issue of Greg Wolfe's fabulous literary magazine, IMAGE: A Journal of Religion and the Arts ( ). Look for it.