My goal as an artist is to depict, with unflinching honesty, the world in which we live.In late 2016, I began the Angry White Men series, a sub-set of my Face of Evil series, sparked by the enabling of hate following Donald Trump’s election in October 2016, and by the rise of white-supremacist and nationalist demonstrators in both the USA and throughout Europe.
I chose to paint these bad guys without distortion, hoping to echo the realism of early Renaissance oils (for example, Antonello da Messina, Il Condottiere). I sought to capture, unfiltered, their contorted, hate-filled expressions and gestures, so that they could be recognized by other white people (and, I hope, rejected).
As more and more of these paintings were completed, I realized that there were three distinct groups of these men:
• the angry white men on the street, practicing intimidation with fearsome weapons, Nazi tattoos, fascist flags and other symbols of racism,
• the puppets: confused, mentally ill, ignorant and/or socially awkward white men recruited and then driven to commit vile and violent acts,
• and finally, the Puppet Masters: the intelligent men who – with cold detachment – work to manipulate and profit from their more credulous angry white brethren.
As a white man, I felt it would be presumptuous of me to paint the victims of hate crimes. However, I believed, as a white man, I should call out other white men’s bad behavior and attempt to stop it. If I stood silent, without protest, I would be allowing untruths to spread and evil to grow.The Puppet Masters were the men who most need to be called to task.
The backgrounds are dense with entwined motifs I previously used in the Kindertotentanz series to convey ideas of malevolence, death and disease. In the Puppet Masters, the motifs represent the miasma of global hatred and evil with its swirling sgraffito of rumours, racism, propaganda, false facts and attacks.
You can find biographies of each of these men below their portraits. Decide for yourself if what they have done is evil. Look at their faces – are their eyes truly ‘windows into their souls’?
Read more about the Angry White Men series, including the Puppet Masters, in the exhibition catalogue.
N.B: I want no profit from depicting my shameful white ‘brethren’. I have pledged that any exhibition fees or proceeds will be donated in equal parts to the Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Poverty Law Center, two organizations that fight hatred, injustice, and racism with admirable success.