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In the Land of the Blind the Blue Eye Man is King from the series By the Skin of Our Teeth

© Deborah Grant. Courtesy of the artist and Steve Turner, Los Angeles, California. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

In the Land of the Blind the Blue Eye Man is King from the series By the Skin of Our Teeth

Artist: Deborah Grant (Born in Toronto, Canada, 1968)
Culture: Canadian, American
Date: 2007
Medium: Oil, archival ink, paper, Flashe paint, and enamel on five birch panels
72 × 180 × 2 inches (182.9 × 457.2 × 5.1 cm)
Each panel: 72 × 36 × 2 inches (182.9 × 91.4 × 5.1 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase with additional funds provided by JoAnn and Ronald Busuttil
Label Text:This monumental painting by Deborah Grant presents an abundance of interwoven visual information in a style and working method that Grant terms “random select,” where she filters historical accounts and popular culture through her personal experiences.

Using imagery borrowed from a wide variety of sources, Grant interprets the situation resulting from the devastation caused in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and folds it into a nonlinear depiction of U.S. history. On the left-most panel, a figure on a tall horse represents a plantation overseer that for Grant symbolizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) oversight of the aftermath of Katrina. A small plane flies by, representing the distance President George W. Bush maintained from witnessing Katrina’s effects. The second panel includes an upside-down, gagged image of the Quaker Oats man. The Quakers opposed slavery and believed that slavery in the U.S. would result in great devastation—a devastation realized by Katrina in Grant’s painting.

The overall composition of the work emphasizes flat, broad expanses of bright color contrasted with figures silhouetted in black. This style derives from that of Bill Traylor (1854-1949), a self-taught artist who was born into slavery on a plantation in Alabama and began painting in his eighties. Today Traylor is widely recognized as a major figure in American art. This work is part of a series by Grant called By the Skin Of Our Teeth, or alternatively The Bill Traylor Project.

Provenance: Steve Turner Contemporary acquired the work directly from the artist (2008).
Object number: 2013.13.1