by Mike Gabriel
“Famous Monsters of America” is a graphic design project that aims to expose corruption, misdeeds and malfeasance lurking within the contemporary American political system. It is comprised of 50 individual works that were created in 50 days, and will be exhibited at the 2020 Sanchez Art Center 50|50 juried group show in Pacifica, CA, beginning September 18th. Advance tickets to the Opening Weekend Fundraiser Event can now be purchased here.
With each of the 50 art pieces, I have attempted to merge photography of politicians, assorted members of the current Administration, and various political pundits, with imagery of classic movie monsters, such as Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster. Since 2020 is an important and potentially divisive election year, my goal was to use dark humor, fact-based research and satirical wordplay to provoke viewers to re-frame their perspectives on cultural figures, hopefully casting aside partisanship and refocusing their attention on serious, salient issues: environment/ecology, systemic oppression/racial inequality, women’s rights, election security, voter suppression, income inequality, the role of corporations/campaign donors, and above all, the emergence of politics as media consumption.
The “Famous Monsters of America” masthead is an homage to the black and white movie magazine, “Famous Monsters of Filmland.” First published in 1958, “Famous Monsters” was a sensational pulp magazine aimed at pre-teens and young adolescents. It capitalized on the horror craze of the mid-1960s and was in part fueled by the theatrical re-releases of several classic Hollywood monster movies of the 1930s, as well as the proliferation of late-night regional tv horror shows airing camp, schlock and psychotronic films of the 1950s and early-1960s. The sidebar “Featuring” elements are a nod to EC Comics, which preceded “Famous Monsters” and published titles like “Tales from The Crypt” and “The Haunt of Fear.”
About a decade ago I read “On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears,” published by Oxford University Press. Written by Stephen T. Asma, a philosophy professor at Columbia College Chicago, it is a scholarly work that uses varied media sources, from history to legend and literature, to examine the symbolic meaning of monsters and their psychological function. It begins at the time of Alexander the Great, charts the biblical Satan and other demons, explores the emergence of monsters in literature, such as Grendel, the Golem and the creations of Bram Stoker and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, re-evaluates the role of more recent “circus freak shows” and concludes with the thesis that contemporary monsters—sadists, terrorists, serial killers, psychopaths, etc—all lack empathy, they all lack the ability to “understand and share the feelings of another.” In a country riddled with rancor, distrust and confusion, this conclusion seems pertinent right now.
Opportunities to view the entire set of “Monsters” on-line, will be available on the artist’s website, on Facebook, and on Instagram. Individual exhibition pieces are available now and can be purchased directly through the artist prior to the Sanchez 50|50 Show Opening. Each has been printed on Epson fine art archival paper and has been mounted on a 6″x6″ board. Exhibition pieces are $45 each plus sales tax, with a percentage of all sales going directly to the Sanchez Art Center. Complete sets of enlarged limited edition prints on fine art archival paper, will also be available for purchase. Contact Mike Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Mike Gabriel is an artist/graphic designer who has spent the last 20 years in San Francisco, earning a living primarily in advertising. He was raised in Hazleton, PA, where he delivered newspapers after school and spent just about all his extra money on comic books. When he was 11, he pitched a no-hitter–striking out 11 batters!–but somehow managed to give up one run. He frequents Jimmy’s Quick Lunch whenever he’s in the area, always ordering two dogs, cheese with everything. He’s also the creator of Anthracite Unite’s logo. You can see more of his work here.
*#29 Rush Limbaugh contains information sourced from Wikipedia and Bill Press for The Hill; #28 Michael Flynn contains information sourced from Wikipedia; #44 Ryan Zinke and contains information sourced from Wikipedia and the Editorial Staff at The Wilderness Society; #7 Lindsey Graham contains information sourced from Wikipedia, CNNPolitics Fast Facts and Mark Binelli for Rolling Stone; #50 Almost Famous contains information sourced from Wikipedia; All images are © and ™ their respective owners. The “Famous Monsters of America” Project © and ™ Mike Gabriel, 2020. All rights reserved.