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Book details
  • Genre:ART
  • SubGenre:History / Contemporary
  • Language:English
  • Series title:White Lies Matter
  • Series Number:2
  • Pages:158
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350953176

White Lies Matter Too

by John A. O'Connor

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Taking on the US's favorite cultural talking points and aiming to reveal the historical roots of America's unjust treatment of marginalized communities, "White Lies Matter Too" is a unique investigation into often-repeated lies about American history, shared via art and pointed commentary. While there are numerous "illustrated history books" for children and teens, there are only a few books that utilize art/image to depict and question historical narratives. There are, however, several books that question the "honesty" of accepted historical rhetoric and call out the false narratives that "we the people" have been told. All of those who hope to gain a greater understanding of the facts behind American history will find "White Lies Matter Too" an engaging and thought-provoking read.
"White Lies Matter Too" is artist and political provocateur John A. Connor's most audacious, exquisitely calibrated, political artwork. It is a hard-hitting, nuanced, graceful, and poetic work worthy of the name "masterpiece." O'Connor's heavily researched, footnoted, and annotated conceptual art-as-book project of historical revisionism is the companion piece to his initial conceptual initiative published in 2020 titled "White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptualism." In "White Lies Matter Too" O'Connor again sets up the image-and-text counterpoint template that was so deceptively and disarmingly user-friendly effective the first time around. O'Connor makes good visual-use of the image of the pre-industrial primary-grade child's blackboard slate. This nearly life-sized object with its wooden frame has been stamped, emblazoned, outlined, and festooned with memorabilia signifiers such as gold stars; collectible vintage, retro arcana and iconography tags; historical memorabilia; photo clippings; militaria; souvenirs and travel keepsakes; flags; post-cards; buttons; cards; toys; coins; stamps; political campaign buttons; bumper sticker-type slogan labels; and any type of image that refers to the naturalistic world such as leaves. This multitude of insignias, signs, and symbols that O'Connor uses to flesh out his written narratives puts us in a "time-machine" mode that recalls the incremental forming of the American collective unconscious and its workings through time. O'Connor's visual embellishments and their ideational contexts that we see surrounding the slate's black void are signifiers of nostalgic sentiment, upholding some past ideal that refuses to move forward. They remind us of sentiment that imposes morality or some form of stubborn loyalty. O'Connor's scrupulously selected ornamental elements carry the weight of "feel-good" holders. They function as something that can be seen at first as relevant, fashionable, cute, fun, and romantic. Those accessories are also coded by the artist in such a way to infer the ominous potentiality for their dangerous misuse in the way they shape culture. On the opposite page to the child's slate is O'Connor's readable, engaging, exposé-like footnoted text detailing the retrofitted historical account that the artist is presenting to the world as the actual "record" of the truth. I admire the tone of O'Connor's art project. The artist incisively researches his unveilings of submerged histories using a combination of the literary and the visual. In lesser hands, an artwork carrying so much polyvalent information might easily have devolved into pedantry or academicism. John A. O'Connor's "White Lies Matter Too" elicits outrage and relief. Outrage because his efforts at unraveling the historical perfidies, untruths, whitewashing deceptions, and hypocrisies we, as a nation, stand on makes us wonder: Will things ever change, really? Are we caught in an enervating, self-reinforcing perpetual loop, a national "eternal return" of bad faith? Are we as members of an extraordinary nation, once called "The Great Experiment," capable of changing and becoming more ethical, idealistic, and truer to our "better angels"? If so: for how long?
About the author
John A. O'Connor, Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Florida, studied art at several colleges in California and Mexico (Sacramento City College, San Francisco Art Institute and Mexico City College) before earning an AB with Honors (1961) and an MAA (1963) from the University of California, Davis. He subsequently taught art at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Blake College, Valle de Bravo, Mexico; Ohio University, Athens; and at the University of Florida, Gainesville. In addition to studio art classes, John also taught/co-taught classes in art law, art and engineering, art and medicine, and art/business. He also served as Founder and Director of the University of Florida's Center for the Arts and Public Policy that explored the role of art in the public sphere including issues of censorship and political commentary. John has had 36 solo exhibitions of his paintings and has participated in more than 200 group exhibitions. His work is included in many public, university, college, corporate, and private collections nationwide.