Prime Meat: Stephen Harper Without His Sweater Vest

Emperor Haute Couture by Margaret Sutherland

Artist Margaret Sutherland claims she was making a satirical political statement with her now-famous painting, Emperor Haute Couture, which depicts Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper completely naked. I have to admit that I’m transfixed by the piece, but I’m not sure what statement it’s making. I can see how the work echoes Manet’s Olympia, which would suggest that Harper is a prostitute. But is that fair? He seems more like an aggressive pimp to me, whoring out Canada’s natural resources and smacking around his bitches cabinet ministers. In my opinion, the painting is best taken at face value: Harper is an exhibitionist with a weight problem, a small penis and a habit for Tim Hortons. None of that may be true, but it’s funny none the less.

Emperor Haute Couture is currently hanging in a library in Kingston, Ontario, and is for sale for $5,000. Who would buy it? I’m guessing a gay guy with a daddy issues and a taste for irony.

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Getting to Know Jean-Paul Lemieux

Jean-Paul Lemieux's Evening Visitor, 1956, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

On Saturday afternoon I took a drive out to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is just outside of Toronto — in Kleinburg, near Canada’s Wonderland — but it’s log-and-stone buildings and treed surrounds makes the place feel like an Algonquin retreat. It’s a refreshing escape so close to the city, and while there I was delighted to discover a great Canadian artist that I hadn’t previously heard about: Jean-Paul Lemieux. I only noticed a couple of the Quebecer’s works among all the pieces by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, but Lemieux’s paintings made an impression with their minimal, graphic quality. I like how he captured the desolate, vast landscape of rural Quebec — in particular the harsh, snowy weather and long grey skies.

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Ai Weiwei, You’re Hot

Dear Ai Weiwei,

I think you’re hot. It’s not because I have a thing for beards, bellies or artists, because I don’t. (Especially artists — imagine what it would be like to date Jeff Koons? Scary. You’re bits and bites would be on display).

It’s because, as the New Yorker‘s Culture Desk noted, you’re an artist rebel-hero of the hottest order

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Getting to Know Andy Warhol

The Andy Warhol Museum, front facade, 1994, photo by Paul Rocheleau

On Saturday, after I spent the morning at Fallingwater, I went to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

To a certain extent, I feel like I’ve grown up in a time heavily influenced by Andy Warhol. My world view had been undeniably filtered by the celebrity-drenched culture that he explored, documented and, dare I say, championed. I’ve lived my fifteen minutes of fame on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and now this blog. When I visit almost any major art gallery in a foreign city (or, for that matter, in my hometown of Toronto), I inevitably find one or more of Warhol’s most iconic silk screens — the soup cans, the Marilyn Monroes, the Liz Taylors, the Maos, the Evlises, the Jackie Kennedys. But even if I don’t see one of his pieces directly, I am bound to see something by one of the legions of artists that he either directly mentored or inspired (Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and so on).

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