In this unprecedented time in which we are living and ahead of an election that many argue is the most consequential election of our lifetimes, Orange Coast College’s Doyle Art Center is hosting a special virtual exhibition featuring new work by six artists entitled “Almost Presidential” exploring the lives of the often forgotten, so called “failed candidates” – those who were not elected but nevertheless influenced politics and the national consciousness.
The exhibition features sculpture, drawing, photography, installation and video by Pio Abad, Deborah Aschheim, Matthew Brannon, and Cintia Segovia, and exhibition curators Marisa J. Futernick and Rebecca Sittler- artists whose previous bodies of work have sought to explore and challenge the conventional historical political representations of former presidents.
The impetus for the exhibition came about when Tyler Stallings, director of the Doyle Arts Pavilion, was in conversation with Deborah Aschheim, one of the artists, whose work he had shown before and she mentioned two other artists who had a similar idea in mind.
“When I heard that, I invited them to have it at the Doyle Arts Pavilion. Originally it was going to be an exhibition this fall and also another show, but obviously we had to either cancel or postpone them because of the campus closure,” Stallings said. “I proposed to continue with it as an online project because it’s so relevant, part of the different components of the project are having it on the web, the Doyle’s page, then doing the Zoom panel [on Oct. 1] and we’re also working on a film that will be something that captures the spirit of the project.”
The film will feature interviews with the artists, b-roll imagery of their work and featured aspects of the Zoom panel. The film department and film students at OCC have produced documentaries on several artists featured at the Doyle, including “Empty Vessel'' by Amir Zaki and “Terra Firma” by Kim Abeles. Stallings envisions this upcoming film to be similar in that they are not merely documentation of the projects themselves but stand-alone films.
Marisa J. Futernick, one of the exhibition’s curators and featured artists, first became interested in examining the lives of failed presidential candidates after visiting the Nixon Presidential library in Yorba Linda,
“I went there on a whim thinking it would just be funny and kitschy but it had a big impact on me,” she said. “There was such a depth and a richness to the strangeness of what it was and this idea of presenting such a complex figure like Richard Nixon and how you portray someone like that in a museum.”
Futernick’s interest piqued when she saw a piece of wall text at the exhibition which explained how, after losing both the presidential election of 1960 and a bid for governor, Nixon retreated to his home where he was working on books and would eat frozen enchiladas by himself everyday for lunch.
The featured works are selections from larger bodies of work that each artist has created around the topic- their individual websites are filled with many more dynamic portrayals of pivotal public figures, both contemporary and from years past.
As interesting as all of these sub-narratives are the overarching message that the exhibitors hope to send is simple.
“The bottom line is to vote, whoever your candidate is, in order for your voice to be heard – especially for young people,” said Stallings.
The exhibition “Almost Presidential” is currently live online and can be accessed by clicking here.