Honestly, if not for the storytelling value, you would not be looking at the homage to narcissism that is the Featured Image. While walking in the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights on Sept. 6, 2021, my wife spotted something in the middle of the intersection at Georgia and Meade. She fetched what turned out to be a mounted print laying face down on the asphalt. Somewhat shocked by the strangeness of the find, she set the abandoned art against a utility poll, pulled out iPhone XS, and snapped a photo. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/530 sec, 26mm; 6:13 p.m. PDT.
I find the thing to be rather repulsive. Near as I can understand from standard web searching, the print is “Armed Forces” from the Hat Series by Chinese painter Yue Minjun. His works depict himself—so, yeah, he is each of the seven smiling weirdos that you see. There’s something oh-so unsettling and insanely appropriate about his style at a time when social media and smartphones propagate narcissists like mold in the damp walls of a leaky house.
Sometime ago, Sotheby’s sold a signed, 2005-dated “oil on canvas” of “Armed Forces” for $4,580,000 HKD ($588,530 USD at today’s exchange rate). Wow. I wonder what the market is for my creating crazy self-portraits and offering them as NFTs (non-fungible tokens)?
Because Minjun’s work gives me the willies, I took some post-production liberties editing Annie’s photo (sorry, Babe). In DxO Film Pack 5, I applied the “Found in the Attic” filter and used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic’s Dehaze tool to make misty the overall image.
Presumably, I am not alone disliking the print. Otherwise, why was it chucked in the street like garbage—to be destroyed by passing cars? My wife surely saved the, ah, artwork from destruction. I’ve got to wonder who, later, liked the thing enough to take it home.
Photo Credit: Anne Wilcox