Artist's work looks at the art of political anger, extremism

Fletcher Crossman, artist.
Fletcher Crossman, artist.

CHARLESTON, SC - CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In the world according to Fletcher Crossman, President Obama is dead, gunned down while leaving a speaking engagement in Washington, D.C., by a U.S. citizen with no record of which to speak.

Glenn Beck is dead, too. The body of the conservative political commentator hanged from a skyscraper in a city that very well could be any major city in America.  Ann Coulter is alive, however, her tongue chopped from her mouth.

Rush Limbaugh seems to be the only one in the bunch to make it through Grossman's reality, missing all five shots fired at him during a celebrity golfing event.

It is called State of Shock, and it is currently taking up residency at Eye Level Art, a contemporary art gallery on Spring Street in downtown Charleston.  It is also one of the gallery's biggest events; an opening night reception drew hundreds of people.

"It's a show about anger," said Crossman, a native of England, taking up temporary residency in the Lowcountry.  "I'm shocked everyday by the amount of anger and hatred that has infiltrated its way in to political discourse in what is supposed to be a nation founded on rapport and insight."

Anger is just beginning to scratch the surface.  For six months, Crossman crafted an art display that lends itself to be something of a comic book.  Political figures and commentators are subject to violent, and at times deadly, attacks on their lives lead by an American people fed up with the current aggression Crossman feels has overridden what should be a democratic marketplace of ideas.

"The attacks are a way of showing a peoples revenge," said Crossman.  "People seem so unhappy with the government these days. I deal with emotions and themes in the political arena no one wants to pay attention to. This show is kind of my invite for the public to delve in to the issue without even giving them a chance to think otherwise."

Crossman is quick to point out that the exhibit, or the shootings, hangings, and beatings of the subject in them, is not politically biased in nature.

"It has nothing to do with the right or the left," said Crossman.  "It's about recognizing that both parties have set themselves up in camps and are more interested in defending themselves than ideas."

Moving clockwise as to follow the chronological story line, attendees view State of Shock by reading various mock media reports that detail the pending doom in the corresponding piece of art work -- some pieces are canvas size, others tenfold.

"I use the media to not only progress the story, but to point the role that mainstream media has in adding spin to any issue," said Crossman.  "When you begin to study [media outlets] you begin to realize how even when they change a word or two, how twisted an idea can become to the public.  It's powerful."

Powerful, too, has been the reaction.  Crossman says of the hundreds that have seen the work, a majority -- "9 out of 10," he says -- seem to appreciate it.

"They may not agree with the storyline or who is targeted, but everyone seems to agree that politics is not what it should be," said Crossman.  "I've had people who have admitted coming to me and wanting to give me a piece of their mind later tell me that the art inspired them to do some personal reflection, that underneath what may be a controversial idea is a pretty unique and universal message."

It's about recognizing that both parties have set themselves up in camps and are more interested in defending themselves than ideas.

The exhibit runs until June 2, but Crossman has national intentions for it. He says he has been in talks with a gallery in Washington, D.C. to host the exhibit.

"This message is in the here and now," said Crossman.  "We need to show it to people so they begin to think about the world that we live in."

Eye Level Art, located at 103 Spring Street, will host a panel discussion on June 2, dealing with anger in American politics.  Various local and national media, art, and political figures are anticipated to sign on for the discourse.

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