press release

Presidential Index

I can never consider an object without some impulse to keep it. These are pictures of Avon Presidential Bust Cologne bottles I bought on Ebay. I removed their heads and now they're shirts and jackets and ties; they're printed the same size as my own torso. Five grids show the presidents arranged by most popular type at the time of my research. There are only two Theodore Roosevelts but 19 George Washingtons. This presidential index is combined with two images of makeup palettes by the company “Ultra Cosmetics” and two images of rugs.

In sum: products aimed at minor improvements of the self and the home, remains of high modernist idealism.

An old idea: you don’t notice something until it is broken, until it forces you to see it. One car slides into another’s spot, something is replaced. Everything works until it doesn’t. An inventory of the things I would have seen if I didn’t always look away. I hear things described as “shy” unless broken, fading into backgrounds, shelves, boxes, basements.

For example: the actual smell of the product. Spilled in my car on my studio floor on my clothes and in my hair. An odor of purchased good living. The smell of kitsch, and what needs to be covered up by cologne. That is to say – the smell of a real body.

I keep going back to these things for something solid. An object sized to hold in a hand. An image far from its source but still ringing. A president who can truly infiltrate the living rooms of the nation. A population wearing out.

A presidential bust the same size as a woman’s shoulders. That’s about seventeen inches wide. I don’t care about the past presidents. I’m not even American. What do they have to do with me? I care because I have to. My body comes up against theirs. And I can’t make anything without thinking of them.

- Sara Cwynar, 2015