Kathleen Y. Clark: The White House China
The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has a current exhibition, Memory Keepers: Why Objects Matter, about a subject that I have considered over the years while disposing of several households worth of possessions. What gets passed on to future generations and what gets discarded? We keep objects that hold history, memory and more importantly, hold a certain power. That physical evidence is proof of existence, but the stories that accompany the objects morph and change over time and in the end are not always historically accurate.
Kathleen Y. Clark has created a profound project and new book, The White House China that speaks these inaccuracies. Inspired by the dinnerware of the White House, she uses china plates as platforms for truth telling and the reinterpretation of how objects hold history. In her reimagining of this dishware, Kathleen’s White House china forces us to amend Presidential legacies and omitted or rewritten histories. As we dine off her photographic and mixed media reconstructions, we encounter imagery that “reveals the injustice behind the country’s facade of equality, these re-creations look at presidential contradictions and pivotal judgements made throughout the nation’s history.” This brilliant retelling of American legacies shifts the dinner conversation into a space of historical truth.
The White House China can be purchased here.
California based Kathleen Y. Clark makes images exploring social justice, history, language and home. A National Endowment for the Arts recipient, she has an MFA from the University of California, Irvine and has exhibited at Southern Exposure and Photoeye, San Francisco; COCA, Seattle; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA) and The Portland Art Museum. She also founded and directed several Los Angeles photo and art galleries, was Photo Editor at Los Angeles magazine and LA Weekly and served as a faculty member at USC and Art Center College of Design. This is her first book.
The White House China
The White House China is a series of photographic and mixed media reconstructions based on the collection of dinnerware at the presidential residence in Washington, DC. Depictions of presidential china are based on the official state and family china collections of the presidents they represent or that of their predecessors.
Aiming to correct certain historical omissions, I began this project in the spring of 2016 to explore the iconography and incongruity of an America established through violent conquest yet framed by elegant theory. A country once perceived as a beacon for democracy has at its root, the constant struggle for social justice. Embedded in a patriotic narrative, the rise and economic glory of the United States was fueled by the eradication of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the exploitation of natural resources. The White House was no exception to this opportunism.
Inspired by early political illustrators who used their explosive imagery to reveal the injustice behind the country’s facade of equality, these re-creations look at presidential contradictions and pivotal judgements made throughout the nation’s history. My intent is to shine a light on often-destructive events which happened by decision or neglect within each administration, providing a stark contrast to the assumption of civilization and culture set around historic dining tables. –
Kathleen Y. Clark
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