Thursday, April 21, 2016

The art of money

The recent decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman, like nearly anything in the last few years, seems to have multiple political and social angles and views, depending on where your dogma lies.

The right wing should be rejoicing, as Tubman was a strong supporter of gun rights, and a vibrant activist for the Republican Party.  Jackson, on the other hand, was a Democrat.

As a result, essentially a Republican has replaced a Democrat on the twenty spot... not just any Democrat, but the founder of the Democratic Party!... cough, cough.

Personally, I'm more interested in the art angle aspect of this decision, hoping against all odds that the new Tubman $20 bill will be a bit more "artsy" than existing US money.

While the US dollar is the king of the hill when it comes to money, there's a vast chasm in art appeal in American money from many other countries.

Don't get me wrong, most countries have pretty boring bills, more often than not copying the style of the US dollar. Even the dirty, rotten Commies in Cuba use the "dollar style" here and there, such as in the case of the homophobic, racist, mass murderer Che Guevara three pesos bill:

And OK, the twenty Euro bill doesn't even look like money, but more like a coupon that you get in the mail or a ticket to a soccer game, or 20% discount at AC Moore's.

But before the Euro took over, European denominations were works of art in their diverse and colorful beauty. Check out the beautiful landscape in this Spanish 1000 peseta bill:

Or art!  See how Delacroix and the other figures look like rough drawing sketches from his Liberty Leading the People (La liberté guidant le people) 1830 painting?, not to mention bare tits, on this French 100 francs bill:

We will never see a woman's breasts on any American money - ever!

In Latin America, a few decades ago, most currency bills had the same style as the US dollar - but the introduction of technology to reduce fake bills also brought an opportunity to revamp their bills, and even to introduce women imagery - an interesting accomplishment in these macho societies. My favorite? Frida Kahlo in the Mexican 500 pesos bill. She's on the back, and her husband, the very ugly Diego Rivera, is on the front... cough, cough.

African countries also have gorgeous money, and plenty of females on their currency. Cameroon, in particular, has some beautiful women on their bills, although they seem to have an odd fixation with blue-eyed African women?

And then Costa Rica rocks the animal world with this super cool image of a Great White:

Or this beautiful butterfly:

But to get back on topic (boring US currency design), perhaps the new $20 bill could start by taking baby steps. How about if the image of Tubman breaks the usual compositional plane of the rectangular dollar note? Have Tubman really breaking out of the composition and leading American currency to new design heights?

Nearly all the suggested designs here are boring, although a few do take my suggestion and break the compositional plane.

This image below (via) begins to really re-composition US money, although it stands a snowball's chance in hell to ever be in any bill - but it has the artistic compositional elements that I visualize (breaking the plane of the rectangle).

Baby steps...

Opportunities for Artists

Artists Can Apply to Plein Air Festivals
Plein Air painting is a phrase borrowed from the French meaning "open air” and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors where an artist reproduces the visual conditions at the time of the painting. Maryland is home to a dozen Plein Air festivals. Below are upcoming opportunities for artists to participate: