Talking to Warren Thomas King

Question: Tell me about “Man of the Year”

Man of the Year” appropriates an image of a military officer from a Frans
Hals painting. Hals painted a lot of these commissioned officer portraits.
I love paintings like this one from the Dutch golden age because they
often feature guys hanging out together in the proto-country clubs of the
time. These officers wore extravagant outfits with lace collars and cuffs.
And it was a straight guy thing too. They’re some of the earliest and
best-documented instances of bromance. These paintings are just a bunch of
dudes hanging out with other dudes priding themselves on their ability to
dominate, all the while sporting these ornamental getups.

The other thing about these Dutch golden age paintings is that they all
have mustaches. I want to think about the social pressures as a male to
compete and dominate but want to ask what kind of role biology plays in
all this. So I hung the awards on his ‘stache. A mustache is not socially
constructed; It’s biological. And biology is completely removed from the
discussion of gender roles these days, as if it isn’t even a factor.

To express this overwhelming social pressure, I gave him more awards than
a person could expect to receive in a lifetime. It’s too much. When I look
back on this piece I think I really could have loaded him up with more
awards to drive my point home. I couldn’t imagine a person receiving both
military medals and a Nobel peace prize. I thought that would be enough.
And the juxtaposition was supposed to be ironic. But then Obama got the
Nobel Prize in 2009 and subsequently allocated 37 billion to funding the
war. Real life is more surreal than anything you can make up.

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