Artist Feature: Simran Gleason

Editor Sam Preminger, Art, August 1st, 2020

"pawns following illegal orders for political gain"

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From the artist:

This series started as a reaction to images from the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis in May. I was moved by the images of the 3rd Precinct building burning on May 28. Immediately I had the theme for the series: Disproportionate Response. This was an attempt to head off an anticipated right-wing narrative: “Is the violence of burning a whole building justified by a little police brutality? Is that a proportionate response?” You can’t equate property damage with even one life. But there’s so much more. Hundreds of Years, Thousands of Lives, Generations…

It was a difficult decision whether to put the words directly on the paintings. Shown in a museum setting, the words on the wall would be sufficient to set the context. Let loose on the internet, the image could be separated from its context and be re-interpreted, possibly to have the opposite meaning.

The second wave was a reaction to the police brutality ramping up in Portland. When the protests got near the Police Union, the system responded with full force. Perhaps this is indicative of the real seat of power in this town? Dylan VanWeelden, a photojournalist who lives nearby went out to capture incredible images of the brutal police response to the mere proximity of protesters to their union building. These paintings are about Asymmetrical Force.

The third wave of paintings reacts to the occupation of Portland by federal officers brought in for empty political reasons – shoring up a flagging presidential campaign with images of violence. These paintings began with scary images of the occupation and the reaction of local heroes. Then they shifted to dismissal. Dismissal is a common tactic used by the right wing to assert that democrats are not fit to govern. It was time to turn that narrative back on them. “Operation Stolen Valor” sent Trump’s “Little Green Men,” (a reference to Putin’s troops in Ukraine) to “quell” peaceful protests in Portland by ramping up the violence. Standing up to the cosplaying soldiers to ask them about their constitutional oaths merely got a Navy veteran beaten. It’s time to tell them their real place in the world: pawns following illegal orders for political gain.

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Simran Gleason is a Portland artist and illustrator, mostly working in oil painting. His work has been all over the artistic map, from plein air landscapes to improv music for modern dance, and most recently doing album covers for local & national bands. His series of figurative works in fantasy and dystopian settings has oddly turned into documenting actual burgeoning dystopia in America. To paraphrase William Gibson: dystopia is here, just not evenly distributed.

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Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.