Margin

The months leading up to the Nov. election, the media was polarized broadcasting. "Fake" media was focused on voter turnout, and access issues while "Fox" concentrated the probability of election fraud perpetrated mostly by Trump supporters. To the liberal public, it seemed too close to call. The Trump leadership was spreading a narrative that the only way the Democrats could win back the Whitehouse would be through massive fraud which appeared to be their campaign platform. By contrast, the Democratic message focused on  the COVID crisis, social inequity, getting financial aid to those in need, and funding needed nationwide infrastructure projects. 

A great deal of the nation's wealth was being poured into both campaigns. While this was happening, there were local issues across individual states that were getting media attention. Liberal state legislators were struggling with how the COVID virus was going to affect elections, and they were trying to come up with solutions that would ensure registered citizens would have the opportunity to cast a vote on Nov. 6. On the other hand conservative legislators seemed to employ tactics that would limit voter turnout. Much of the disagreement over voter rights was mail-in ballots. For months President Trump was going to campaign rallies repeating the assertion that the only way he could loose the election was because of mail-in voting fraud and democratic manipulation of vote counting processes across the 50 states. After the election and all of the votes were finally accounted for, it was determined that the Biden campaign had won both the popular vote with a margin over 7 million votes, and the electoral college by a margin of 74 votes. The Republican party had been dealt a devastating loss. President Trump's campaign refused to accept the outcome claiming that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald Trump who was tweet storming and conservative media,  in a nonstop post election campaign to claim that he had won the election and the Democratic party had manipulated every aspect of the voting process to alter the outcome. His lawyers had made over 86 court challenges in the crucial swing states with accusations of voter fraud trying to overturn the election. They were struck down in all but one law suit in Pennsylvania. It was over the number of vote counting observers allowed and their access to the counting process. As the days moved forward toward electoral college certification of the election results, a majority of the Republican leadership in the house and senate began to support the claim that the election was rigged. Throughout the time between the Nov. 6 election and the Jan. 6 electoral certification in congress, President Trump's claim was repeated at every opportunity. If he were addressing the public on  COVID issues, he would devote a big portion of the airtime to accuse Democrats of "Stealing" the election from him.

On Jan. 6 Trump held a rally in Washington D.C. for his followers. At the rally he expressed his anger at having the election stolen from him and advised his followers massed on the grounds of the ellipse to march up Pennsylvania avenue and protest the congressional certification process happening  within the nation's capitol and to "fight like hell". What the followers heard from President Trump was his call for them to storm the capitol building, stop the certification process, and kill anyone inside that was responsible for "The Big Steal". Numerous accounts by arrested protesting citizens claimed they stormed the capitol because Donald Trump asked them to. They claimed that they were Trump's "cavalry."

After the inauguration, I wanted to do something to address a notion that many conservative voters believed to be true. They apparently believed that the Democratic party was so  powerful that it could orchestrate a massive fraud operation to make Joe Biden the winning candidate by a historic margin because it had the ability to manipulate votes on election night as Donald Trump alleged the morning after. I settled on a canvas upon which was marked a series of 464 x1/8" rows of pencil tick marks on a 58"x 38" canvas. Each row containing approximately 920 pencil tick marks. I wanted to see what 7 million votes/tick marks  physically looked like . After covering the whole canvas with tick marks, I calculated their sum as 426,880 ticks/votes. After further calculations, I realized that in order to get to the 7,059,741 vote margin Joe Biden had over Donald Trump, I would need to recreate 18 more 58"x 38" identical canvasses. That was a staggering physical representation of the Biden margin. I also realized that to exhibit that kind of art work would require a wall space over 57' long. Imagine how outrageous it would be for the traditionally disorganized and undercapitalized democratic party having the power to manipulate that many votes, by corrupting 3,006 counties, 50 state election boards, and millions of dollars of security measures to the extent that they could, in secrecy, create a vote margin of 7,059,741 votes! 

 

                                         Margin: 76"x 57', pencil on canvas.                                 

 

 

 

As a result I chose to use the single canvas and make each tick mark on it represent 18 votes and stated the 1: 18 scale in the top right of the canvas. To contextualize the overall canvas I placed a 3" stencil spelling the word "Elected" and taped it to the canvas. Using a magnifying glass each tick falling within the stencil letters were retraced over using an 8B soft graphite pencil making the ticks spell "Elected". 

After completing the "Elected" retracing ticks, I thought the work was done and I spent a few days living with it.  There was something bothering me which quickly became obvious. Joe Biden had won both the popular and the electoral votes and I had only addressed the one. I remember a conversation with friends just after the election was won by Joe Biden. The comment I recalled was, "on top of that, he took the electoral college". I used that saying to solve the final piece of the work. I took a piece of canvas that would evenly accommodate  306 marks to be placed over the popular vote ticks and didn't like the idea that it obscured some of the popular ticks. Therefore, I calculated cutting out 306 rectangles from the canvas so that at least some of the popular ticks could be seen and it was consistent with the "on top of that" theme. While cutting out the rectangles, I began to look at the boarders around the work and it bothered me that some sort of a framing device was missing and I began to think about what could be done to improve that part of the work. Finally the idea of the 2020 election came to mind and I chose to cut 20 x1/2" x 5" strips of canvas, paint them black, and apply them evenly around the boarder to add relevance as well as a visual energy. After completion of the cut-outs on the electoral canvas, and painting it black, I chose to sew it onto the canvas to maintain the "on top of that" theme resting on top of the popular vote surface but not be a of it. 

Again I put up the work thinking it was done but after living with it for a few more days, I realized that the 306 electoral cut-outs didn't reflect the title of the piece, "Margin". The missing piece was the difference between the 306 Biden votes and Trump's 232 votes. The solution was to X out 232 Trump electoral votes leaving a margin of 74 electoral votes in favor of Joe Biden. 

Margin: Sate I

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Margin: graphite on canvas, 58"x 38" 2021

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      Margin (detail)                                 Margin (detail E of elected)

Margin: State II

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Margin II: graphite on canvas, 58"x 38" 2021

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Margin (detail)

I lived with "Margin II" for about three months while working on "Archiology of The Top 10%". While taking a break from applying the finishing touches to it, I was looking at "Margin II" and began looking at my sketch book notes to check back on the details of the calculations. I discovered that I had totally miscalculated the numbers on the electoral rectangle and they needed to be fixed. After completing a completely new set of calculations, I altered the rectangle to accurately reflect the electoral votes and Biden's margin of win. With the alteration completed, I noticed that the symmetry created in "Margin I and II" had been interrupted by the odd top on the black electoral canvas. I had been concerned with the 1:18 number in the top right of the canvas and used it to balance out the electoral element on the left. But now it left a hole in the lower right corner of the canvas. This was resolved by applying two relevant numbers for more contextualization as well as establishing an overall balance. 
Using the same stenciling and retracing of ticks used for the word "Elected". The number "74" appears on top of the black electoral overlay referring to Biden's margin of win in the electoral college. The number 7,059,741 appears in the lower right corner referring to the popular vote margin he won by.

 

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Margin III: graphite on canvas, 58"x 38" 2021