by Agape Charmani
Justine Lai is one of those artist whose wild imagination is perfectly translated through their work. Lai does not simply have a creative imagination, she also has the guts to create even her craziest idea.
Because as a crazy idea one would describe her series Join or Die, as Lai depicts herself having sex with some of the most famous former American presidents. Paralleling sex with politics, the artist demystifies few of the most powerful men in the world. And though many women have praised President Barack Obama for his looks and firm body, George Washington is definitely not one to swoon over.
“I paint myself having sex with the Presidents of the United States in chronological order. I am interested in humanizing and demythologizing the Presidents by addressing their public legacies and private lives. The presidency itself is a seemingly immortal and impenetrable institution; by inserting myself in its timeline, I attempt to locate something intimate and mortal. I use this intimacy to subvert authority, but it demands that I make myself vulnerable along with the Presidents. A power lies in rendering these patriarchal figures the possible object of shame, ridicule and desire, but it is a power that is constantly negotiated. I approach the spectacle of sex and politics with a certain playfulness. It would be easy to let the images slide into territory that’s strictly pornographic—the lurid and hardcore, the predictably “controversial.” One could also imagine a series preoccupied with wearing its “-fudge- the Man” symbolism on its sleeve. But I wish to move beyond these things and make something playful and tender and maybe a little ambiguous, but exuberantly so. This, I feel, is the most humanizing act I can do,” the artist explains.