A History of Thugs, 2004
A History of Thugs came after reading Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’. This book is a compilation and analysis of historical documents written not through the eyes of the government and its power structure, but by those who were considered to be on the losing end, or the oppressed. These include the stories of slaves, women before equal rights, the Native Americans, the minorities, the powerless. A History of Thugs, then, is a diorama of the American history noblesse, cast in a less than favorably light, in the vein of Theodore De Bry (a Flemish-born engraver, draftsman and book editor and publisher who became famous for his depictions of early European expeditions to the Americas.)
The complete diorama contains 70 ‘thugs’, people who use(d) or abuse(d) their power for personal or political gain, and 6 brave souls who were killed in the process of opposing the powerful (on plate #7). I have taken a considerable amount of heat for Harry Truman, fig. 21, heralded as a great president, chosen for his uniqueness as the only person to authorize use of an atomic weapon against a civilian population. An equal substitute could perhaps be Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. While subjective and disputable, it enters the visual record as much as any other subjective view of history.