"In God We Trust" grew out of the bemused observation that our currency bears upon it images of architecture that are, by and large, institutions of governance. I found it ironic that the principal instrument of corruption and undue influence, the "greenback", bears upon it the images of those same institutions that it subverts. Further, the architectural style of the buildings represented on the bills, Neoclassicism, celebrates the architecture, and therefore the achievements of the first democracy, Athens, and the first republic, Rome. I spent the academic year 2000/01 on a sabbatical leave to complete this group of works (begun in 1998) among other projects. I finished the work in August of 2001.
On February 19th 2002 100 16 x 20 prints randomly selected from this body of work were sent to members of the U.S. Senate with a letter asking that they pass meaningful campaign reform. On the February 21st 441 11 x 14 prints were sent to the members of the House of Representatives thanking them for their part in passing the Shays-Meehan bill. It is amazing how fast the Congress can act when an event like the Enron debacle surfaces. The issue of Campaign finance Reform has been around for years in the form of the McCain-Feingold bill.
The notion of sending each Member of the 107th Congress a print from the series grew out of the tax rebate issue. As a middle-class individual, I thought that there were many more important things that government could do with my $300 than send it back to me. During the early summer I had decided to send the refund in equal parts to Senators McCain (R - AZ), Jeffords (I - VT), and Daschle (D - SD) as campaign contributions because each had or would play a major role in the then coming debate over campaign finance reform. Then we were told that we were supposed to spend the refund to stimulate the economy. So, in an effort to do my part, I've bought a lot of photographic paper and sent each member of Congress an image with the sincere hope that collectively can fix a very broken system.
Giving a print to each member of congress was conceived as a simple act of giving. But the issue that the gifting addressed is highly political and the role of an artist is that of an explorer of ideas and a maker of observation(s). One essentially points at an issue. So the project of "Gifting Congress" became a larger, more public work because the issue it addresses is very large, public and important. HOWEVER. I am not unaware of the conundrum between giving a gift, an essentially unselfish act, and then calling attention to the act in the media and with a web site.

Copyright ©2003 Reed Estabrook