Tuesday, December 09, 2003


My professor Patricia Hilden mentioned reading this NY Times article on artist Thomas Hart Benton's "Year of Peril" posters which followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The series, eight paintings in all, are fascinating, disturbing representations of the dangers of fascism from both Europe and Japan. His portrayals of Japanese, in particular, are grotesque in their caricature, presumably fueled by the anger and disgust Benton felt following Pearl Harbor. His painting in particular, entitled "Invasion" is particularly visceral in its impact: apart from the obvious racial/sexual paranoia being struck by seeing two Japanese soldiers about to rape a blond, white woman, another soldier seems to be phallically bayoneting her presumed husband/brother/father in the mouth. Yeah, subtle. What's interesting about the NY Times article is that author David Brinkley never once makes mention of the use of ethnic/racial stereotyping in Benton's images - a rather obvious detail to many of the series' posters, a fact my prof raised to me and it does seem strangely missing from Brinkley's piece. Either way, view the slide show that the NY Times provides - heady imagery to be sure.