This post is part of a series.
- Courtesy the artist and Cullom Gallery
- Annie Bissett, GOD, Japanese woodblock print, 38 1/2 by 25 inches
There are nine prints in the series Mixed Feelings. Each print laces together two written metaphors about money that use the same symbolism to refer to wealth and poverty, like two hands stuck in a clammy grasp. The wealth-related phrase ("Swimming in Cash," for instance) appears in the ornate font found on the dollar bill (see dollar bill design history here). The phrase representing the other side of the coin, as it were, is printed in a font that Bissett developed from letters handwritten by her late father, who came from a very poor family in New Hampshire ("drowning in debt," for instance). The effect is a sort of delicate activism, a conflict imprinted on fragile paper. (These works are strikingly affordable to buy, too, at $250).
There are larger, textless prints, too. They're utterly handsome. One pictures a man in a canoe on a mirrored lake—a placid landscape, a portrait lifted from American transcendentalism. But in the lower left corner, a wave of elaborate curlicues and flourishes rolls in, kind of like the exuberant rush of artifice that rises in Hokusai's The Great Wave. You may not recognize it at first. But the wave is a direct quote from the curlicues and flourishes that appear on the dollar bill. Once you know this, they represent an invasion of commerce on the landscape, more like a fire or a virus. Look again.
At the top of this post is another one I like. It really does seem to glow when you're in the room with it. You can probably figure out by now where the font and designs come from. It was also inspired by something Benjamin Franklin is said to have written, in Poor Richard's Almanac: "Nothing but money is sweeter than honey."