Tag Archives: David Haughton

Three Angry Men I 2018

Angry White Men – Explorations of the Face of Evil

David Haughton
September 6 – 29, 2018, West Gallery
Statement on Controversy
Questions and Answers

A new series of provocative paintings by artist David Haughton features portraits of neo-Nazis, livid gun advocates, and disenfranchised, resentful and angry protesters. Rich with texture, they capture the rage and violence of angry white men as they express their frustration, desperation and fear towards people who are not like them. The images are taken from news photos in France, Hungary, Bosnia, Poland, England, Scotland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the USA.

Haughton writes, “In depicting these awful people, I was not glorifying them and their beliefs. Rather, I was exposing the underbelly of US and European society. My goal as an artist was to depict, with unflinching honesty, the world in which we live.

This is the first of three planned exhibitions. It focuses mainly on portraits of the “angry white men” – men (and women) who mass on the streets: frightening, loud and looking completely capable of evil deeds. It also introduces four portraits of a second group of men who I call “puppets”. The “puppets” are men who have unquestionably done great evil (for example, Dylan Roof and Anders Brevik). They are also, almost inevitably, damaged men (mental illness and/or intellectual disability and/or disordered personality) who are driven to evil actions by embrace of ideologies of hatred, contempt and fear of people with different beliefs, cultures and skin color.

The later exhibitions in this series, in 2019 and 2020, will include more and larger portraits of these two groups, and introduce a third group, those I call the “puppet masters”. The Puppet Masters are the cynical, successful and intelligent white men who – with cold detachment – work through right-wing media and blogs to manipulate and profit from their more credulous angry white brethren.”

“Decency these days requires the ability to stare barbarism in the face, repeatedly, randomly, intensely, without ever becoming inured to the ugliness of its features.”
— Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker

Everywhere I look in the news of the world, I see angry white men. Their towns have been hollowed out by the closing of factories or mines. The work done by their parents for a decent wage is now done abroad, and by machines and robots. Their insecurities are shaped into weapons by demagogues who blame the people who aren’t like them: immigrants, elites, liberals, democrats. Feelings of frustration and inadequacy are soothed by myths of an older, better time – a time when people loyal to their tribe or “nation” were honored, respected and rewarded.

Men and women lacking in, or deprived of, agency look to nationalism to assure them that, in their own way, they are as good as everyone else – better, even. It is just that the world does not give them the respect they deserve… [they] feel that the disruptions to the economy caused by globalization and technological change have increasingly rigged it against them. Their hard work – real or imagined – goes unrewarded while self-serving elites and the minorities who enjoy their favor reap privileged access to wealth and power. Bureaucrats obsessed with political correctness give immigrants jobs, houses and places in the local schools, while the nationalist’s loyalty to the nation, which is held to stretch back generations, is rewarded only by sneering and disdain.
The Economist – December 23, 2017

I am profoundly grieved and frightened by the rage and fear in their expressions, and the incoherent violence that some are driven to. “I understand a fury in your words. But not the words”. Men furious at Muslims kill Sikhs. Men attempting to murder Jews instead shoot Lutherans. Men whose fathers risked their lives fighting fascism raise their arms in Nazi salutes, join the KKK, and set elderly immigrants on fire.

I morn this regression to tribalism, to a loyalty limited to those of similar race, culture and political viewpoint, to a world-view that sees a threat in people of different religions and cultural backgrounds. But, as I paint these angry white men from France, Hungary, Bosnia, Poland, England, Scotland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and of course, the United States of America, I can dimly see their humanity. The market reforms of the 1980s, globalization of trade, and particularly the technological advances of the last 40 years have enriched us all, but disproportionately so the elite; the sense that everyone is in the same boat has been destroyed.

I also understand that, given that in the right combination of frustration, desperation and fear, I might look like them. I, too, have ‘bred in my bones’ the capacity for fear, contempt, anger and violence towards strangers who look different, talk a strange language and now compete for the same resources.