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Politically engaged and fun, artist Diane Bush busts out of the gallery

Diane Bush (portrait by Jeferson Applegate)
Diane Bush (portrait by Jeferson Applegate)

In his essay "9.5 Theses on Art and Class," critic Ben Davis writes, "Another role for art is as a symbolic escape valve for radical impulses, to serve as a place to isolate and contain social energy that runs counter to the dominant ideology [of the ruling class]." That is, the Powers That Be are happy to see (and even support!) radical ideas expressed in art because it helps keep them out of wider circulation, where they might interfere with the profit-making.

That said, meet Diane Bush, an artist/activist/fun-having prankster. She's best known around here for her "ImBLEACHment" pieces: color photographs of political and media elites that have been splashed with bleach, a process she pioneered in 2005 to protest the Iraq War. The resulting smeared, corrupted images — political art meets agggressive abstract expressionism — literalize the moral, spiritual and economic corruption of the overclass. Now, her latest project, The Big Cover Up, takes this work into the streets to unusually practical, useful effect. She's transferred "ImBLEACHment" shots onto warm blankets that she's handed out to homeless veterans and Occupy stalwarts in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Buffalo. She recently received a grant from the Puffin Foundation to carry on this work.

"The most popular image is one of Sharon Angle's bleach-splashed face," Bush tells CityLife, "but Mitt Romney's bleach-splashed face is also popular." In addition to helping the needy, Bush — a  fan of political humor and Yippie-style activist pranksterism — also wants The Big Cover Up to inspire other artists to bust out of the gallery routine and take up meaningful, politically engaged artistic fun. That may not upset the yachting class too much, but it's a good start. See more here: