- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

CHICAGO — No one can accuse video artist Vanalyne Green of avoiding the big subjects of American life.
Having already taken on sex and family relations, she's working on a piece about politics and religion.
Tentatively titled "The Lord and The Pork Barrel," the next video essay Miss Green has planned is a satiric look at the prayers offered up each day by the chaplains of the U.S. House and Senate.
The 52-year-old professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago says she has long been fascinated by the chaplains' role and how their prayers seem aimed at putting a veil of sanctity over the sometimes unhallowed doings on the legislative floor.
"I've been studying the Congressional Record and collecting hundreds of the prayers," Miss Green says. "I plan to use some of the best of them in my video, both as visual text and in recitations by actors.
"Some of them are hilarious, and very telling," she says. "One chaplain in 1919 prayed to God to protect the House from 'the unreasonable demands of the uneducated,' and one from 1987 who wanted to protect the Senate from 'hidden agendas.' More recently, there was a prayer, titled 'The Fallen Hero,' that asked God to help O.J. Simpson in his hour of need."
Miss Green was recently named a winner of the American Academy in Rome's 105th annual Rome Prize Competition, which entitles her to live and work for a year at the academy's palatial site overlooking the heart of Rome. She plans to work on the video there, in "the historical epicenter of religious gesture and statecraft."
Miss Green plans to incorporate God's response in her video.
"He finally gets fed up and lambastes Congress," she says. "He doesn't like the design of the new $20 bill or the prose style of the prayers. Basically, he's tired of being treated like the 'great American mascot.'
"God should be an upper-class British academic with one of those great voices," she says, laughing.
Miss Green's irreverence dates back to her childhood. She describes her parents as "Christmas and Easter Protestants who were basically profoundly secular, maybe because they'd found their own god to worship — alcohol.
"My father was a Kentucky bootlegger who joined the Army to stay out of jail," she explains. "He became career Army and eventually retired to Fresno, Calif., where I grew up."
Miss Green says she was in college in Fresno, studying psychology, when she impulsively took an art class from feminist artist Judy Chicago and became inspired. She began a career as a performance artist and actress, but soon shifted to producing video essays, usually starring herself.
One of her early video works, 1985's "Trick or Drink," used children's drawings, family albums and excerpts from her teen-age diary to examine the problems of children with alcoholic parents.
"A Spy in the House That Ruth Built," from 1989, is a quirky look at professional baseball. Miss Green started it after a female sportswriter friend complained that as a woman she had an easier time covering the Vietnam War than she had covering the Oakland A's. The video is both a sexual satire of baseball and a love letter to it.
In 1998, Miss Green examined America's long love affair with the cowboy hero — and her own much briefer fling with a real-life Wyoming "Marlboro Man." The result was "Saddle Sores: A Blue Western," her darkest humor to date.
Miss Green, whose previous awards include a Guggenheim fellowship, has taught at the Art Institute since 1990. She has also taught in Paris, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Her videos have been shown throughout the United States and Europe.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide