In the project room, Roebling Hall presents Apotheosis, an exhibition of Melanie Baker’s drawings. Apotheosis explores the trappings of power. In charcoal and pastel drawings up to fifteen feet wide, Baker investigates symbols and the nature of imagery used to exert control.
Baker’s past work included drawings focused on American government officials and corporate power. Apotheosis explores historical images from other empires. Based on a bust of Napoleon, the title drawing, Apotheosis, depicts an enormous red eagle with wings spread. Symbolic of Napoleon’s manifestation of sovereignty and transformation from man into deity, Apotheosis is symbolic of the uses of imagery to depict and create the mythology of power, a mythology that is quickly made concrete. This change is brought about through deliberately chosen symbols, such as the Roman eagle, and the trappings of authority such as weapons and other paraphernalia. Baker uses this imagery to interrogate the ideology and the seductive quality of power.
The Main de Justice (Hand of Justice) is a drawing of the delicate scepter handled by the ordained emperor. In Baker’s handling of it, the elegant wand seems quaint and frightening, in a way reminiscent of political power. In A National Treasure, Baker hones in on George Washington and his sword. A stand in for the phallic, the sword makes clear Baker’s take on the inherently sexual dynamic within the historical framework of power, militarism and empire.