Amazing Grace,16 in x 20 in, US Currency on Canvas, 2008
In 2002 I was teaching digital photography at a University near an Air Force Base. I’d had several talented and creative soldiers come through my class. And while I tend to forget the bad students pretty quickly, Harold is one I would always remember.
Three semesters after the course ended I got a phone call from an administrator at the base. Apparently, Harold had used Air Force money to take the class. Since he had failed my class, the cost of the tuition (around $400 with fees) was to be reneged. This meant that Harold would have to repay the military out of pocket so they could reassign the funds elsewhere.
In a time of war, we all need to make tough choices. I chose that day to change a grade, passing a failed student with an A+ to ensure that his tuition fees – which had fortunately found their way into education via a defense allocation, would remain there. He didn’t deserve to pass based on his performance, but I saw it as a rare opportunity to take a little back from our government’s excessive defense spending, even if it might have been just enough to halt the purchase of one box of ammunition.
This series, playfully titled TaxCut, functions in much the same way. I have been destroying currency for my work for the past two years. As a professional artist, I deduct my material expenditures as a write off. If I slice up a hundred dollars to make an image, or a thousand, or just five, I am taking it out of the IRS coffers. Imaging the weaponry that I’m not buying with those dollars is a reminder for me that a little creativity can be quite empowering.