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What are we to think of this jarring substitution? As we page through the album, the images of the prisoners, with numbers attached and heads held in place with a caliper-like device, we can’t help but wonder why these accused individuals are there to disrupt the lovely nature of this fine Victorian album.

On a pure pictorial level of what is presented, we see the rigidly controlled poses of the convicts, in which much of their humanity and all of their social status has been taken away. We can easily imagine that photos appropriate to such an album would have portrayed the privileged class in poses that enhanced their dignity and humanity and rendered them as proud upstanding members of society.

Prisons are largely filled – or over-filled – with a segment of society that has been deprived of opportunity, that has been often racially or economically marginalized, and frequently lacks education and good role models. In a remarkably parallel situation to that described by Professor Kamen in ancient Athens, it is a common occurrence today that people excluded from the social order, for whatever reason, are systematically unable to access their legal rights and protections, whether because of poor education, minimal financial resources or inadequate psychological support.

Cherished, Beloved and Most Wanted asks an unsettling question: if these prisoners don’t belong in the polite society of this album, where in society do they find a place?

Another artistic tribute to civil rights, fought for, gained, but still not fully achieved, is Marriage Matters by Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry

At the invitation of the artists who were celebrating the 26th year of their relationship, ten gay and lesbian couples went to Sears to have their portraits taken. Each couple’s story is recorded in this book, along with their pictures. Small manipulated photographs of wedding cake toppers – all same-sex couples – accompany text citing statistics about same-sex marriage, in a font suggestive of the type used on wedding invitations. The couples in this book reflect on the nature of their long-term relationships, their families and the question about the ways in which marriage matters.

The book, completed in 2005, is printed on iridescent paper in shades of lavender, white and peach, colors often associated with weddings. When the alternating vertical and horizontal pages are completely opened, the book resembles a wedding cake.

But this wedding cake is spiced with a touch of irony. Sears is the archetypal middle-American, middle-class emporium, whose motto at one time was “The Good Life at a Great Price. Guaranteed.” But for same-sex couples looking for the good life in marriage, there is still no guarantee.

Now, eight years later, 16 states have passed marriage equality laws and the federal government has finally allowed legally married same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. Although the struggle for LGBT rights is far from over, progress has been made and the celebrations have begun.

Many of the themes in these artists’ books mirror Professor Kamen’s example of citizens who are protected by the law in theory, but in practice are unable to access their rights.

Within these books lie the often sad stories of disenfranchisement and discrimination in America, where so many lives are displaced and entire communities are alienated.

Marriage Matters
Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry

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