Why I'm Following Romney's Campaign Through Art, and Giving Away My Undecided Vote
Artist Casey Jex Smith, an undecided voter, will stage a performative battle and give his swing state Ohio vote to the challenge winner.
Tonight, at Allegra LaViola Gallery, is the opening of my exhibition “Fiend in the Void,” which focuses on religion, politics, and the upcoming election. As an undecided voter, I will stage a performative battle that will give my swing state Ohio vote to the challenge winner.
I’m an artist and an active Mormon originally from Utah. When Mitt Romney started running for office, I decided to tie myself with his campaign by making drawings about it. Last year, my wife and I moved to Ohio from California. At the time we didn’t have a whole lot of money, we were living with my mother-in-law, and things were difficult for my career. I was going through a hard time, and started thinking about how I could get my power back. I thought that if I linked myself to Romney’s campaign through my work, and if he kept winning, then I could tie this into a show in October that was about him winning—or in that case, me winning.
The show became about Romney’s adventure: the foes he had to fight, the attack ads, themes of class. All the work is done through the lens of a Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons-type world as, per capita, Utah has the highest readership in sci-fi literature. I think Mormons find this kind of writing easy to relate to due to some of the more fantastic beliefs we have. One of the main Dungeons and Dragons writers is Mormon, as is Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), and Stephanie Meyer’s of the Twilight series. Christians don’t necessarily want to touch anything that has to do with magic and witchcraft, but not Mormons—we can’t get enough.
In the works, I’ve represented conservatives as undead creatures like zombies and skeletons; liberals are goblins. I’m not really flattering either side. My portrait of Obama makes him out to be an anti-Christ figure, based on feelings my family have that they believe Obama to be the actual, Biblical anti-Christ.
As a registered voter, I’m still undecided: I voted for Obama in the last election as I was so disappointed with George W. Bush and was excited for somebody new to come in. His message of hope and change really resonated with me. Since then I’ve become a little more conservative and there are times that I want Romney to win and there are other times that I think: “I can’t buy into this guy, he drives me crazy, says ridiculous things and doesn’t understand normal people.”
If Romney were to win, the country would perceive Mormons as doing, and espousing, anything that he did, which would be a new and frightening position for us to be in. Mormons have attracted a lot of attention in the past few years, but a considerable amount has been negative. My frustration with Romney has also been that he shies away from his religion. This is one of the main reasons I drew him with a Brigham Young polygamist beard: because I want him to wear his Mormonism a bit more.
At the opening tonight we will have a live action performance to decide the fate of the election using Dungeons and Dragons dice, rules and attacks. We have created an all-encompassing environment for the game, including a dungeon wall with candelabra, an old church podium, and physical elements relating to the battle. I will be Dungeon Master and ask for two volunteers to come up and play the roles of Obama and Romney. We’ll go through a little ceremony and then they’ll roll D&D dice and “damage” each other until there is a victor. Whoever comes out victorious will win my real-life vote in Ohio. When I go to the polls, I’ll take photo documentation so people know that I have voted for the winner of the game.