Saint Patriot, 2011, Digital Print, 18" x 24" (Collection of the Artist).
Saint Patriot is part of a series that critically explores American culture and politics, utilizing hybrid symbols derived from Medieval and Byzantine icons. Villamizar's Saint Patriot (The Patron Saint of Patriotism) represents our alleged need to protect our way of life, to fight terrorism, and ultimately to get rid-of "the other(s)." The duende-filled image questions our foreign policy of war and our domestic policy of harassment and discrimination, i.e., the Patriot Act and Arizona's anti immigration law SB-1070. Villamizar's image Saint Patriot questions what it is to be a patriot, and questions such rash "right-wing" statements as, "Real Americans," "Good Americans," "Take back our country," etc. Brilliantly, Villamizar asks "What are we willing to accept in the name of patriotism? Can we stomach the loss of our civil rights? Must we have microchips embedded in our hands?"
The iconology of Saint Patriot derives from Villamizar's investigation of the Italian aesthetician Cesare Ripa (c.1560-c.1622) who described precisely how a "patriot" should be portrayed in his book Iconologia overo Descrittione Dell'imagini Universali cavate dall'Antichita et da altri luoghi (1593). The following are two excerpts from Ripa's personification of patriotism, which Villamizar employs in his composition: "a vigorous, powerfully built man, because patriotism never weakens but actually grows stronger with age... A precipice yawns at his feet suggesting that the true patriot fears nothing for the sake of the fatherland."
Following the above "visualization," everything in Villamizar's composition has symbolic meaning, including his use of animals, which serve to clarify the identity of the saint, e.g., Saint Patriot's bald eagle alludes to the great seal of the United States and most US-currency. The eagle is symbolic of majesty, domination, victory and valor. In medieval iconography, the eagle is associated with the conquest of evil. Here it has the bill of rights in his claws, and cowers by the side of the saint. Another animal in this composition is the ant, symbolic of diligence, humility and order; it also symbolizes the tireless servant, and here, it is representative of the immigrant, who works sixteen hour days, doing jobs that no one else wants for less than minimum wage.
Saint Patriot is part of a woodcut series of Saints; wherein Villamizar uses Latin as coded-messages, e.g., Saint Patriot's banner reads: "Novus Ordo Mundi," which translates as "New World Order," alluding to imperialism; it also reads "Pro Deo Et Patria," which translates as "For God and Country," to emphasize the personification of patriotism. Also, various logos and abbreviations (which are currently used to describe agencies or laws) are also included such as DHS- Department of Home land Security, DSEA-Domestic Security Enhancement Act (Patriot Act II), and SB-1070, the anti immigration bill signed by the governor of Arizona. Another iconographical image, which Villamizar uses on several of his saints, is the fasces, which in Roman times signified the judicial power over life and death and references authoritarian and nationalist ideology. Thus, borrowing from the great seal and the DHS logo, Villamizar uses the seal's arrows (which signify war) and the olive wreath (that indicates peace) to add further ironic impetus to the meaning of this work. A nimbus, which encircles the head of holy icons and the saint is represented here via the lens of a camera, alluding to George Orwell's 1984, and the most vital and crucial "We Are You-related" issue or proposition, best described by Margaret Atwood in the introduction to her novel The Handmaid's Tale:
When social upheaval results in political repression and people are willing to trade individual rights for what they think of as security and order... the form that repression takes is invariably a reversion to the original ethos of the nation, Where it to happen in America, the theocratic ambitions of the New England Puritans, who tortured and hanged inconvenient women, would provide the most obvious model.
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