felt tip pen on paper
482.6 x 558.8 cm
Beauty Free, Cold War Hot Stuff and Real Real Estate Flowers belong to a series of twenty huge drawings created by Aleksandra Mir and a team of sixteen assistants – mainly students and art school graduates - as part of a non-stop "Sharpie marathon" held in a temporary East Village studio, New York, during the month of May 2005. Each work consists of eight sheets of paper, pieced together in a landscape format, the common feature of which is an outlined map of the United States.
Retro text and motifs evoking idealist 1960s Americana such as the draft, the baby boom, Civil War, road trips, the space race, the Bicentennial, love and God were sketched by Mir overnight and filled in by her helpers working in shifts each day and evening using black Sharpie felt tips pens. The process of collaboration, and the use of atypical materials – in this case a humble household marker pen – are similarly integral to the artist's working practice.
Beauty Free is a commentary on the American Civil War, a bloody conflict dominated by the issue of slavery which began in 1860 when Confederate states in the south declared their independence and claimed the right of secession from the union. The southern states are here labelled "free", the letters spelled out in stars from the country's flag, while the northern states are threaded together by one long, continuous, looping stripe and the word "beauty". Cold War Hot Stuff employs the same device – stars in the form of snowflakes above and stripes in the form of sunbeams below – to create a contrast of warm and cold, light and dark, and, in a more overtly political sense, good and evil. Real Real Estate Flowers, probably the most psychedelic of the three, maps the officially designated flowers of each state.