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Images of The One

A look at the "Manifest Hope" exhibit in Denver.

7:00 PM, Aug 27, 2008 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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A FEW MONTHS AGO I wrote about the iconography of Barack Obama; today I toured the "Manifest Hope" gallery, which brings together many of the classic works of Obama along with new additions. Apparently, the school's energy is not yet spent.

Manifest Hope is installed in a shabby, trendy neighborhood, amidst declining warehouses and new small businesses. A couple doors down from the gallery, for instance, is a doggie daycare school called The Barkway. Across the street from that is a Krav Maga studio.

The pieces included in Manifest Hope are similarly bohemian. (You can get a taste of the exhibition online.) They run from worshipful portraits, done in various mediums ranging from oil on canvas:To woodcuts:There are bits of pop culturama, such as this print:And an Obama action figure:Other of the exhibits were not so playful. One particular work invoked the sacred, picturing Obama's great head--illuminated by sunbursts--emerging from the clouds over a bare-breasted maiden who is robed in an American flag and emerging from a volcano. Note that in the lower-right-hand corner an assemblage of people are literally kneeling before Obama:Then there are the artists working in the mode of authoritarianism. The Date Farmers and Shepard Fairey created two of the most popular Obama images, and at Manifest Hope they are displayed on the heroic scale, some 10 or 12 feet high, taking up entire lengths of wall:A similarly epic-sized work features side-by-side 20-foot prints of an image melding the faces of Obama and Lincoln:This was not the only bit of Lincolnalia. Another painting pictures Obama at the Lincoln Memorial. In it, Obama stares out into the distance, his back to the Great Emancipator:Like all good galleries, Manifest Hope features a store where they sell related T-shirts, pins, stickers, posters, and prints. They were doing a brisk business this morning.

Just above the entrance to the store, a projector displayed, on the ceiling, some Obama mad-libs. The screen read, "When Obama wins . . ." and visitors were invited to send a text message completing the sentence. The various replies were cycled through for all to see. Some were banal, saying, "When Obama wins, the world will be a better place." Some were less grammatical and more radical: "kicks butt! down with The Man and his politics."

And some were the type we've come to expect from the cult of Obama. "When Obama wins, people will finally fly," one texter wrote. Another, said simply, "When Obama wins, I will cry."

What no one at Manifest Hope seems to consider as even an outside possibility, is what will happen if Obama loses. Not just to the artists, but to their little movement.

Jonathan V. Last is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.