New Improved

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Main Space/Parkade/U-Hall

Runs from March 15, 1996 to April 13, 1996

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New Improved

by New-Improved Manwoman

For many years, my spiritual journey has taken me down strange roads and sometimes no roads at all. In 1991, coming back from the profound culture of Thailand, I felt an emptiness in North America, where mystical experience is not one of life's expectations. Driving through Spokane, Washington, I contemplated the advertising super-graphics covering entire walls of old buildings wondering, "Where is there space for the spirit in our Western world and who are our Gods? Pepsi and Coke? Elvis and Marilyn? The Great Root Bear?" Love, joy, peace, and freedom are promised by everyone from car manufacturers to mentrual pad salesmen. How can that be-- our deepest longings exploted by commercialism? This provoked me to do the painting This Space Rented by God.

In the mid-sixties during my spiritual awakening, little white nuns gave me advice in my dreams. They told me to scrub my floor and take out my garbage-- clean out my life. Or they were driving a dumptruck scattering music down my inner highways. These little nuns became a running gag in my paintings. They were the Sisters of Mercy and became the logo for my Products No Home Should Be Without-- products only available from the store in our hearts. There's Truthpaste that fights decay, Hope Soap that sees through dirt, and Harmless Boxing Gloves for non-violence! There's Spray-On JoyBbaby Buddha's Diaper PinsMilk of Human Kindness, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. And don't forget the Sisters-of-Mercy specialty, Barf Bag Instant Confession-- get rid of sin forever with one up-chuck!

The Sisters of Mercy are the Snap, Crackle, and Pop of my spiritual goods! I was raised a Catholic in the fifties-- scary stuff boys and girls! I almost became a Trappist monk after my first out-of-body experience but I woke up to a tremendous decay of the church-- I became an art monk instead. My nuns have nothing to do with religion or dogma-- they have a poetic salvation in mind. In one painting, The Happy Gang, I gave them all names, Sister Serena, Sister Happy, Sister Lucky, Sister Joy, Sister Friendly, and Sister Chuckles.

And when that garbage is goin' ninety miles an hour
And those Sisters of Mercy really start to scour
You'll hear them sing as they pick another flower
Take out your garbage, my friend, and have a nice life!

Advertising is a kind of seduction, propaganda for a product. Always some cute character is enlisted to entice us to buy. When I was a boy, Mr. Peanut came to Cranbrook and handed out free bags of peanuts. From that day, I never bought anything but Planter's peanuts. I was captured by the art, the street theatre of Mr. Peanut. Later as a young man, I was fascinated by the Maidenform Bra asds (I dreamed I climbed Mount Everest in my Maidenform Bra; I dreamed I was World Champion in my Maidenform Bra)-- hammering home to point with incredible repetition. I dreamed I talked with God in my Maidenform Bra is my attempt to join the sublime and the ordinary. I read a book in the Sixties called Hidden Persuaders which explained the secrets of advertising-- the psychology of color and impulse that make you buy.

How can I worm my way into the hearts of the masses who are mesmerzed by advertising with a new message? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em-- infiltrate! In my new series, Sister Serena rubs shoulders with the famous celebrities of the commercial logo world-- she goes nuts with Mr. Peanut, does lunch with Big Boy, goes bananas with Chiquita, flips for Aunt Jemima, chases dirt with the Old Dutch Lady, jives with the California Raisins, and many more-- Lil' Green Sprout, the Crackerjack Kid, Ready Kilowatt, the Michelin Man, the Campbell Soup Kids-- all the cute little characters that bombard us daily through TV, magazines, billboards, and in the stores. This is my own mini-advertising campaign to have her accepted as one of them-- a foothold for inner spirit in the mercenary world of cold cash.

Andy Warhol got sued for coping the Campbell's Soup can. If every company owning the logos in this show sue me, I'll be broke-- but not spiritually bankrupt, my friends.

Mr. Death came dancing through my dreams, he's first cousin to Mr. Peanut. He has his own line of products-- Skullipops, tiny suckers shaped like skulls and Freakies, skull bonbons. He became a costume for Hallowe'en one year. I take him to art show openings, to parades.. He's on a T-shirt-- he's cool, he's debonair! I want him to greet the guests at my funeral. In my painting Welcome Home, Mr. Death urges us to trascend the ego and experience eternal love to we can enjoy richer lives. In Let's Dance, Death and the Maiden of Life boodie up a storm (I stole Mr. Death's dance step from Fred Astraire who had just died). My primary aim is to repackage the spiritual in forms related to modern times. The old-fashioned religious art of yesterday no longer reaches the contemporary heart. I call my alternative Church Punk.



ManWoman, a Canadian artist and poet, has been trying to reclaim the swastika from cue ball-headed bigots since the 1960s, when he was tasked with the mission via a series of powerful dreams. As he describes it, he fell into a trance and his soul "soared up into the Womb of the Sacred," where an old guy in white robes showed him the symbol and told him to redeem it. Two hundred swastika tattoos, a couple of near-beatdowns, and one failed marriage later, ManWoman's mission is finally starting to pay off. He has written a book, Gentle Swastika, Reclaiming the Innocence, was featured prominently in the 2010 film, My Swastika, and is now the unofficial grandfather of the Reclaim the Swastika movement.