Dwight Eisenhower was the bland grandfatherly presence on the TV of my earliest childhood. The 1960s slowly pushed his memory into a pre-history fossilized somewhere deep in my father’s soldierly sense of responsibility and my aversion to that sense. Art school fortified my aversion even as my application portfolio was filled with stone carvings I had done with Dad’s tools and hobbyist coaching. Dwight Eisenhower, like my father, made art in his spare time.

Even as contemporary art has perennially defined itself against the unconsidered appetites of popular taste, artists, myself included, have mined the vernacular for unexpected insight. Many of my paintings are variations or interpretations of works I find online or in flea markets. Dwight Eisenhower’s paintings presented an irresistible adventure. His work exemplifies what Christopher Bollas would call normotic, the pathologically normal. There are no displays of fancy brushwork,...

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