Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

America: A Culture of Credit

  • Photo by Donald Tetto

by: Amy Bradley
Advisor: Star Varner

With the funds from my King Creativity grant, I have been working on a series of paintings addressing the nature of American culture as a culture of credit, influenced and dominated by commodities and consumerism. In my work, I explore the ways in which living in a consumer-driven world influences how Americans approach different aspects of life such as marriage, religion, and education. I am influenced by artists of the Post-Modernist era, such as Andy Warhol, Arman, Jeff Koons, and others, whose work dealt with the commodification of art and the effects of consumer capitalism. Although these artists have shaped my ideas, I build on the issues they addressed with more contemporary problems. Rather than concentrating on art as commodity or the commodities themselves, I want to explore the effects of consumerism on the lifestyles of Americans. My exploration consists of a series of paintings in which I will pose questions through the visual language. Last semester in Painting Seminar II I finished three paintings and have completed four more painting already this semester in an Independent Study course. By the end, I will have completed a total of eight large-scale paintings, ranging in topic from marriage and family, to beauty and health.

My basic visual format is a credit card; I am incorporating and playing off of the design and format of different companies’ cards (American Express, Visa, and MasterCard). For me, the credit card symbolizes consumer America, and these paintings serve as a critique of credit culture. Specifically, I am interested in the type of mentality that coincides with the emergence of the credit card as the most prominent means of purchasing power. In America, life moves fast, and convenience and unlimited possibilities have come to be expected and even taken for granted. “[Credit Cards] permit people to spend more than they have. Credit cards thereby allow the economy to function at a much higher level,” says George Ritzer, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. My question is whether this way of living is really beneficial or whether it is creating more problems within our society. In American culture, things move so fast that there is no time to think before we act. There is also a growing materiality to everyday life and happiness that exudes from an American society that takes for granted its life of abundance. With these problems in mind, I have created this body of work to question the world around me and to instill questions in my viewers.