by Melanie Yazzie, 2000
Melanie Yazzie, who's print "Fuck off w/her Hat" caused a minor stir on campus, just gave a talk at the art gallery, so I had a chance to meet her and see her works in person. First impression: she was short and pleasant and gave me a hug immediately. She said that she had forwarded my blog post about her work to a lot of people, and that it was used for class discussion some places.
At the end of her talk, she told a bit of the history of "Fuck off w/her Hat." It is a part of the "Little Fuckers" series, which grew out of her experience at the Institute of American Indian Art, where apparently she had to do a lot of ambassadorial work with visitors who weren't always themselves diplomatic. The Little Fuckers series was circulated among friends as an expression of what it was like to have to appear short and pleasant and wear a funny hat while really wanting to tell people to fuck off. The Little Fuckers became totems of encouragement, given out to help other artists who were facing unpleasant tasks. It was only at the behest of a woman at Rutgers, who was infatuated with the figures, that one of the Little Fuckers slipped out into the realm of public art.
What a great story, if only because it gets at one of the fundamental functions of "fuck you" art, and one reason why so many people find it so appealing. The language is offensive if it is directed at you, but empowering if it comes from you. Your reaction to a piece of "fuck you" art thus depends immediately on who you empathize with. Really the best way for "fuck you" art to be distributed is informally as a token of empowerment. Fuck you art can be great in more public settings, and I so love Cathy from the Art Gallery for bringing Yazzie to campus and choosing to feature "Fuck off w/her Hat" in the exhibit. But I imagine it was even better to receive a Little Fucker figure from a friend when facing an unpleasant task.