Interviews

History Lessons with Clark Fox

By David Jenison

Clark V. Fox, a Native American artist of  Cherokee descent, jokingly describes himself as a hostile Indian who went off the reservation. He might say this with a smile, but Clark truly is a modern revolutionary who freely cites conspiracy theories, capitalism horror stories and the dark side of American history. This against-the-grain mentality made Clark a politically charged artist and motivated him to support other underground artists with galleries he ran in New York City and Washington, D.C. PRØHBTD previously spoke with Clark about pop culture and art history, but in our latest interview with the acclaimed artist, Clark talks politics and history that young people rarely, if ever, hear in school. For example, he points out that the Cherokees fought with the British during the American Revolution. That should provide a telling preview of what else Clark has to say.

You started to create and sell art by age five, but at what age did your art start to take on a political tone?

What was I... 19? I was taking some art classes at a place in Washington, and around Lafayette Park right in front of the White House, they decided they were going to redo the park, so they put up these four-by-eight sheets of plywood and invited all these artists to do things. I did an anti-Vietnam thing on it.

What was the image?

I had to deal with the Kennedy assassination, and it was just facts and figures and slightly cartoony thing of American history, like what really happened. Funny thing was, of course, it never made any noise. Some guy wrote, “Get out of Vietnam,” and that made the New York Times, but mine was too subtle or something. They wouldn’t run it.

I would also think the topic of the JFK assassination would have been too sensitive.

Yeah, likely, but I've still been doing stuff about JFK. Now, after 48 or 49 years, it finally came out that the CIA did him in with the cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover and LBJ.

When did that come out?

There are several videos on YouTube called “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” from a documentary series that first aired on British TV. It has all these different scenarios that Lee Harvey Oswald was a double agent who got, and he actually was the patsy on that deal. They set him up. He was a CIA guy from the beginning. They acted like he was a real dumb dude, but he supposedly went to a language school in San Diego with the military and learned Russian and then he, quote, "defected to the Soviet Union." He got over to the Soviet Union, and they just thought this guy was a real stooge so they gave him a job passing out tools in a factory in the middle of nowhere. That’s why he came back. He was actually working on a project in New Orleans.

You’re probably too young, but there was a guy named Jim Garrison, a DA who indicted four people. Of course, they couldn’t get a conviction on them, but he knew that there were these plots connected to the mafia and all kinds of weird stuff. Lee Harvey Oswald was working on a project where they were going to try to infect Fidel Castro with cancer and kill him. He went down to Mexico trying to get a visa to get into Cuba, but he couldn’t get into Cuba to do it. It’s a pretty scary thing. You’ve got to see the video. They even have one of LBJ’s mistresses saying that LBJ got together in a meeting to knock him off. It's totally wild. (Editor’s note: Jim Garrison is the main character, played by Kevin Costner, in the film JFK.)

An image I thought was interesting was the two American revolutionaries: [former Venezuelan president] Hugo Chavez and George Washington. What comparisons do you see between those two individuals?

They were revolutionaries. [Chavez] was trying to wrestle Venezuela away from... it had been controlled by the Rockefellers. If you go down there, everybody's like, "Oh, it was paradise before Chavez got in here." They really ripped off everybody down there. Chavez was leading the revolution. There's about five or six socialist governments in South America now that were elected. They don't play it up very much here in the United States because it looks bad, and these governments are trying to help the Average Joe rather than just having the old banana republic thing.

I've actually been in all these countries, including Venezuela, which seemed particularly messed up to me. I saw very long lines at the supermarkets, limitations on what people could buy. What do you think is the best thing for these countries? How can you take that and effectively lead?

It's a real problem because Venezuela has a really bad rep, but you've got to understand, it was in the military…. They actually knocked Chavez out for a while in a coup, a military coup, and then he was able to wrestle the power back without getting murdered. He got it back. A lot of the states in Venezuela are actually like Republicans. Most of the programs that he tried to put through Congress down there he couldn't get the votes. It was just like Obama trying to get bills through. He can't do it because they don't have the votes. That was one of his big problems.

The United States is really doing everything to get things back to the “good old days” when the capitalists were making all the money. The Rockefellers were getting most of the oil out of there without paying any money to anybody. Some of my friends down there say they owe billions of dollars in taxes that they never paid, but that's the way it rolled.

Among the early presidents, you have several images with Washington and Lincoln. What do these two presidents represent for you?

It's funny because some reproductions of my paintings were supposed to appear in a book called the Native American Almanac by Shannon Flynn. I'm in the book credits, but Shannon told me they did not include my work because the editors thought it was too controversial! All my native paintings are very negative towards white society regarding Native Americans. One of the things I sent them is this picture of George Washington with his Native American name, which was Conotocaurious, which meant "the village-taker." His grandfather was the original village-taker. They were real estate guys when they weren't doing other things.

Washington was with this guy called the Half King, who was like a Seneca half-chief. They ran into the French ambassador on an expedition up in Northern New York or Canada, I don't know where they were, and Washington had these guys from Virginia with him, these yahoos. Anyway, a heated debate ensued, and somebody plugged the French ambassador. Then this leader of the Native contingent took an ax and split the guy's head open and went over and washed his hands with the blood and guts and said, "You're not dead yet, Father, but you will be real soon," just before he whacked him with the ax in perfect French. Then they kill all the other French guys. They chopped off one of their heads, stuck it up on a spear and left. George Washington said that was one of the only times in his life that he was scared because he didn't know whether they were going to kill him next. Guess what happened?

What happened?

It turns out the French ambassador was related to the King of France, Louis XV, and this attack started the French and Indian War. Then George Washington tried to get the Cherokee Nation to fight against King George III. That's my tribe, the Cherokees. They wouldn't, so he was pretty pissed off at the Cherokees, who were fighting with the British.

Oh, man.

The last general in the Civil War to surrender—he went for about two months after the war killing Yankees. It was Stand Watie, who was a Cherokee from down in Tennessee or some place. They finally said, "Look, we're going to go to your town and start killing Indians if you don't quit killing Yankees," and so he stopped.

The Cherokees fought with the South in the Civil War. They were in the South by that time, although they moved a bunch of them out. In 1839, they started moving them out to Oklahoma, where they had a reservation. They scammed all the land off of them. They lived on land that now makes up about eight states. They took them, they arrested everybody. They gave them pennies on the acre of their land. They were basically in prison camps for up to two years before they herded them out West, but a number of them went to the Smoky Mountains. Troops couldn't get up in there. Then when the South thing happened, they were fighting together. They basically didn't fight in the Southern army, they fought in the Cherokee army, but they were fighting with the Southerners, and it wasn't really over slavery or states rights.

David Jenison (david@prohbtd.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.

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