Presidential Lovers of Justine Lai’s JOIN OR DIE

by Jiz Lee on / Art

Justine Lai Join or Die PresidentsIn Join or Die, Justine Lai paints herself having sex with all the Presidents of the United States in chronological order… sex in varying positions. The most recent is her 18th 18″x24″ oil on canvas creation of her being spanked by Ulysses S. Grant.

Justine Lai’s Presidential lovers are depicted through the gaze of sex — acts which present something mortal, intimate, and exposes probable or fictitious vulnerabilities of the private lives of these very public figures. Some of the pictures are fairly hardcore, others surprisingly sweet, some involve kinky twists such as pegging (suggested here) and spankings, and the most satisfying are puns : such as the painting of herself fellating the 14th President Abraham Lincoln. Fucking Brilliant.

So what of the statement of Presidential sex… it makes the media do a double-take, doesn’t it? It sometimes does for me as well — I couldn’t get enough of hearing about President Obama & 1st Lady Michelle’s frequent fisting. Okay, okay, so I know that’s not what they meant… And though my experience of Bill Clinton’s sex scandal was not so much the issue of whether or not he ‘lied to the American people’ or even what the definition of ‘sexual relations’ is; I think that what some consider sex and not sex is going to be as unique as the individuals doing it. What was interesting to me was why it made such a big deal. I mean, we’re all human, right?

She says it best in her artist statement:

In Join Or Die, I paint myself having sex with the Presidents of the United States in chronological order. I am interested in humanizing and demythologizing the Presidents by addressing their public legacies and private lives. The presidency itself is a seemingly immortal and impenetrable institution; by inserting myself in its timeline, I attempt to locate something intimate and mortal. I use this intimacy to subvert authority, but it demands that I make myself vulnerable along with the Presidents. A power lies in rendering these patriarchal figures the possible object of shame, ridicule and desire, but it is a power that is constantly negotiated.

I approach the spectacle of sex and politics with a certain playfulness. It would be easy to let the images slide into territory that’s strictly pornographic—the lurid and hardcore, the predictably “controversial.” One could also imagine a series preoccupied with wearing its “Fuck the Man” symbolism on its sleeve. But I wish to move beyond these things and make something playful and tender and maybe a little ambiguous, but exuberantly so. This, I feel, is the most humanizing act I can do.

Check out the ongoing series Join or Die and other news about local SF artist Justine Lai at her website:

Thanks Ernie (who I met at Harry’s Oil Can at SXSW!) &

Jiz Lee

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