Huffpost Arts

Portraits Of Disgraced Billionaires Reveal The Shady Side Of White Collar Crimes

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Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff, Jack Abramoff... what do all these names have in common? They're disgraced billionaires, of course. They've all dabbled in some sort of criminal activity, whether they partook in insider trading or operated an elaborate Ponzi scheme, the wealthy icons fell as hard as they gambled. And now two artists -- Brad Kuhl and Monique Leyton -- are paying tribute to their, erm, flair for finance, in a series titled "Elite Deviance."

martha

'I just want to focus on my salad' Martha Stewart, Acrylic Tape and Bookbinding Tape on Paper, 5'5" x 9'4", 2012. Martha Stewart was involved in insider trading in 2001 which led to her indictment on nine counts, including securities fraud and obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to a five-month term in a federal correctional facility.

The series transforms the faces of Stewart et al into intricate portraits made from a rather unlikely medium -- colored tape. Pieced together and collaged ever so carefully, the resulting images reveal the sly behavior of the world's baddest billionaires.

Kuhl and Leyton's explain on their website:

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, in 2008 fraud accounted for $994 billion in corporate losses. Greater than dollars are the livelihoods of affected victims. In Dante’s "Inferno," the seventh circle is Violence and the eighth circle is Fraud.

jack

Jack Abramoff, Acrylic Tape and Bookbinding Tape on Paper, 5' x 9'6", 2012. Jack Abramoff is a former American lobbyist who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2006 on charges of fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion in his dealings with the Indian lobbying scandal and with Sun Cruz Casinos.

"White-collar crime [begs] questions about unlawful acts without a weapon," the artists elaborated in an email exchange with The Huffington Post. "What’s the difference between taking a life and taking livelihood?"

So how did they choose their disgraced subjects? "With issues of the ‘one percent’ and the financial collapse in mind, we focused on the past decade," Kuhl and Leyton stated. "We pulled from Washington, television, celebrity, corporate collapse, private investor... and the bizarre."

madoff

Bernie and Ruth Madoff, Acrylic Tape and Bookbinding Tape on Paper, 6'8" x 10'11", 2012. Bernie Madoff is a former businessman, stockbroker, investment adviser, and financier who in 2009 pleaded guilty to eleven federal felonies and admitted to operating a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

The project took the form of unusual tape portraits because "tape shares an immediacy and ephemerality with the stories we investigate," the artists wrote. "The candy-like palette makes themes inviting that might otherwise be difficult to approach."

enron

Enron, Acrylic Tape and Bookbinding Tape on Paper, 4'10" x 12'8", 2012. In 2001 the Enron Scandal was revealed, whose primary practitioners were Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, which involved financial loopholes and poor accounting to hide debt that led to one of the biggest bankrupcy reorganizations in American history and cost shareholders nearly 11 billion dollars.

stanford

Sanford and Davis Blood Oath, Acrylic Tape and Bookbinding Tape on Paper | 5'2" x 9'9" | 2012. Allen Stanford and the former chief regulator of his Antigua bank allegedly took a "Blood Oath" in 2003 before operating a Ponzi scheme involving 7 billion dollars of securities of deposits.

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