SEEING RED: Red Ink, Red Tape, Red Lights, and Red Faces


An artist’s book art and print project by Bob Barancik that explores gut reactions to the made-in-America financial meltdown. It is part of the CreativeShare traveling exhibitions program.

View art folio at bottom of entry

The color red has a variety of immediate associations. They include anger, embarrassment, passion, robust health, warning, and war.

Red Tape makes us think of mammoth, convoluted bureaucracies that define our post-industrial society. This can include the department of motor vehicles, health insurance claims departments, the post office, the Pentagon, most social welfare programs, the juvenile justice system…

Red Ink means financial insolvency and bankruptcy typified by the state of California, the “Big 3” Detroit automakers, investment banks like Bear Stearns that are no more, virtually all airlines except Southwest…

Red Light indicates big trouble ahead. If you see it on an ambulance, fire truck, police squad car, traffic signal, or on a car dashboard, your adrenalin and blood pressure shoot way up. We prepare to act as if it is a matter of life or death.

Red Faces mean someone got caught red-handed with their fingers in the cookie jar, or in an adulterous erogenous zone. The number of supposedly respectable legislators caught figuratively and literally with their pants down is too lengthy for my simple blog entry.

When I think of the American financial meltdown at the end of W’s second presidential term, all I see is red. I am furious at Wall Street, Congress, Alan Greenspan, Phil Graham, Robert Rubin, Angelo Mozilo, Henry Paulson, and the rest of the incompetent government/corporate kleptocracy…and a mass media that abetted and glorified all the “masters of the universe” before their inevitable fall from grace and public adulation.

But most of all, I am angry at myself for not seeing the red warning lights sooner.

The wildly inflated home prices and the promiscuous availability of credit cards were strobe lights that should have alerted us to the dark night of an impending economic collapse.

Any functioning, gainfully employed adult knows that there is no free lunch, and that even giant redwood trees don’t grow into the stratosphere. Most of us should have taken most our chips off the roulette table (aka American stock and real estate markets) before the final spins of the wheel of misfortune.

But few of us did.

My “Seeing Red” art box and print series is something of a creative Rorschach ink blot that explores my mental state — and tries to reach some sort of catharsis or closure.

The artistic release of pent-up emotions has provided me with some (temporary) peace of mind amid the financial wreckage. And the bound-and-boxed images provided a sense of closure and control.

Everything is manageable. All the rough edges, wild brush strokes, agitated emotions, fit perfectly inside a sturdy and economically crafted box. When closed, the wild things are out of sight and conveniently out of mind.

Creativity has transformed threatening external events into some amusing visual stimuli.

I hope that these red visions will stimulate your thinking about your personal finances and strategies for coping with a world of both great economic uncertainty and surprising creative opportunities.




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Technical Credits:
Box and binding / Scott Mullenberg
Digitial Print and Photoshop Consultant / Brad Erickson

To close, here are some intriguing web links:

Reversal of Fortune
Vanity Fair

Subprime Banking Mess

This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money

8 really, really scary predictions

A field guide to economics and finance blogs
The Boston Globe

Finessing a Recession!

Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts
The New York Times

One thought on “SEEING RED: Red Ink, Red Tape, Red Lights, and Red Faces”

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