In this portrait of Ray Charles (b. 1930), Anita Kunz creates more than just an appealing likeness. By depicting Charles with his characteristic wide smile and giving him rows of prominent teeth in the shape of piano keys, she conveys the very essence of the great blues and jazz pianist, singer, and composer. A pale gold-green glow on the right contrasts with Charles' brown skin and highlights his upraised face and hands.
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In Serial Killers Anita Kunz depicts a sinister looking man who arches his bull-like neck like a predator. In place of eyes, his face has empty narrow slits in a blindfold, and, instead of teeth, his open mouth reveals grotesque lines of tiny skulls. This chilling image is among the artist's earlier works.
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In this editorial illustration, Kunz takes a metaphorical approach to the subject of alcoholism. By depicting a young man vainly trying to keep his head above water, she likens the alcoholic's state to that of drowning, losing control of life and hope.
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This picture shows former President Bush at a time when his administration was beset by economic problems. Kunz takes a humorous approach to the President's political predicament, placing him in a flimsy boat constructed of folded paper money and set adrift in high seas under a stormy sky. The painted detail in the collage of folded currency is particularly accomplished.
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Fear of Finance
Topics from the world of finance and business present Kunz with some of her most challenging editorial assignments. In this work she depicts a cramped and fearful Everyman figure placed inside a constricting picture frame covered with minuscule copies of U.S. currency, legal documents with stamps and seals, a gold MasterCard, images of a house, and bottle of chardonnay. Symbolizing financial obligations and material desires, these encircling objects physically overwhelm the anxiety-ridden figure. Kunz produced this strong, conceptual work for an article on investors' ambivalence about investing for the future.
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In her lively portraits and humorous caricatures of political leaders and performing artists, Kunz aims not to devastate but “to poke gentle fun” at her subjects, illuminating their essential traits by playfully distorting or accentuating dominant features. In this picture, as befits Whoopi Goldberg's larger-than-life personality, Kunz depicts the performer's face as a large sculptural form that fills the drawing sheet. With great care and ingenuity, Kunz inscribes Goldberg's corn rows with words that describe her life and work. The inscriptions not only visually represent her hair's texture and style, but textually reinforce key aspects of Goldberg's character and career.
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The theme of childhood in its various stages and guises has long interested Anita Kunz. This striking image, published on the cover of MS magazine, illustrated a harrowing article on ritual child abuse perpetrated by a satanic cult. In response to the story, Kunz conjured a surreal, nightmarish vision, depicting a naked baby trapped and threatened by coiled, snakelike forms with multiple red devil heads with forked tongues. By using a vivid red and green color scheme, and making the frightened, naturalistic child the focal point of the composition, Kunz dramatizes the horrific danger to children posed by such cults.
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In her ironic depiction of Hillary Clinton as St. Joan of Arc, Kunz employs the iconography of Old Master religious portraiture. Replete with halo, upward gazing face, and heroically clad in armor and sword, Kunz's figure of Clinton evokes the patience and passion of the martyred saint.The symbolic portrait was created to accompany a 1993 feature story about the First Lady, which discussed her views on virtue, politics, and the role of government in peoples' lives.
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Kunz created this poetically expressive painting as a conceptual response to an article about the global AIDS epidemic and possible treatments and cures for the disease. The viewer can easily infer multiple meanings in this highly metaphorical image. Of varied sizes and color, the cluster of different hands underscores the point that AIDS afflicts people of all races and ages, eroding their self reliance—as symbolized by each beseeching, outstretched hand. The miraculous rays of light toward which the hands expressively reach, however, signal hope for future treatments and cures.
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Published as the cover image for an issue of the Canadian edition of Time, this painting reveals Kunz's distinctive Canadian vantage point on international political affairs.The provocative image and the lead article it illustrates demonstrates how, during President Bill Clinton's second term of office, much of the world perceived America's power. Kunz depicts the U.S. as a hybrid creature with an eagle's head atop an outsized muscular body flexing its arms. The figure's aggressive posture, however, is humorously deflated by the tiny bright red, white, and blue briefs.
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Kunz's distinctive and often skeptical Canadian outlook lends an irreverent edge to her humorous portrayals of U.S. leaders. During the 2000 presidential election, she created this amusing picture for an article in GQ that chronicled the history of male college cheerleaders. In this illustration she distills the article's central point—that prominent Republican leaders, including two past Presidents and a Senate Majority Leader, had been undergraduate cheerleaders. The inclusion of George Bush, Jr., then a leading contender for the Presidency, underscored the persistence of this phenomenon.
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Kunz created this image for an article on investing for the business magazine Forbes. In the wake of many telecommunications companies' recent bankruptcies, the article discusses the practice of “vulture investing,” or buying distressed debt securities in the hope of large, profitable yields after a company is reorganized. Kunz takes her cue directly from the text and characterizes the investors as human-headed vultures with beak-like noses, wary expressions, and talons that greedily grasp buildings and bundles of currency.
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Anita Kunz's painting technique, especially her handling of light and color and treatment of naturalistic detail, reminds viewers of pictures by Flemish School painters of the early Renaissance.This subtle, thought-provoking self-portrait is a case in point. Use of the bust-length format within an arched frame, the predominantly blond and gold tones, the detailed rendering of the face, and the emotionally reserved expression, recall stylistic conventions of sixteenth-century Northern European portraits. Coupled with more modern elements, such as the lack of clothing and adornment and Kunz's emphatic, unwavering gaze, these Old Master traditions imbue the contemporary image with an interesting psychological and formal tension.
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The quandary of the modern woman, beset by multiple competing demands, expectations, and desires—imposed by herself no less than others—is a theme that deeply engages Anita Kunz. Commissioned for Working Woman magazine, this emblematic image captures the tug of war experienced by many present-day women, graphically demonstrating how they are pulled in different directions by career, marriage, and motherhood. Tiny faces framed within the symbolic trappings of career and home responsibilities—a briefcase, cell phone, television, and office block—embody multiple voices of conscience pulling on the figure's hair as she struggles to maintain an air of calm.
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Human Guinea Pigs
Kunz often illustrates articles on topics in health and medicine for both specialized science journals and popular mainstream magazines. This composition is a visual response to an article on human testing of various drugs and medical treatments. To get her point across, she depicts a naked and vulnerable human figure hunched uncomfortably inside a small cage. The figure's cramped posture and closed facial expression visually convey the pain and discomfort experienced by both humans and animals subjected to such testing.
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Would Anyone Notice if Canada Disappeared?
In this provocative view of the globe, Kunz has excised Canada—her native country and the world's second largest country—leaving only an immense void north of the lower forty-eight U.S. States. This arresting image was published on the cover of an issue of the Canadian edition of Time (Canada) to dramatically illustrate the lead article discussing the nation's decreasing influence in world affairs.
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