At Warren Knapp Gallery: 'Selling the War' thought-provoking art exhibition

The window of the Warren Knapp Gallery, 1530 Melrose Ave., has been causing a buzz among passerby lately.

"You see their wheels turning, November is coming up." Knapp said, referring to Election Day.

In the window: "Selling the War," a 36-panel, mixed media collage mounted on a wooden panel by Seattle artist Jamey Baumgartner.

Baumgardt has taken recognizable product labels - Quaker Oats, Tide soap, Morton salt, Arm and Hammer baking soda - and painted single, simple words floating in the mainstream media to explain the war in Iraq.

The Campbell's soup label, instead of "Tomato," or "Clam Chowder," reads "Victory." The Budweiser label is emblazoned with "Responsibility." The Oberto label reads, beneath the trademark Oh Boy! - "Victory."

"The media constantly feeds us a steady stream of nicely packaged justifications for our country's actions in the global theater," Baumgardt writes in his artist's statement. "The majority of the population buys into this without question, because they need to. They need justification, no matter how thin and flimsy, to give reason to insanity, to better sleep at night..."

Baumgardt takes aim at the familiar, reassuring labels embedded in a consumer culture in which war is just another product to be marketed. We may never look at the benignly nostalgic Sun Maid label, branded "Security," the same way again.

On another wall hangs a large canvas titled "United States of Corporate America," where each stated is labeled with a homegrown product. Washington has COSTCO; Texas, Exxon Mobil. Nearby a series of small canvases, with a colorful, almost sumi-like beauty, depict images like "Commerce without Morality," "Science Without Humanity."

Baumgardt's art isn't about peace and love. It's satire with an uncompromising bite.

And behind every curse or bite there's often a prayer. The show runs through Sept. 18.[[In-content Ad]]