THE LA$T $UPPER
($omeone Tell Me How to Get to $esame $treet)
and Imitation Gold, Silver & Copper Leaf on Carved Basswood
4x24x4 in., 2021
[B]y making poor families wait nine months before seeing fresh episodes, it sure seems to be a betrayal of its original ethos and mission. It took forty-six seasons, but there’s reason to fear that Sesame Street, by moving to HBO, has been gentrified. - David Bianculli
One week after its launch, PBS aired the first episode of the children’s television series Sesame Street. Over the years it has helped preschool aged children learn their numbers, letters, words, and other valuable concepts before they entered elementary school. It has been credited with leveling the playing field between those students whose family could afford private preschool and those who could not. Not only does the program provide basic fundamentals of elementary education, but also introduces them to concepts such as satire, allusion, and outside references. This more-than-150-time Emmy, Peabody, and 8-time Grammy award winning program has consistently striven to remain true to its mission of giving disadvantaged kids similar exposure to the basic building blocks of primary education as their more affluent peers. Until it entered a contract in 2016 whereby a new 30-minute version of Sesame Street would appear, exclusively, on HBO for nine months before being shown on PBS.
This piece is an obvious allusion to da Vinci’s The Last Supper but is interrupted and overtaken by the imposition of HBO. The story this tells is that Sesame Street is still trying to do what it always did, but now it is forced to battle its own distribution team for efficacy. Notice how portions of each character are impeded by this imposition, and Ernie is completely obscured. The dollar sign “wallpaper” in the background serves as a condemnation of the monetization of a public good.
Da Vinci’s Last Supper is notable for not including halos on Jesus or the apostles; however, if you look closely, a thin faint line encircles the head of Jesus. I imitated this detail with Big Bird, who sits in the seat of honor. He does not have an explicit halo, either; however, if you look closely, you will notice that Big Bird’s feathers are made of imitation gold and silver leaf, and on his head feathers you might notice a copper leaf cruciform.
This piece has been featured in one exhibit, and is currently being held at Woodland Park Presbyterian Church in Seattle, WA.