By Takaaki Iwabu, Staff Writer
When a local gallery asked Michael Klauke and other artists to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks, he produced a drawing with three big black letters: GOD.
It looked bare and simple. But closer inspection revealed that each letter consisted of hundreds of tiny handwritten words: G is the word "JUDAISM," O is "CHRISTIANITY" and D is "ISLAM."
To Klauke, the piece cried out for common ground. He extended the idea by creating images with small, handwritten words, using a pen and different values of pencils. Instead of repeating words, he began copying text that had a significant meaning to his subject.
"It's a marriage, so to speak, between words and images," says Klauke, 50, of Cary. "One can't exist without the other."
His latest work, "All Men are Created Equal (Portrait of Barack Obama)," is composed of about 8,000 words taken from historic documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Emancipation Proclamation. He also included Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech and Obama's speech from the night he was elected, as well as samples from Dred Scott v. Sandford, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
For George W. Bush's portrait, Klauke copied the names, ages and genders of civilians killed in the U.S.-Iraq War. It is called "Flawed Intelligence."
Not all of his drawings are political. He has drawn a galaxy with text from Homer's "The Odyssey." He also made a portrait of Jackson Pollock with text from James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake."
For "Laura," a portrait of his wife, he came up with his own text. He wrote her biography without asking her to dictate it. "It was a story of her life as I remember her telling me about it," Klauke says.
The drawings have several thousand words, and each line of text is 1/16 inch high. It took a month for him to finish the Obama portrait.
"You may call it obsessive, but it's really relaxing, almost Zen-like," Klauke says about the process. "It puts me in a slightly different place or frame of mind than I find myself in usual day-to-day existence."