Executed in 1989, Patty Hearse, is an excellent example of Cady Noland's sociopolitical works which comments on the problems of the media driven American culture. In this work she has chosen to depict the now famous heiress turned terrorist Patty Hearst.
On February 4th 1974, 19 year old Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of the powerful publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her Berkeley, California apartment by members of the left-wing urban guerilla group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Initially the group's plan was to trade Hearst back to her family for the release of several jailed members of the SLA. When that failed the group demanded that the Hearst family distribute $70 worth of food to every person in need in California which would of cost in upwards of four hundred million dollars. In response Hearst's father immediately donated six million dollars worth of food to the San Francisco bay area. The SLA, however, refused to release Hearst claiming that the food was too poor quality. On April 3rd 1974, Hearst publicly announced that she had joined the SLA and was fully committed to their goals. Twelve days later she was photographed brandishing an M1 Carbine rifle while robbing a local San Francisco bank.
At its most basic level, Cady Noland's art is about the disturbed American psyche. What she finds truly fascinating is the public's sick fascination with the media's penchant for portraying criminals as celebrities. As Noland sees it, this transformation is indicative of the American compulsion to turn anything and everything into entertainment. For Noland, the story of Patty Hearst's abduction and transformation is a prime example of this. The April 29th 1974 issue of Newsweek magazine featured on its cover the image of Hearst holding her rifle in front of the SLA banner. The irony of the publishing magnate heiress being exposed to the world as a terrorist on the front cover of the second largest weekly news magazine in the country was too much for Noland not to comment. During the late 80s and early 90s she created a series of works based on the Hearst story. Some of the works depicted Hearst either herself with printed text taken from the news bulletins, as in the present lot, while others depicted her alongside members of the SLA in front of the group's emblem, as in SLA 4 now in the Guggenheim collection. By using silkscreen as her primary medium, a process closely associated with mass production and consumption, Noland challenges the viewer to question the media and its hold over the American public. She further exaggerates this by using polished aluminium as the ground of the work. When placed in front of the work, a viewer is confronted with his own reflection alongside Noland's image forcing the viewer to recognize himself as part of the cultural problem.