The White House China is a series of photographic and mixed media reconstructions based on the official state and family dinnerware collections of the US presidents they represent.

Aiming to correct certain historical omissions, this project explores the iconography and incongruity of an America established through violent conquest yet framed by elegant theory and language. A country historically perceived as a beacon of democracy has at its root the constant struggle for social justice. Embedded in a patriotic narrative, the rise and economic glory of the United States was fueled by the eradication of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the exploitation of natural resources. The White House was no exception to this opportunism.

George Washington Dinner Plate. A reconstruction from The White House China series © Kathleen Clark, 2020
Inspired by early political illustrators who used their explosive imagery to reveal the injustice behind the country’s facade of equality, these re-creations look at presidential contradictions and pivotal judgements made throughout the nation’s history. My intent is to shine a light on often-destructive events which happened by decision or neglect within each administration, providing a stark contrast to the assumption of civilization and culture set around historic dining tables.
George W. Bush Dinner Plate. A reconstruction from The White House China series © Kathleen Clark, 2020
The images were made in a variety of ways. They are photographs of photographic assemblages. The dinnerware is not ceramic; they are actually photo-based constructions compiled of historical White House patterns, antique illustrations, original drawings, and staging, re-photographed.

— Kathleen Clark

This work was a winner of the LensCulture Critics’ Choice Awards 2022. You can discover many more inspiring photo projects on the winners’ page. And be sure to check out the book featuring the entire project: The White House China.