A Sonnet for the Tiger King

An homage (after Shakespeare’s Sonnet 106) to the true crime documentary, illustrated through artworks from SAAM’s collection

A photograph of Sara Snyder
Sara Snyder
Head of External Affairs & Digital Strategies
May 1, 2020

For those of you looking for the soothing balm of Patrick Stewart reading aloud Shakespeare's sonnets, this is not your blog post. Instead we present a riff on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 106, a salute to the Netflix phenom, Tiger King, using artworks from SAAM's collection. 

When in the chronicle of wasted screen time
I see depictions of the foulest frights,
Viral menaces and petulant kings of grime,
Lamentations of unwanted death and blight,
A collage of three paintings.

Out of tune and out of touch: Orcastra at War by Louis Monza,  Ship of Fools by John Alexander, and Manifest Destiny by Alexis Rockman.

Then, in ruby warmth of streaming service’s glow,
Of fur, of scales, of whisker, of blood, of paws,
I gaze past garish mullets waving to and fro
Into a twisted tale of ignoring animal welfare laws.
A collage of two paintings

You looking at me?Tiger's Head by Abbott Handerson Thayer, The Movie Star and the Tiger Need One Another by Thornton Dial, Sr.

So all the dire news feeds be but chatter now
In this woeful time of pandemic and fear;
Is it any wonder that we need stories that show us how
It could always be worse, when murder lurks near?
For we, which now behold deeply troubled parts,
Wish we had eyes for nothing, but binge-watching and art.

Sara Snyder is chief of External Affairs and Digital Strategies at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She also moonlights as our popular culture blogger, and has created posts celebrating Star Wars and Stranger Things, illustrated with artworks from the museum's collection. 

Recent Posts

Sculpture of a woman. Massive antlers on her head cradle a delicate, translucent adult figure in a fetal position, like a creature preparing to emerge from its cocoon. Scattered on the ground below are antlers.
Exploring the personal transformation reflected in her artwork Rouse.
SAAM
An art conservator holds a vacuum nozzle on a piece of artwork.
A peek into the world of conservation and the meticulous care of James Hampton’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly.
Photo Anna Nielsen
Anna Nielsen
Conservation Program Coordinator
Eliza Macdonald
Katya Zinsli
Detail of illustrated portrait of Emma Amos.
04/26/2024
Painter, printmaker, and textile artist Emma Amos created colorful multi-media works that explore themes of identity.