Sweet Tea And American Values: Artist Ray Noland Takes On Rod Blagojevich (PHOTOS)

By the time Potential Juror 102 was led into the court room for her jury interview, just as the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial had opened, it was already fairly clear that the trial had the potential to devolve into a three ring circus of sorts.

Blagojevich's whirlwind media blitz was well covered. Guest spots on "The View" and "Good Morning America," interviews with Geraldo Rivera, a six-figure tell-all book deal, reality television appearances from both Rod and his wife Patti Blagojevich, the former governor seemingly left no stone unturned on his media march toward his court date.

But until Juror 102 took her spot in the courtroom, the media blitz's true effect was only speculation.

In her interview, 102 admitted that she wasn't a "newspaper person," nor, she explained, did she know much about the case from television news or online media outlets. She did, however, know of the governor. Not so much because of his political career or his recent legal troubles, but because of his stints on reality television.

And 102 was far from the last juror to admit that they knew more about "Blago the D-level celebrity" than Rod Blagojevich the embattled former governor.

A few days into the trial, members of the Chicago Urban Art Society turned-up in front of the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse, with plans for a little PR stunt of their own.

The group had brought cupcakes for trial attendees, each capped with a sketch by artist Ray Noland of Rod Blagojevich in a jogging suit.

The goal of the CUAS's little visit was to promote Noland's new pop art exhibit called "Sweet Tea and American Values," which features a number of Blagojevich themed pieces by Noland.

It may be tempting to write-off Noland and CUAS as side performers in the spectacle that is the Blagojevich corruption trial, but that might be too hasty.

Noland sees his exhibit, which features plenty of other subjects motivated by current event, as a vessel for the public's perception, a reflection on both the state of politics and popular culture in America today.

"What I create is already out there," said Noland. "It's not my opinion, necessarily, but the public's perception of how things are."

Noland sees his work as taken from the popular consciousness of everyday America and if the U.S. jury selection process truly does represent a solid cross section of America, Noland's belief isn't far from the truth.

"I think people get that it's analogous to the circus of the whole thing," Noland said. "We aren't in a presidential election year so it's usually pretty difficult to get people to get motivated about changing our system. I think by doing political satire and commentary I can get people to wake-up to some of the problems that are still going on."

Time will only tell if "Sweet Tea and American Values" will be seen as a visual stand against the state of affairs in Chicago and America, or if it's simply a novelty photo snapped during the long and crazy Blagojevich ride. Recent history dictates, however, that the exhibit won't be the last time the trial's proceedings will be captured in a form of popular media for the general public to digest and enjoy.

Noland's exhibit with the Chicago Urban Art Society is on display now and runs until July 30.

More information about the exhibit can be found by going to CUAS's website here.

Check out some pieces from Noland's exhibit:

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