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An Artist Painted Hillary Clinton Nude, And Didn't Stop There

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Hillary's got a real fan in painter Sarah Sole.



It's no secret that 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a fan in painter Sarah Sole.

The New Orleans-born artist has been depicting the Democrat since her first bid for office, transforming the Hillary we're used to seeing in press photos into a Marilyn, a Gothic American -- even a Teletubby. On Sole's website, she showcases a menagerie of these Hillary-themed images, decadent scenes seemingly ripped from a superfan's daydreams (some of which feature the artist herself). The fiction gets sweeter on her "Hillary and I" blog. There, Sole (née Ferguson) documents an imagined encounter with Clinton, during which the former Secretary of State poses nude in her studio. Yes, there's a fictional painting to go with it.

My Private Hillary: "This started with a stock news photo of Hillary from the press conference she gave in March, addressing for the first time her choice on email server. I watched from a far, literally from outside the country, and I remember thinking, ‘She looks like a deer in the headlights.' I then found tons of photos displaying just that. But they also contained a look of resignation, not that she was resigned to leave the race but resigned to the headlights. Here she is as her most private self, in a Motor Inn in Iowa on a particularly exhausting day to come on the campaign trail, and the headlights are still on." Sole has never met Hillary. "It was a photo of Hillary that I found on Getty Images that pre-figured the [nude] painting," Sole explained in a past interview with HuffPost. "She was staring directly at the camera in this deadpan way. It was a naked expression and it needed a body to go with it." 

Sole amassed a number of "bodies" for her Hillary fan fiction over the course of Obama's tenure in office, eventually achieving the viral high that is a Buzzfeed headline. That was 2012, though. Now, as we stand a year out from the 2016 presidential election, and the end of Obama's two terms, Sole's paintings feel that much more relevant. So we checked in with the painter to see how her views on politics have changed and whether Hillary is still her dream portrait subject. (Spoiler: she is.)



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Red Gun: "I’ll start with this one because it’s on the cover of Doug Henwood’s forthcoming book on Hillary called <i>My Turn</i> which is in the news right now. The inspiration was a photograph of Natalie Wood by Ralph Crane for Life Magazine in 1956. This image was on my desktop forever because I loved looking at it and I had to wait until I found the right Hillary expression for it. One day I stumbled on a photo of Hillary that I thought was perfect and started the painting the next day. I knocked it out in three days, a record for me."</span>

"I’ll start with this one because it’s on the cover of Doug Henwood’s forthcoming book on Hillary called My Turn which is in the news right now. The inspiration was a photograph of Natalie Wood by Ralph Crane for Life Magazine in 1956. This image was on my desktop forever because I loved looking at it and I had to wait until I found the right Hillary expression for it. One day I stumbled on a photo of Hillary that I thought was perfect and started the painting the next day. I knocked it out in three days, a record for me."



Back in 2012, we interviewed you about the Hillary paintings, which in many ways feels like a different era of politics. Do you agree?

Agree. It’s become so ugly ideologically. Stewing resentment has come home to roost. Trump is channeling a hyper-masculine, xenophobic, proto-fascist sublime while Bernie is mobilizing the jaded sane who are pissed off. Political institutions have been totally delegitimized. And I don’t blame Fox News for all of this. Obama has stewarded an economy that yielded parabolic growth in year-over-year income at the top, while delivering steady declines to those at the bottom. Are we really surprised? I mean how many times do we have to play this record? Are we that ahistorical? Do the powers that be have a death wish?



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Don’t Hate Me: "This painting was based on a 1964 Avedon photo of Elizabeth Taylor. It is Hillary as sublime femme in a repressed sort of way. An ornate headdress contains her head and her arms appear to be bound behind her back. It is the kind of repression that seduces one to imagine what is under wraps, admittedly a favorite pastime of mine."</span>
 
"This painting was based on a 1964 Avedon photo of Elizabeth Taylor. It is Hillary as sublime femme in a repressed sort of way. An ornate headdress contains her head and her arms appear to be bound behind her back. It is the kind of repression that seduces one to imagine what is under wraps, admittedly a favorite pastime of mine."




For you, as we approach 2016, how has the urgency of your Hillary paintings changed?

I feel more urgency now, especially watching Europe. I see choppy waters ahead and want a steady hand. Hillary is one part status quo, one part wildcard, meaning she’s risk averse but not in a stultifying way. She’ll be bold enough if boldness is called for. There is a portion of the left that views her as demon seed. That’s where my work fits in. If you tend to Hillary, by which I mean really look, then you can see the possibilities and come to accept the impurity of it all. Taking the good with the bad, so to speak. I tend to Hillary in my work, and I see all sorts of possibilities that I think are overlooked, in part because its not Hillary per se, but rather how we conceive of her, including our ambivalence, skepticism or outright distrust. Hillary in office will be held to account in ways Obama never was. This is a good thing.


<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Cowboy Diplomacy: "This one also went fast but it started with a photo of Hillary with a certain expression suggesting something that I didn’t know how to articulate.  It was a matter of finding the right body for it, literally an embodiment of it. I was looking at pictures from the sets of B-movie Westerns when I began to glimpse it. It was all about the gloves. She leaves no fingerprints. Maybe this is what she means by smart power?"</span>

"This one also went fast but it started with a photo of Hillary with a certain expression suggesting something that I didn’t know how to articulate.  It was a matter of finding the right body for it, literally an embodiment of it. I was looking at pictures from the sets of B-movie Westerns when I began to glimpse it. It was all about the gloves. She leaves no fingerprints. Maybe this is what she means by smart power?"



Is Hillary your candidate for 2016?

Yes, for many reasons. First, she is center left, no matter how many Wall Street ties she has. In fact the last thing those "ties" want is a rise of the far left or far right. I mean how do they keep all the things they cherish -- their property, their security, their uninterrupted sanctuaries -- if the rubes are getting restless? Plus, the aesthetics of inequality are so ugly and they do care about aesthetics. They don’t want a police state. It is now in their interest not to block reforms.

Second, she has to deliver in order to stay in power. Had Hillary gotten into the White House in ’08, passed a health care bill without cost controls that can be chipped away at over time, signed a financial reform package that changed very little and made sure her Wall Street donors saw no jail time, and then embraced a Republican tax code, a month after becoming a lame duck president for the next two years, she would not have been re-elected in 2012. Period. And believe me, Hillary knows this.

Third, who is going to trust Hillary to micromanage a targeted assassination program? No one. Who is going to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt like they do with Obama? No one. God bless her.

Fourth, there will be no pictures or reports of Madam President on the golf course. This is maybe the most important reason for me. It’s all about aesthetics.



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">True Colors: "This was inspired by that Terry Gross interview of Hillary last spring when oodles of air time were wasted trying to get Hillary to admit that she was secretly pro gay marriage all along but didn’t come out in support of it until the public was behind it. As a homosexual I can assure you that there is no homosexual out there who has ever doubted this. Not sure why heterosexuals insist on trying to prove it! Anyway, I thought it would be wise for Hillary to officiate the next gay wedding to demonstrate just how much she loves the idea of homo-wedlock. That way we could all move on."</span>
 
"This was inspired by that Terry Gross interview of Hillary last spring when oodles of air time were wasted trying to get Hillary to admit that she was secretly pro gay marriage all along but didn’t come out in support of it until the public was behind it. As a homosexual I can assure you that there is no homosexual out there who has ever doubted this. Not sure why heterosexuals insist on trying to prove it! Anyway, I thought it would be wise for Hillary to officiate the next gay wedding to demonstrate just how much she loves the idea of homo-wedlock. That way we could all move on."



Would you consider painting portraits of any other candidates? Or any other female politicians?

I am tempted to paint Bernie [Sanders] because of his hair and all those great expressions. Back in 2005 I drew these huge portraits of Condi, Bush and Laura. I wanted four and after several failed attempts I left it at three because I could never draw Cheney. There is so much meanness in his face, which is a turn off for me. I doubt I could paint Carly [Fiorina] for the same reason, or Rubio for that matter. Those are the best looking, well, beside Carson but he is clearly an idiot savant right? I keep waiting for him to explain when to plant the garden because all I see is Chauncey Gardiner.

I have painted other leaders -- Merkel, Berlusconi and Sarkozy. I probably follow European politics more than I do U.S. just because I’m interested in an old-school variant and I’m not sure what to call the thing we do here. I mean, what is a politics deprived of a sense of solidarity or even shared commons? We don’t share our commons!



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">I Remember the Moment: "I do remember the moment when the shaming voices, 'Please paint something else!' finally left my head. It took a few years to realize how those voices were operating inside me and I don’t think I would have been able to clear the field had I not moved back to New Orleans for a few years. The choice to double down on Hillary and continue the excavation of self became so obvious to me even before I was convinced she was running. That’s when I began to miss New York and so I moved back. Anyway, this painting may be the most personal to me."</span>

"I do remember the moment when the shaming voices, 'Please paint something else!' finally left my head. It took a few years to realize how those voices were operating inside me and I don’t think I would have been able to clear the field had I not moved back to New Orleans for a few years. The choice to double down on Hillary and continue the excavation of self became so obvious to me even before I was convinced she was running. That’s when I began to miss New York and so I moved back. Anyway, this painting may be the most personal to me."



Dream portrait subject (other than Hill?)

My dream subject is Hillary in person. It sounds like I’m cheating on this question, but I’m not. This is a different Hillary than the one I concoct in my head through the screen. I mean this would be totally different. I want to paint her in a three to four hour sitting live, just a straight up portrait. Hillary, if you’re reading this call me! 917-AAA-SOLE.



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">That Day in our Dinghy: "Since our reunion, Hillary and I have had quite a bit of fun together. I’m not a big fan of dogs but she insisted on bringing hers, and since I rarely say no to her, this meant I had to paddle."</span> That Day in our Dinghy: "Since our reunion, Hillary and I have had quite a bit of fun together. I’m not a big fan of dogs but she insisted on bringing hers, and since I rarely say no to her, this meant I had to paddle."


  "We often talk about what’s to come. Mortality is a central theme. And what an all-women production of 'Hamlet' really means."

 
"This is based on Pierre et Gilles’ 'Wedding Photo' from 1993. It was a fake homo-wedding, my favorite kind. I wanted to paint something on the heels of the Supreme Court decision, which captured my ambivalence about it all. I for one never dreamed of being a bride but only parroting one or performing a groom, which I gave to Hillary because she is quite handsome. Anyway, the days of parody are over and even though there is plenty to celebrate, there is also something to mourn here, namely the triumph of domesticity over sublime passionate love."



<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Easy Rider: "This is how my Hillary odyssey will end. She will ride off into the sunset, leaving the storm clouds behind. And like all the women I’ve ever been with, she will leave better off than me."</span>

 "This is how my Hillary odyssey will end. She will ride off into the sunset, leaving the storm clouds behind. And like all the women I’ve ever been with, she will leave better off than me."


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Tags: Hillary Clinton, Artists

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