Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nothing 'by numbers' about Clinton

A stuffy-nosed artistic critique

Bill Clinton unveiled his official presidential portrait Monday night at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington. The portrait will be a fixture at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of its permanent U.S. presidential exhibit. Clinton is the first to have his wife immortalized alongside him with a picture of her own.

Bill’s portrait is the work of Nelson Shanks, an artist chosen by Clinton based solely on his name. Actually, that isn’t true; Shanks is an accomplished painter who has worked with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana.

Though Hillary’s picture (created by Ginny Stanford) has received mostly praise, Shanks’ presidential picture has raised eyebrows for its relatively informal rendition. But how does the portrait truly fare in the annals of presidential glamour shots? Well, take a look and judge for yourself. Or you can read my detailed review; after all, I’m an art critic, which means I’m right.

First, an examination, if you will, of Clinton as a fashion plate:

--Few people know this, but this painting is actually the result of a bet that someone couldn't create a likeness of Clinton using composites of Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Darrell Hammond, Ted Koppel, Donald Trump and the Quaker Oats guy. Not sure who won the bet.

--The portrait is nuanced and subtle, much like Clinton’s foreign policy. And like Clinton’s domestic policy, it's very diverse with colors.

--The blue shirt recalls the time when America was swimming in its budget surplus. Also, it shows that Clinton was well aware of the potential sea-level-raising danger of the greenhouse effect.

--His tie is crooked, to remind us of the crooked ties Clinton had with all those people he had killed in Arkansas. It also signifies the tie he wore on TV to impress Monica Lewinsky. And it’s red because Clinton has a healthy, red-blooded libido.

--Clinton's gut receives special attention in this picture, as a tribute to his ability to stomach all of the scandals and extreme opposition he received from the Republicans. It's also a bold protest against the “heroin chic” that he so memorably denounced.

--And of course, his suit solidly cements his status as "America's first black president."

And now, let’s examine his pose:

--The two open fingers are apparently supposed to remind us of the infamous Monica Lewinsky cigar. But don't be fooled; that nefarious Clinton is really sending us a peace sign in disguise!

--Only Clinton's left arm is showing, which indisputably proves the liberal bias inherent among artists in the media.

--In the hidden hand, Clinton appears to be holding a newspaper. This is a vivid reminder of how he always consulted polls and fretted over his legacy. It's also a literal representation of how Clinton held the press firmly in the palm of his hand throughout the 1990s.

--Clinton's pose is more informal than that of previous presidents, which suggests that he's more interested in having a beer than being presidential. Fed up with such childishness in the Oval Office, voters flocked to almost elect George W. Bush in 2000. He's a regular guy, see.

Naturally, the background can speak volumes about any given masterwork. Let us scrutinize the non-Clinton aspects of this portrait, in the spirit of how the opposition endlessly nitpicked all things Clintonian over the years:

--The plant on the mantelpiece is green. Know what else is green? Yep, and he never inhaled it!

--Several shadows abound in the portrait, which clearly represents Slick Willie’s shadow government. Shadows also bring to mind puppets, which Clinton was for the powerful peace and welfare lobbies. At least until he gutted welfare.

--The columns bordering the fireplace are reminiscent of those fronting the Supreme Court. Bill stands tall over these columns, a signal that he fancies himself above the law. The frame popping out of the right side of his head looks like a thought bubble; it represents the Clintons' thoughts of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to frame them.

--The ornate vase in the upper-right corner is suspiciously curvy, a clear indicator of Clinton’s lust for the curvy hips of full-figured interns. Vases were a specialty of the Ming Dynasty, a shout-out to Clinton’s infamous proclamation of China as America’s “most favored nation.”

Finally, we must focus on what is notably absent from the artwork:

--Vince Foster is not in the picture. This can only mean the Clintons had him murdered.

--The lack of an American flag in the portrait speaks volumes about the patriotism of this man. Also, the walls are off-white, suggesting a considerable amount of historical whitewashing. The yellowish tint of the walls suggests that much revisionism yet remains.

--Osama bin Laden has not been caught in the picture, reflecting the fact that Clinton didn’t nab him. And just where are the 9/11 references? There’s not one magnetic ribbon to be seen here!

--Overall, the representation blows. Which is Clintonian in its own perverted right.


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dave bones said...

I thought the two fingers was a freemason/reptilian takeover symbol

Speechie said...

hmmmm...standing ASL interpreter over here didn't appreciate Dave Bones comment. That was, while I am sure funny to some, completely uncalled for, especially since learning a moderate amount of ASL was one of the greatest things a president has ever done, and Clinton was the only one to do it. Also, since Ian was referring to a completely different hand gesture.

Ian, I was realy interested in this post for several reasons. Being an art history minor, I also have an abudance of issues with Nelson Shanks, mostly because his works tend to make me think of Noam Chomsky...and incidentally, the Quaker Oats guy, who gave me nightmares until I was 10 and ocassionally appears anyway, though I try to maintain that I am too old for childish nightmares.

Another thing that interested me was the fact that I realized you were trying to be funny and dish out the satire left and right but you actually turned out to be right about a lot of things-- I gave you leeway on a bunch of things because you would be right if the context of the painting allowed for it.

I'm disturbed by this painting partially because Shanks made Clinton look disturbingly like Bush. And also distrubingly EXACTLY like one of those masks they used in that movie with the pregnant cheerleaders that rob the bank.

In any case, your post was interesting and as always, I love me a little Monica talk. LOL. Just sooooo funny.

Thanks again for your awesome post!

Cajun Tiger said...

Very good post...hit both sides well!!!

Speechie said...

I wanted to point out that in the last two days I have seen about twenty articles on this subject and only two of them had the same portrait. Were there a bunch to choose from or what????

Ian McGibboney said...

It took me a while to find the right one. I know this is it because I found a photo of the CLintons posing with it, with Hillary's portrait right beside it.

But the first few I found were false starts, depicting a different portrait of Clinton with his hand on Monica Lewinsky's lowered head. HA HA HA, right? I saw at least three different versions of it, proving that very few people have any unique sense of humor.

ashley said...

Looks more like Ted Koppel.

T-Mac said...

"And of course, his suit solidly cements his status as "America's first black president."

Wow. Not sure what to say here.

Ian McGibboney said...

That's a very ironic comment, T-Mac. I like it.

But really, there's not much to be said, at least if I'm reading you correctly. I am a big Clinton fan, especially in terms of how he helped minorities and people living in poverty (welfare "reform" nothwithstanding). I'm poking fun more at Clinton-haters (and anyone else who bases their vote on shallow things such as appearances) than anyone else. After all, these are the people who overanalyzed everything Clinton ever did.

Nick said...

Clinton was a decent president, horrible husband and family man it seems, but decent leader. The Welfare Reform Act, IMOH, was a very good thing. Too bad Bush is acting more like a Leftist than Clinton in handouts.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, I totally agree about Bush, assuming you're talking about how he hands out money to corporations and the ultra-rich like a welfare officer who just got fired for meth abuse on the job.

Nick said...

You know exactly what I'm talking about. Able-bodied people should have a time limit to be on welfare.

Tax cuts are not handouts. It's only the government taking less, something our government should subscribe more to by cutting back its federal size by about 40-50%.

Ian McGibboney said...

Are you saying Bush does that, though? I wasn't aware of his reputation as a welfare-monger.

And yes, tax cuts are handouts if they aren't going to the people who pay the burden of taxes.

Nick said...

Bush has failed to continue the welfare reform that Clinton started. Bush's legacy, in my conservative opinion, will and should be worse than Clinton's unless he does something soon, like real illegal immigration prevention, repealing CAFTA, or giving the tax code the complete overhault it needs. At least with Clinton, the people who voted for him knew what they were going to get. Many people voted for Bush, myself included, with the hope that he would cut back on gov't handouts and greatly reduce the size of gov't. He has failed in that.

The only thing that can save his reputation is the War on Terror, and a very positive outcome from it would only help his foreign policy legacy. His domestic legacy and record, in my asinine opinion, is crap. He passed needed tax cuts back in '02, and that was it and signed a half-assed partial birth abortion ban.

So, I can agree with you that his domestic record is nothing any president, especially a "conservative" president, should be proud of.

Ian McGibboney said...

I was saddened when Clinton signed the welfare "reform," because it signified a capitulation to the Newts in Congress. It's easily my least favorite decision of his.

And all of the domestic bugaboos you cite would not even be an issue if corporations didn't have so much power. Outsourcing hurts commerce and the economy at least as badly as CAFTA, and immigrants come here (especially since Katrina) because companies still doing business here are attracted to the cheap and dubiously documented labor.

In terms of foreign policy, Bush is...well, forget about it. And just like his daddy, Bush looks the other way when it comes to domestic policy. At this point, I don't care about his legacy; I just someone in office who even pretends to know what the hell they're doing.