Arts / Museums

Hillary Clinton as a 19th Century President

An Artist Rewrites History in Houston — With No Trump

BY // 11.08.16

While everyone has heard the sensationalized art buzz over Donald Trump being rendered in a portrait in the buff, do you know about the artist who is obsessed with Hillary Clinton — one who has made the former U.S. Senator/Secretary of State her main subject since 2008?

The hitch? Mathematician turned painter Sarah Sole places Clinton in an unexpected, albeit presidential setting. FYI: The artist is no lightweight; her impressive multi degrees come from Rice University (BA in Math and Fine Art), the University of Houston (PhD in Mathematics) and the School of Visual Arts in New York City (MFA in Fine Arts).

Sole rewrites history in her ongoing series featuring Hillary, placing her in a context decades before women secured the right to vote (1920, via the 19th Amendment). Clinton appears in Sole’s work in the guise of a 19th-century president, complete with wardrobe ands hairstyle cues from another century.

When first viewing the intimately scaled canvases at Devin Borden Gallery in Houston, this writer thought they were smart devices for looking at the past, canvases that were excuses to examine paint handling, and cheeky takes on history via a limited black, white, and gray palette. The figures in the 11 x 14 paintings were obviously historic, but finally I got the premise — then couldn’t look away. These were all Hillary.

The capable, tenacious candidate was depicted as presidential statesmen from another era. Think Andrew Jackson, extending into the early 20th century, with Teddy Roosevelt. The effect is fascinating, adding a sliver of wit to this fraught campaign season, especially regarding the casting of Hillary as under-known leaders Martin Van Buren and Zachary Taylor, the 8th and 12th presidents respectively.

The artist reveals of her relationship with Hillary Clinton from afar, and via her paintbrush, “I am much more attuned to who I am and what I want and my relationships with people, with women in particular … and I credit Hillary … I had to use Hillary in a way, like a narrative device, to tell myself a story, not just about who I am, but who I am in the world. Who we are, everything, I mean, it was huge.”

Want one of these portraits as a memento of Clinton’s candidacy? (You probably shouldn’t consider Sole’s canvases as a fitting gift for a Trump supporter.) They can grace your home or office, for $2,400. If Clinton wins, Borden notes, “Sole will continue the series through Inauguration Day to mark the historical significance of the first woman elected POTUS.”

Catch the exhibition at Devin Borden Gallery, through November 30.

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