& now, Karl Rove as Alice

"Perfect Happiness" by Michael Caines, oil on canvas, 48" x 46"

And a Happy New Year! The past year in political cartoonage has seen Palin and others as Alice. Now Canadian artist Michael Caines has Karl Rove in blue dress. (Rove was political strategist for George W. Bush and is now a pundit for Fox News.) The show “Perfect Happiness,” named after the Rove painting, runs through December 31st at the Mulherin Pollard Projects in Manhattan, 317 Tenth Ave. The art is for sale from $1,200 up to $10,000. There’s some disagreement between the Bloomberg News and LCSNA members as to what exactly Karl Rove is supposed to be (not to mention why) in that painting. Bloomberg writer Katya Kazakina refers to Rove as “dressed as Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’” and the image caption says he “wears a dress while embracing a Bambi-like deer.” Cindy Watter differs: “The scene isn’t Bambi-like; it is clearly taken from TTLG.” Please leave your analysis in the comments, as well as any identification of the people in the Tea Party below. More of Caines art, including some other Carrollian inspiration and Kim Jong Il in a ball gown, at mulherinpollard.com.

"Tea Party" by Michael Caines, oil on panel, 36" x 24"

3 comments to & now, Karl Rove as Alice

  • Okay, I see the Bloomberg article explains: “‘Tea Party’ portrays the late conservative U.S. Senator Jesse Helms with floppy ears and talk radio host “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger as the Mad Hatter.”

  • Clare

    I think Helms and Schlessinger should consider themselves complimented. And Rove as well!

  • And as to the “why” I asked, there’s an artists’ statement on Mulherin Pollard website with some deeper explanation:

    “Influenced by Rick Perlstein’s 2008 book, Nixonland: The Rise Of A President And The Fracturing Of America, Caines considers the fate of now obsolete political figures, and those who will someday, in turn, fall into the shadow of history. Their images, so vivid, are given an afterlife in electronic media, and they are, in a sense, both entombed there and in limbo. Caines’ new work reveals the peculiar beauty that history lends to these iconic physiognomies, and his work is as much a response to their physicality as it is to the politics they are, or were, embroiled in. Thus baby-headed Carl Rove is cuddled by Ronald Reagan as dowager duchess, while a younger, glowingly handsome Jesus-Reagan cradles a little Glenn Beck lamb.

    “Caines rifles through the past, masterfully reworking elements of historical pictures to provide landscapes for these figures to inhabit. By conflating painting and political history, his work evokes nostalgia for the idealism that comes with belief, whether in political or artistic greatness. Caines references Sir John Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, utilizing the spirit of absurdity in the drawings and text as a form of critique. Rather than passively absorbing history and media images, Caines asserts his right to creative action. He thereby extends to us, his viewers, a kind of tentative idealism, one in which he in turn asserts our right to act on – rather than be acted upon – the images of our shared histories.”