It all started with a stock photo of Hillary Clinton looking deadpan into the distance while on the campaign trail back in 2012 (you know, the image that launched a thousand memes). This look in Hillary’s eyes inspired painter Sarah Sole to create a portrait of the now Secretary of State in a vulnerable state; naked in a hotel room on the campaign trail.
“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,” states Sole.
Sole’s journey with Hillary took an imaginative turn from there. Although she is not the only politician Sole has painted (she has also tried her hand at Condi, Bush, and Sarkozy), her fascination with Hillary has only grown as the former first-lady has risen in the political ranks.
Sole has painted Ms. Clinton in a number of scenarios, fulfilling various roles in the cultural imagination, from a Richard Avedon Muse in an elaborate headdress to the the minister of a gay wedding. Sole even painted herself into scenarios with Clinton, imagining herself sharing a quiet moment with the presidential hopeful and her small dog on a raft, and acting along side her in an all female production of Hamlet.
“I do remember the moment when the shaming voices, ‘Please paint something else!’ finally left my head[…]The choice to double down on Hillary and continue the excavation of self became so obvious to me…”
While some of the scenarios and titles are a bit…err…odd, Sole is very truthful about her motivations, which are both “libidinal” and out of political admiration for the strong female leader. Perhaps this is why it is surprising that the artist recently granted permission for one of her images to be used for the cover of My Turn, an anti-Clinton diatribe by Doug Henwood. When asked to explain, Sole stated that she sees the collaboration as “the hybrid of two imaginations not in agreement on what they see in Hillary.”
Sole and Clinton’s journey together promises to continue as Hillary vies for the democratic ticket in the upcoming presidential election. A few recommendations on fictional Hillary scenarios? The Nicki Minaj “Anaconda” album cover, the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” video, or even the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover.