New Exhibit Takes a 'Hands-On' Look at the 2008 Campaign

An exhibit at the Circus Gallery in Hollywood offers a completely different take on Super Tuesday. Artist Rachel Mason joined writer Will Blythe on the campaign trail. The result is an exhibition called "The Candidate." The work includes drawings in ink, charcoal, and pastel. There are also a series of sculptures of the candidates' hands, poised atop debate lecterns.

Rachel Mason: What was interesting to me was that I wasn't really looking at the candidates in the same way, so there was an element of it that was just, you know, absolutely new to me. Being in this political environment, you know, seeing a kind of exaggerated form of behavior by everybody, including the media and the candidates.

And I just, I get, you know, in a way, that's what I think inspired so much of this work. They were great subjects, that just everybody had this larger than life character.

Kitty Felde: I want to describe this. So you have seven podiums set up in the center of the gallery, and on top of them are these disembodied hands of the candidates. Now, I'm looking around, they're all doing different gestures. I don't think I could identify a single candidate from those hands, Rachel.

Mason: Part of the reason you can't identify one specifically is because they all do them. And what I've noticed is that there really is this set. It's almost like an absolute set of gestures. There's the kind of, you know, gentle fist. It's not a fist like that, it's always got the thumb on top.

There's the pointing up in the air, there's the counting, there's the having your hands just sort of flat out on either side, expressing in that way. And then I also did some where they're just folded, holding onto the, you know, just waiting patiently. 'Cause in these debates, you can see them kind of gripping the sides of the podium, waiting patiently. And so I, I just really, you know, I noticed they all do them.

It's sort of hard to get to know them, and I feel, you know, I have my own leanings, and yet even with the people that I would have maybe professed to really get behind them, part of me feels like there's this act. It's also sort of funny, because there's a, you know, there's this seduction.

They're really charming people. I mean, incredibly charming. And I've often found myself, like, feeling like I got, you know, wow! This is just amazing! This guy's so brilliant and great! You know, you could almost vote, I could almost vote for any one of them after having a little moment of interaction. And then you sort of step back and have a, you know, try to think about it more realistically, like, OK, if he was president (laughs), how would that be?

This is the wall that I call, this is like the monster wall. I let this wall be this dark, heavy, load of black and just, ink and–

Felde: Let me ask you about, let me ask you about that one on top. That's a very scary portrait of Rudy Giuliani. There's almost something of the Munch scream about him.

Mason: (laughs) That's, wow, that's interesting. Well, you know, it's really insightful of you to say that, because the idea that Munch, I think, was capturing this sort of monstrous character in people, and I think it's sort of the darker sides of who these characters become.

And, you know, they really, there's an edge there. The way they slice into each other, and then they come back and smile again, and so I wanted some of them to sort of morph into these twisted shapes, and become monsters.

Now this wall is called the ghosts. You know, in fact, I think that one right there is just kind of a very brushy, gestural, bare minimum, you almost can't tell what it is. It kind of started this whole thing off. And I just thought, wow, you know, they're like ghosts, gesturing into this air.

And they're there, and they're there, and most of them aren't going to get to where they want to be. And in fact, there was this sort of part of this that became very sad to me. I thought, my God, you know? They all want this so bad. I mean, there's really almost kind of desperation about it. Just, I would meet them up close, and I thought, you know, really, they're all going to be eliminated except one.

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