Painter Bruce Elliott on Nude Sarah Palin

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I happened upon Chicago’s Old Town Ale House a couple weeks ago after a show at Second City.  It didn’t occur to me until I cleared the doorman and scanned the room that this was the very dive bar that achieved some notoriety over the last several months for its nude paintings of Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich.  Overall, the place has a nice vibe if you can get over the wall-to-wall adornment of cartoonish pop art, much of it rather explicit.  Looking around too intently gives an uneasy feeling like you’ve just peered into your little brother’s private sketchbook.

The painter responsible for OTAH’s atmosphere is Bruce Elliott, also the husband of the bar owner.  Here he recounts the creation of the Sarah Palin portrait and the resulting controversy:

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I picked her because, watching the Republican convention when she appeared, I said “wow”, she’s got that small town slut look that I find absolutely irresistible.  Hence, I thought maybe I oughta do a naked painting of her.  So after she refused my request of sending me a naked picture of her I decided to use my daughter as a model because she looks very much like her.  And she even has a more annoying voice than Sarah.

“What was up with Sarah Palin?”

“Why’d you pick her?”

“I picked her because, watching the Republican convention when she appeared, I said “wow”, she’s got that small town slut look that I find absolutely irresistible.  Hence, I thought maybe I oughta do a naked painting of her.  So after she refused my request of sending me a naked picture of her I decided to use my daughter as a model because she looks very much like her.  And she even has a more annoying voice than Sarah.  So I immediately set about to paint this painting and it just basically painted itself.  I went over to Lincoln Park Zoo and skteched out a polar bear.  Then I kind of invented the most ugly automatic weapon I could imagine.  And then you throw a beautiful Alaskan landscape out behind the window and a terrified moose and all of a sudden you’ve got one of the greatest paintings ever painted in the history of the world.  So I hung it up six days after painting and immediately my fans started taking pictures of it with those little cell phone cameras.  By the next morning I got a call from France and they wanted my picture for the cover of some French newspaper and I asked how they got and they said it’s all over Europe.  A day later all the big internet blogs were putting comments and such and I was doing radio interviews and then the Drudge Report put on the telephone number of the Old Town Ale House.”

“Is that when the death threats started?”

“And then the next day the death threats started coming in.  And we had over 100 death threats.  Many of them were virulently racist which was a bit of a surprise I thought.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that the left and the liberals can discuss something that they don’t agree with intelligently without threatening to kill anybody such as the New Yorker cover of Obama as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist.  And I found that discussion quite interesting:  what is the meaning of satire and the Aristotelian concept.  But I thought also that the Republicans, especially the neocon right, are the new Taliban, the Republican Taliban.  And they’re humorless.  They’re fatuous.  They’re puerile.  And the reason they go for really dumb candidates is because they’re really stupid themselves.”

March 7, 2009 3:05 pm

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