Among many things, Mendelson Joe is a political activist. And he’s a painter. So it was inevitable that he would express his activism through a series of portraits of politicians.
Here we have George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton Henry Kissinger, Jean Chrétien, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Mike Harris, Ernie Eves, and others.
As Mendelson Joe describes, these portraits embody mostly figments of his imagination. All but three subjects came from impressions synthesized from observing these glib charmers during their numerous appearances on television. The three exceptions (Barbara Hall, Carolyn Parrish, and Richard Thomas) all sat for him at his request.
The portraits are not editorial cartoons; they’re expressions like Edvard Munch’s “Scream.” His disdain for most of his subjects is far from hidden and yet occasionally, if you look closely, one can spot a glimmer of hope that the subject might have a heart.
These politicians are shaping our future. As such, they require our scrutiny and commentary. Only if we stay engaged, as Mendelson Joe makes clear, can our democratic system work.
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Mendelson Joe was initially known (then, as Joe Mendelson) as part of McKenna Mendelson Mainline, an early 1990s blues band best-known for their album Stink. From the mid-90s on, Joe developed as a painter. He was captured in the biography Alien: The Strange Life and Times of Mendelson Joe, written by Nadia Halim. His paintings have been widely collected and many are reproduced in a series, Joe’s ____. Joe died in February 2023 at the age of 78.6. A tribute evening was held March 28, 2023 and featured 18 writers, singers, friends, and assorted riffraff. 10-4.
Published: April 2008
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.