Portrait of Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is all over the news today for some reason. And somehow I came across this magnificent portrait of her in the L.A. Times, originally taken by Brian Adams for Runner’s World:

Sarah Palin - portrait, or still life?

I am not really sure why the L.A. Times chose this image for the article, but as an art historian, this photo fascinates me. The props are spectacular – check out that hideous sconce on the wall behind her head, and the fuzzy moccasins on the window sill behind her. What does this mean?! Look at the blackberry in her hand! (Wait, are there two of them?)! And the flag (omg – I think it’s plastic!) casually placed on the chair for her to “lean on.” I posted this to my FB page and my friends started to analyze too. One person pointed out that the electrical outlet near the floor has a safety cover only on one of the two plug holes. Another was nauseated by the U.S. Army banner; using her son’s deployment as a prop. If you look closely at the carpet, you can see her tennis shoe marks on the freshly vacuumed carpet. You can almost imagine additional poses for earlier frames in the film.

The image is so carefully composed, and reminds me of Thomas Eakins’ 19th-century portraits of the learned men and women of his day (many of them very peculiar), depicted at work in their professional lives. Compare her to this painting by Eakins of Frank Cushing, who was one of the first anthropologists to “go native” by living with Zuni Indians in the southwest. Cushing was a bit of a rogue–and a maverick–in his day, too. Is it just me? Or is there a freakish resemblance in these compositions? On the other hand, of you turn Sarah’s portrait clockwise 90 degrees, it starts to look like an odalisque. Ouch – did I just say that?

Frank Hamilton Cushing by Thomas Eakins


3 responses to “Portrait of Sarah Palin

  1. Cushing was an excentric, but no rogue. At least not in the British sense, neither outlaw nor criminal nor sexual athlete with anything moving. He was a mythomane, but no carrierist like Carlos Castaneda. Although “orientalistic” and part of the “neocolonialist” Washington SI/BAE anthropology, he was a member of the Zuni tribe and its “force” (Bow Society), a vocal defender of their rights and his career was ended thanks of it.

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