There is an unspoken rule among bartenders to never engage in discussions about politics or religion from behind the bar. With each drink, patrons only become more staunchly set in their beliefs and more haranguing in tone. Heaven forbid a bartender debates a point and sees a measly tip vanish completely.
The 2016 presidential primaries felt like an ill-fated evening in a dive bar. We started with an odd assortment of characters: regulars ordering the usual, old-timers hollering from dusty corners, kids posturing to seem older, a rich businessman who promises to buy everyone a round, out-of-place newcomers, and lots of I’ll-have-what-he’s-having. After a few more rounds and a couple of kerfuffles, folks get fed up and call it a night, leaving the heavy hitters behind to keep the bartender company for one more round.
Bernie, Hillary, and Trump managed to stay standing through this drunken rumpus. Supporters from all sides became prone to unbecoming antics. It was oddly surprising and sloppy. But we were stuck with it—even though we vowed that next time we will clean up our act. All in all, it was troubling to watch for those who remained sober.
Red wine and politics are messy territory; thankfully, red wine is my medium of choice. This series is especially exciting to me, because instead of using a wax resist on cloth, which had been my usual process, I used masking fluid on paper, capturing a better splash. The red wine came from the last glass-worth of the bottom of a bottle of 2012 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel. I intentionally chose less flattering photos of each campaign’s supporters and allowed my style to be looser than usual in order to capture the chaotic nature of politics in 2016.
Commissioned by Foreign Affairs Magazine.
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