Behind the (Idealized Curves)

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Even for Hillary Clinton, veteran of the unenviable position, master of counter-scandal ops, the mild uproar over her neckline, caused by a July 20 Washington Post story, may seem like virgin territory.

But this isn’t her first time. Only a year ago, the Museum of Sex premiered a work that focused its attention squarely on the former-first bosom, and displayed it for six weeks.

An acrylic resin cast bust, it depicts Hillary Clinton from her upper-upper torso to her head in nothing but a camisole. And Daniel Edwards, the portrait sculptor who made it, says he would not have created it unless he could display it at the Museum of Sex. “That was an integral part of the story,” he explains.

According to him, ridicule was the furthest thing from his mind when he designed and created the bust. The initial inspiration for the bust was a comment Sharon Stone made in an interview with Hollywood Life magazine in 2006. Stone said it was “too soon” for Clinton to run for president because she still had “sexual power,” and that “a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs.”

The whole idea interested Edwards, but he thought being female in general would make Clinton vulnerable to criticism.
Like the 19th century Horatio Greenough statue of George Washington that caught Edwards’s attention as a sculpture student—that’s the one with Washington’s head on a bare-chested, Herculean body—the bust hearkens back to the idealism of the Romans. “There’s no gravity in that chest,” Edwards says. “It’s not the chest of a 60-year-old woman. My mom’s exactly 60, so there’s like this weird Oedipal thing that I had to kind of put out of my mind.”

He named it “Presidential Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton: First Woman President of the United States of America” and says he will vote for her if she’s the Democratic nominee for president in 2008.

“Isn’t it crazy? I still find her attractive,” Edwards, 42, says in all seriousness. “But that’s obviously not the reason I’d vote for her.” Rather it’s his artist’s notion that female sensibilities would make for more of a dovish climate here, ending the push to more and bigger wars, and improve the image of the United States around the world.
Whether the piece itself is pro-Hillary is still up in the air for Edwards. He’s not sure whether it’s propaganda either, but says it was made using some of the “standard techniques of propaganda” andthat, at the very least, it’s a commentary on propaganda.

Although he doesn’t consider himself a satirist, Edwards sees “an unmistakable humor attached to the piece,” but he hopes the humor will dissipate with time, as Hillary Clinton gradually fades from the headlines. “Say, Paris Hilton. Will people even know who she was 20 years from now? And if they don’t, then the humor is totally lost. So, the piece becomes representative of a dead socialite. It becomes a commentary on excesses and trying to break the rules and suffering the consequences for it, and being overexposed, and dissected by the public.”

Edwards has never met Clinton but, assumes that she’s seen the piece since it got so much coverage when it was on display at the Museum of Sex. Her staff was “essentially told not to talk about it,” Edwards says, referring to media reports at the time.
He suspects that even though she probably did not like the piece at first, she would appreciate being portrayed in a favorable light considering the recent criticism Clinton and her cleavage have endured. “At least it was trying to give that storyline
the most flattering spin it could get, because I idealized her cleavage.”

The original bust is now in the Museum of Sex’s collection storage space. Edwards says the museum was supposed to ship it to him, but they “dropped the ball.” Noelle Daidone, a spokesperson for the museum, claims that Edwards never returned calls to make arrangements. Whatever the case may be, Edwards claims he hasn’t needed it and is in no rush to get
it back.

At the moment he’s considering a second Hillary Clinton piece, one that would go “a little beyond the cleavage.” But first he wants to determine how to do it in a way that is tasteful and fair to his subject. No word yet on what sort of attention Hillary’s curves will get this time around.

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