Trump as an Artist’s ‘Muse’ for Portraits of Colbert, Letterman, Bee & Other TV ‘Kings & Queens’
by Douglas P. Clement
There was Geoffrey Stein at the opening reception Nov. 12 for Kings & Queens of Late Night, his exhibit at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, N.Y., of masterful collage portraits of TV’s finest and funniest talk show hosts—discussing his portrait of Stephen Colbert and gesturing toward the face.
A few days earlier, after it became clear Donald Trump had won the presidential election, Colbert said, “All day long I had to remind myself, ‘Oh, yeah, this is not a dream … I’m not on a bad Peyote trip on the hunt of the great deer. This is real.’”
In these and other comments, viewers could see the shock and dismay in the eyes of the host of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
What visitors see in the eyes of the Colbert portrait at The Lionheart Gallery—and what Stein was gesturing to at the opening reception—is Donald Trump, literally.
Stein, a “recovering lawyer” artist, made both of Colbert’s eyes from New York Times’ photos of Trump.
“I generally used photographs, including Trump’s, to represent a dark tone in the portraits,” the artist said. “I love that there is a secondary meaning in my use of the Trump photographs, that in the dark tone viewers can recognize Trump’s image, Hillary Clinton's image or a headline.”
Kings and Queens of Late Night, on view at the gallery through December, is a series of new work inspired by Trump’s rise in the Republican primaries and the election campaign.
In 2015 Stein created a Trump Bankruptcy Collage. After that Stein wanted to paint people whose work he admired.
“I started with Larry Wilmore, whose Nightly Show I was watching at lunch, and the other collages followed over the next 11 months,” the artist said.
Three other portraits at The Lionheart Gallery—Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and David Letterman—contain references to Trump, also having been created with collage material from The New York Times.
“I used those materials because Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert were addressing the election and the then- Republican nominee’s antics on their shows,” Stein said. “I also used the Times for the Letterman collage because his show had historical addressed a number of Trump’s foibles.”
All of Stein’s collage portraits use elements important to the narrative of the subjects. Jon Stewart’s portrait, for example, is made with the 9/11 Responders’ act he championed, Amy Schumer’s is done with her cousin Chuck Schumer’s gun control bill, Jimmy Fallon’s was created from thank you cards, and the portrait of John Oliver was done with USA Today and the London Tube Map.
Geoffrey Stein will talk about his collage portraits of the late-night comics at the gallery Nov. 20 in an event that begins at 2 p.m.
The Lionheart Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information and directions to the gallery at 27 Westchester Avenue in Pound Ridge, N.Y., visit http://www.thelionheartgallery.com or call the gallery at 914.764.8689.