Petrina Ryan-Kleid, the artist behind Parsing Bill (2012). Photo courtesy of Petrina Ryan-Kleid.
Ryan-Kleid says that she has been overwhelmed about the attentionreference to the portrait. She spoke to artnet News over the weekend by email to clarify some misinterpretations circling around the now-viral image, which she developed as a student, having recently arrived in the United States from Australia. She said “I live a quiet life, and I really just had a naive, newly arrived foreigner’s idea for a thesis,” she writes of the painting, known as Parsing Bill, and its companion painting of George W. Bush playing with blocks and paper airplanes called War Games. “It was just a silly school artwork that was supposed to show, pictorially, the messages we are bombarded with in regards to these presidents.” She says that the blue dress is a reference to Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, a prominent piece of evidence in Clinton’s affair with his former intern.
Today, Ryan-Kleid says she actually feels bad about the content of the painting. “Since I’m Australian, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, partisan about American politics,” she writes. “At the time, most of my ideas were fresh from the Daily Show or from Australian cable TV.”
Parsing Bill and War Games are both about “how opposition parties caricature presidents,” Ryan-Kleid emphasizes. “Neither painting should be taken literally.”
Ryan-Kleid received her MFA in 2012 from the New York Academy of Art. The painting of Clinton was purchased from the 2012 Tribeca Ball, a fundraiser for the school, though she said that she hadn’t been aware of who bought it. She believes it sold for about $1,300.
The New York Academy of Art specializes in traditional figurative painting, but encourages its students to explore a wide range of subject matter with those skills. Her pair of paintings of US presidents is a product of that training.
For the Clinton painting, Ryan-Kleid worked with Christophe Nayel, a model who has posed for the New York Academy of Art since 2001. Nayel, who was vacationing in his native France when the seven-year-old student painting went viral, recalled that Ryan-Kleid had been an “absolute joy” to work with, and said that he, too, had been blown away by the way that the work had resurfaced.
“I was absolutely stunned to find out that Epstein bought her painting during a major event at the school,” he told artnet News in a Facebook message. “Some past students even recognized my legs in that painting.”
Petrina Ryan-Kleid, Parsing Bill (2012). Image via the New York Academy of Art
Ryan-Kleid adds that she feels uncomfortable about the new demand for the work, however. She hasn’t yet decided whether she will keep the money.
A lot of sensation for a Masters Thesis