Life flips up and down for 'The Painter of Pancakes'

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2010 - 11:57 PM

If you're in the mood for a little patriotism this Sunday, you might consider visiting a small art exhibit at the Storefront-in-a-Box gallery in south Minneapolis.

No, they won't be showing paintings of Valley Forge, stoic oils of our great presidents or even bucolic scenes of small-town Middle America. But there will be acrylic renderings of anti-Obama "birther" Orly Taitz, and depictions of politicians with stacks of pancakes on their heads.

It may not match "America the Beautiful" for you as a patriotic display, but it does to me because the show represents the constitutional amendment that I'm fondest of: the right to free speech.

The artist of the show is Elko's Dan Lacey, "The Painter of Pancakes," who has drawn national attention for portraits of the Obamas naked on a unicorn, and for portraits of politicians with flapjacks on their heads. Lacey's infamy expanded in recent weeks when Orly Taitz, the so-called birther queen, threatened legal action after learning that Lacey had depicted Taitz in one of his works giving birth to a stack of "delicious" pancakes.

Is this a great country, or what?

Taitz, who recently lost in her attempt to become California's secretary of state, is the leader of the group of chuckleheads obsessed with proving that President Obama was not born in the United States.

Taitz was incensed over Lacey's portrait, and smelled a conspiracy (what a surprise). Lacey told a writer for Mother Jones magazine that the Taitz portrait had been commissioned, but he declined to name who paid him. So Taitz looped Lacey into a lawsuit she had cooking against Obama.

In a motion for reconsideration in the case, Taitz said that she "cannot state with certainty who paid Dan Lacey, however it is common knowledge that billionaire George Soros, one of the biggest backers of Obama, through his organization Moveon.org, has commissioned numerous artists to promote Obama and denigrate his opponents and critics."

So Taitz has said she plans to subpoena and depose the artist to make him cough up the person whom Lacey sarcastically calls his "puppet master." Lacey is actually revealing the person who commissioned the Taitz painting on his website (www.faithmouse.blogspot.com) this week in a slowly evolving painting. He will raffle off the painting at his show.

In a TV interview, Taitz talked at length about the upcoming Minneapolis show. "The artist is clearly deranged," she said. "The fact that he is crazy is beyond any question."

If Lacey is crazy, he's crazy like a fox in picking July 4th to capitalize on publicity generated by the antics of Taitz.

"My wife is extremely nervous because she doesn't want us to be hauled into court," said Lacey. "We couldn't afford it. But I've been told they have to pay our expenses, so it may mean a free trip to California."

Lacey has been painting for decades, but has become an unlikely target of the far right. Before his pancake paintings gave him notoriety, Lacey was a conservative evangelical Christian who drew an online cartoon called "Faithmouse," which promoted conservative ideas that often angered liberals.

Not anymore. "I quit," said Lacey of his political leanings. "I sent in my notice and no longer belong to the Christian right."

Now, his paintings poke fun at politicians of all stripes (one shows Obama with pancakes on his head, spouting oil), but he's more likely to tweak his former philosophical colleagues.

"I'm more than happy to knock the right," he said. "There's more humor in satirizing them than the left."

The idea of the pancakes came from an iconic photo from Japan in the late '90s, a picture of a bunny that balanced Japanese pancakes on its head. Lacey noted that John McCain often had the same vacant stare as the bunny, and decided to paint pancakes on his head in tribute. Since then, everyone from Sarah Palin to Mother Teresa has gotten the Lacey pancake treatment.

Taitz is the first to threaten legal action. None of the subjects has bought any of his portraits, Lacey said. "I know they've seen them, but they don't want anything to do with me."

So Sunday, art shoppers can see some new paintings, including one of Sen. Al Franken with the requisite pancake topping.

Unfortunately, the Taitz original won't be available "because it was purchased by George Soros," Lacey said, before adding, "perhaps I am kidding."

jtevlin@startribune.com 612-673-1702

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