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Karen Finley as Hilary Clinton; photo by Hunter Canning

By Tulis McCall

Karen Finley is a performance Artist of some history.  And I seem to be the last person to hop on board the train.  She had some serious admirers last Sunday at the Laurie Beehman Theater at Westbank.  They were there out of love and admiration that has been going on for decades.  1990, Finley became an unwilling symbol for the NEA when she, along with Tim Miller, Holly Hughes & John Fleck, sued the NEA for withdrawing grants on the grounds of indecency; the controversial case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

In this decade she is once again taking on contemporary issues in the form of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  You are all going to find one, if not both, of these subjects repugnant.  So to sweeten the pot Finley has added a Unicorn.  Why not?  With everything that is going on in our world, what could it hurt to bring on some reinforcements in the positive vein?

Finley’s work is very retro, and if she were not reading the text it would sound like something that might have originated at Café Cino on Cornelia Street in the 1950’s-1960’s.  They are free flowing and not always easy to follow, but that is not Finley’s intention.  She is there to engage and challenge.  At time she seems to be daring us to hook into her thought patters.  Other times she is in her own world and does not require us to to any more than  watch.

The Gratitude portion of the experience is all Hillary, although my chum didn’t realize that until she was half way through.  Hillary is all gratitude, mostly because that it about all she is allowed to be.  When men shove her aside, when she is questioned over and over again on the same subject, when  her husband cheats on her in just about the most public way a person could – she is expected to standup and be upstanding.  But this Hillary has a blue dress of her own and she will do to it, to paraphrase John Wesley, a Hillary idol,  all good she can.  By all the means she can. In all the ways she can. In all the places she can. At all the times she can. In front of the people she can. As long as ever she can.

Trump is the Mystery in the mix.  And with a fright wig of some dimension, orange makeup, a baseball visor and a unicorns tail flowing our of the front of his pants, this Trump is even more of a spectacle than the one we are used to seeing.  This Trump devolves and deconstructs everything we have ever heard  him say until he self implodes doesn’t just want to beat Hillary, he wants  to BE Hillary.

Finley saves the best for last however, when she drops all the costumes, lets down her hair and reads a story/prose poem that stretches from skid row, where a woman finds redemption by picking up Veterans on Skid Row and taking them home, to a different woman holding her baby that will very possible grow up to supply a future army with another soldier to throw at a war that only exists because there are unfortunate souls who are the coal for the furnace.  It was this last Finley who pulled me in completely. The Finley with nothing between her and the audience is the Finley that strikes the deepest and the most profound note.

Through Sunday September 18th. Performances are Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $25, with a $20 food/drink minimum. To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.