Jonathan Crow’s Veeptopus is everything you could want from a portrait series of US Vice Presidents being mauled by cephalopods. (Above is Charles W. Fairbanks, second-in-command to Teddy Roosevelt.) Katherine Harmon Courage, octo-blogger extraordinaire, recently interviewed Crow about the project:
KHC: Why the veeptopus? By that I mean, why vice presidents—not presidents, baseball commissioners, or Swedish royal family members? And why with octopuses—not giant moths, sloths, or cuttlefish?
JC: The Vice Presidency is sort of an absurd job. It bestows all the pomp and import of the United States Government—the most powerful political body in the world—but the job itself, as defined by the Constitution, is vague and poorly defined. All it requires is for the veep occasionally preside over the Senate and check on the president’s health. Basically, the VP spends his term struggling to define himself while waiting for death. How existential can you get?
I added the octopuses because I thought they were funny. I could say it’s a metaphor for the morally corrosive nature of power or Capitalism or something like that. But the real answer is, I just think they’re funny. And they also drape so much better than wombats.
KHC: I love that each octopus seems to approach the role of headpiece with a very different attitude. How did you decide what the positioning would be? Was it partially dictated by the veep’s legacy?
JC: Sometimes the position of the octopus was a comment on the veep — see Hubert Humphrey and Dick Cheney — but more often than not, its position was determined by practical considerations. I didn’t want to cover distinctive features—Nixon’s jowls, Nelson Rockefeller’s glasses, Charles Fairbanks’s beard. So I figured out other places on the face and head to put them. On the flip side, tentacles can be really helpful for troublesome facial features. Al Gore has a really odd face that doesn’t really seem like it ought to hang together. He has a hawk-like nose, strangely full lips and really sparse eyebrows. I think I drew him six or seven times before I got him right and even then I made a point of covering much of his face with a well-placed tentacle.