Winston Drummond, considers the work of Gerald Skrlin
Power to the pee poo
The image of elected official Kristen Grandinetti astride a rather large roll of toilet paper is most certainly based in the scatological. That being said its rooting does nothing to diminish the message of the artist: that the elected lady is seen largely as being full of waste with regard to her issues, ideals and efficacy as a city councilwoman.
The artist does not “throw it in our face” but instead uses the comical prop of a gigantic toilet tissue roll to make his point…and quite a point it is. While starting out with a visual “gag” more reminiscent of an English music hall performer the cartoonist recovers nicely with the added touches of tattoos which lends an air of reality to the presentation since the artist’s subject is largely seen as nothing if not an Earth Mother and community organizer who is never afraid to speak out regardless of the language she selects and regardless of how off topic her point happens to be.
In short I see a wildly free woman riding a toilet tissue roll in celebration of her inherent feminine power and her accumulated political power as she perceives both of those powers to be.
Rainbow Choo Choo
Nowhere else in the artist’s folio does he succeed more effectively in commenting upon the “rainbow” of the falls and the proverbial “rainbow” of life than in this work. Skrlin has perfectly juxtaposed the mechanical and machine-like nature of the Paul Dyster Inter-modal Transportation Center against the very elemental beauty of the Niagara Falls legendary “rainbow.”
In doing so the artist has challenged us to consider the natural beauty of the one against the modern alienation and soullessness of the other. Few cartoonists are capable of conducting such a multi-faceted piece of work within so small a canvas.
In this work the train (station) is literally “going over the falls” and in doing so it raises the metaphysical question: is the train (station) going over the rainbow (a classically referenced object of beauty) or is the train (station) plunging to its destruction in the gorge below?
Dyster’s last stand
This work cements Skrlin’s reputation as “the master of ironic placement.”
Earlier he had positioned a lovely elected female official astride a roll of toilet paper and he then situated a train atop the bi-interpretive image of a rainbow that could be imagined to be taking the train to exciting new heights or perhaps luring the train to its doom.
In this work the artist has placed the “down home” image of the hind quarters of a bull in perfect alignment with an elected official, Paul Dyster, the mayor of Niagara Falls. While some may say the imagery is too “on the nose” this critic must state that the artistic arrangement is both classical as to how the image within the frame is conceived and deeply humorous in that it causes one to experience an old-fashioned belly laugh that is good for the soul.
Consider this: have we ever seen so much “bull” in any one place as in this cartoon of Paul Dyster and a genuine bull?
I think not.
The bee sting
This portrait of Mayor Dyster is deceptively simple in its presentation. I will risk the damnation of my fellow critics by stating that this is the artist’s tour de force. Skrlin has taken a humdrum subject and with a few pencil strokes captured the very essence of that subject: the famous “Dyster sneer.”
And he has done so by borrowing from the Frankenstein legend to make his statement: a statement that is bonded atop the political nearness of Niagara Falls and the existential distance of politics per se.
Locally the artist presents us with a mayor bearing “bee stung” lips. This is a play on the notion that a political cartoon must hold within the power to sting like a bee. As if this weren’t enough we are subliminally reminded that “bee stung lips” are a desired sexual quality of women. In this way Skrlin has created an image overflowing with ambiguity - sexual and political - open to multiple levels of interpretation.
The mayor bears the Frankenstein Monster surgical scars (or are those train tracks?) that are reminiscent of the Frankenstein horror story. The drawing is a veritable indictment as to the disfiguring surgical-political actions taken by Dyster that have made Niagara Falls the sad victim of the “Body Politic”.
(Editor’s Note: This art critique is parody but can nevertheless be taken seriously.)