White Spy vs. Black Spy

I’ve been waiting to hear back from Wild Goose Creative Gallery regarding a dual show in July of 2020. I’ve been accepted as one half of a joint exhibit but confirmation by the other artist is yet to come. In the meantime, I’ve worked up two small things in anticipation of a Mad Magazine show curated by Jay Mueller to be held at the Vanderelli Room in December.

There is no formal call for submissions as yet and no guarantee my work will be included, but based on the intuition that I will shortly be very busy indeed, I plowed ahead. The worst that could happen is I’ll have two more sweetly funny pieces available for use in the future.

“Spy vs. Spy” was a cold-war-inspired cartoon drawn by Cuban expat artist Antonio Prohias which ran in Mad Magazine for many years. The idea seemed to be two identical combatants, one dressed entirely in white and the other in black, locked in eternal conflict. This was a fitting metaphor for the anti-communist anxieties of the 1950’s and ’60’s but also suits current rage-filled statecraft absurdities. I began to visually riff on what might have become of Black Spy and White Spy now that their Mad Magazine platform is fast receding into the past.

The first order of the day was to peruse the internet for traditional images of the characters. The most popular iteration was this view of the two ostensibly shaking hands while secretly menacing one another with dynamite and bombs held behind their backs.

“White Spy vs. Black Spy” by Antonio Prohias

It would have been fine to just copy this image, color it up a bit and be done with it, but I needed something more. When viewers think they know what they’re going to see even before they’ve seen it, you’ve wasted your time. I wanted to retain the spirit of the original but somehow turn it on its head and make it surprising.

I let myself imagine what became of the contentious spies once the curtain came down on all their aggression. Did they finish each other off? Or did they finally hold hands and declare the whole former enterprise just a closeted exercise in erotic action? I chose the latter.

“White Spy With Cat” by Lynda McClanahan

“Black Spy With Rabbit” by Lynda McClanahan

My version of these two adversaries affirms them as frustrated lovers. The menace remains but the gifts have been transformed into what they’ve secretly always been. In my imagination the spies are finally free to openly pursue their love affair. Who knows? Maybe they are quietly living in an assisted care facility, comfortably ensconced together on the couch, watching TV. Perhaps they learned that when rage, fear and competition have been completely expelled and used up, there is nothing left but love.


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