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by Charlie Finch
Things are looking up for longtime Artnet Magazine cartoonist Elliott Arkin [for the Elliott Arkin archives, click here]. The sculptor, who designed the best-selling Bill Clinton dildo for Adam & Eve products and journeyed to Muhammad Ali’s Michigan mansion to cast the champ’s fist for a sports award, is finally cashing in at age 48.

Arkin (who has caricatured your scribe more times than sanity permits!) has just received a $50,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation for his nonprofit Mr. Artsee roving art theater-on-wheels, designed by Vito Acconci under Arkin’s supervision. The pinstriped, souped-up vehicle is supposed to bring modern art to young fans and features a puppet show in its rear trunk, as well as a satirical gift shop. Hopefully, the Annenberg gift will goose Creative Time, which has Mr. Artsee under review, to participate in this worthy project.

Elliott has also designed a limited edition sculpture that he hopes can be given as a gift to donors at an upcoming fundraising party organized by Kennedy cousin Steven Smith in support of Barack Obama, to be held in New York on Oct. 14, 2008. With the help of former Christie’s general counsel Jo Laird, Arkin submitted three designs to the Obama campaign, one of which depicted Barack emerging from a voting booth whose curtains billowed like clouds, and another that showed Abraham Lincoln giving Obama the thumbs up in the Lincoln Memorial. The Barackites chose a complex Arkin rendition of Obama pushing a boulder labelled "Hope" up a mountain, while Lincoln, Dr. King and Jack Kennedy look on approvingly from the sky, a fitting metaphor for the problems Obama will face as president.

Eschewing total seriousness, sometimes nutty Arkin also plans to advance the burlesque craze sweeping the art world, thanks to Dita von Teese and others (burlesque being tried-and-true Depression era entertainment). Arkin, whose lusty baritone is unbelievably of Broadway quality, emcees a burlesque show at Annabelle’s in Red Hook on the night of Sunday, Oct. 19, under the provocative marquee "The Red Hookers." The show features five artistes, including noted West Village dancer Legs Malone, who will apparently impersonate Sarah Palin shooting a compliant Arkin, costumed as a moose.

Amiable Elliott may just turn out to be the perfect comic art foil for truly distressing times.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).