Gagged Lady Liberty: a satirical viewpoint

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

In the Fall of 2018, we were in Asheville, North Carolina for a few months enjoying the autumnal foliage. I recall sitting by the fireplace feeling compelled to capture something in watercolor that I couldn't quite put a finger on. That feeling was demanding really in wanting to be expressed.

It felt really personal at the time, all about me. About finding my own voice, speaking up. Which was definitely all true. It was about freedom of speech and speaking one's own mind.


It was also about the ever growing onerous burden of taxation and bureaucratic suffocation slowly killing us, the law-abiders, through compliance, compliance, compliance. I should know as I have now worked 31 tax seasons preparing tax returns ranging from billionaires at my intense job in Big Four public accounting to the indigent that needed free help. This first Lady Liberty I did was art therapy for my female, CPA self. She was the first in this pen & watercolor series.


As a young adult in the 1980's, I loved Reagan's sense of humor. Today I can actually appreciate how much he communicated through his use of satirical jokes. I still have my favorite Reagan tax joke framed and hanging in my office today:

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” - Ronald Reagan


One thing, I've always believed is that we as people can hear more difficult truths and understand complex problems better when we use storytelling, imagery and humor. My series of Lady Liberties I now realize is political satire communicating a difficult message through a visual.


This first Lady in the series, I handwrote the title as "Lady Liberty's Hair on Fire #1". I wanted her crown to also look like a joker's cap that was the color of flames. The fine print has a lot of tax technical terms and definitions that should demonstrate the onerous burden that the tax law has become on its citizens. Words such as Generation-Skipping-Tax, abatement of penalty, wealth tax, claw backs, suspended passive losses, active participation, tax symmetry, excise tax, AMT ad nauseum. On a daily basis, I witnessed the sheer terror of taxpayers in their inability to properly comply with the flurry of required forms and documentation, I wanted Lady Liberty to look buried in terms. I also embedded a few sentences of Mark Steyn's satirical genius wit as a nod to his awesome authored book that I was reading at the same time Lady Liberty came out of my brush and pen.


By January 2019, I published my first book featured here, The January Novel, which is the first in my Calendar Series. This Lady Liberty was number 6 or so. I made her specifically for this book cover. As this story had nothing to do with taxes, she isn't covered in tax terms. But its definitely a story about one soul's journey finding her voice as she travels through different lifetimes and the space between lives.


You can find it on the bottom of my book page, as it was the first one I published.

https://www.ericaswensonelliott.com/books


Fast forward into the Fall of 2020, my Lady Liberties now feel eerily prescient that something was already building in our collective consciousness. For never in my life would I have expected to see the whole world go to ground for a supposed "couple weeks to slow the spread" then have humanity in its entirety walking around with masks on! Masks! It has been a personal powerful confirmation that art certainly does tap into the collective, even when we don't understand how. I'm trying to get a good rendering of Lady Liberty breaking free in a roar hoping to change the current page we are all living! Artists, please pitch in and help the cause, for I have yet to succeed!


I'm almost done writing the next book in this series of novels aptly named The February Novel. Of course, freedom of expression and Lady Liberty are continuing themes in the series! For Feb's cover art, I was inspired by a series of pencil drawings I did, one featured here. It is a hybrid between my Lady Liberty and Warrior Series. The cover will be a watercolor variation on another in this pencil series. Getting close to finalizing that cover, which I look forward to sharing with all of you in a future post. Onward!


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 © 2019 Erica Swenson Elliott

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ERICA SWENSON ELLIOTT
Advisor, Author & Artist