Portrait of a Pancake Artist
Posted at 12:01 a.m. on May 21, 2012
(Courtesy Dan Lacey)
Dan Lacey, the man known as the Pancake Painter, has struggled over the years with his faith and his politics.
His recent painting, “Obama Lohan Icelandic Volcano,” encapsulates this tension.
“That painting was about nature punishing man,” Lacey explains.
The painting shows the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupting to smother or punish the earth as an act of God. Simultaneously, President Barack Obama is punishing actress Lindsay Lohan “for her behavior,” Lacey says.
“So what I am saying is that the act of God creates calamity, but man working in the place of God can work for the good,” he posits.
That struggle with faith and politics goes back 20 years.
He was raised Roman Catholic but broke with the church as he grew older.
“When I went away from [Catholicism], I was very much a liberal,” Lacey tells us.
In turn, he tried to convince others to leave Christianity. Then he had a spiritual reawakening.
“[And] when I was saved,” he says. “I immediately became a Republican.”
Lacey enjoyed fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s for his online Christian conservative comic strip, FaithMouse.
Lacey says he was a favorite of the Christian right, and the Family Research Council even brought him to Washington for a signing.
After 9/11, however, Lacey says he took more risks with the strip and ended up being rejected by conservatives.
“I had [a] real falling out with my side of the political aisle,” he says. Perhaps as a result, Lacey began to lose his faith.
To process, he turned from cartooning to what would become his unique brand of political painting.
“I’m a self-taught artist,” Lacey tells HOH. “[Though] I went to the Art Center of Pasadena, Calif., on a scholarship.”
“I’m not an outsider artist,” he insists. “[An outsider artist] has done art on their own. Perhaps they’re a little bit insane, but that’s not what I am.”
His fascination with pancakes stemmed from an early Internet meme, which was a picture of a bunny balancing a dorayaki on his head. A dorayaki is a Japanese sweet that looks an awful lot like a pancake.
The picture served as shorthand for “I don’t know what you’re talking about, so here’s a bunny with a pancake on your head,” Lacey explains.
Something about the image and how it communicated bewilderment resonated as he coped with losing his faith, political party and work.
“I’m still a conservative,” he continued. “[But I] actually feel that conservatives have ruined [the government].”
The pancake painter has spent many years now painting the sticky sweet breakfast confection resting on the heads of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) and others.
Obama is now getting his share of pancake portraits. Often in these pieces, the pancake suggests a halo.
“[The work is] sort of a play on the Messiah, on the savior Christ,” Lacey said. “I just went with that. I just said, ‘What if the humanist Messiah actually was?’”
Lacey isn’t entirely sure whether he is for or against Obama, or either party. His work sends up or brings down the full spectrum of public figures, as seen in works such as “Governor Mark Sanford pancake” and “Rahm Emanuel Hamantashen cookies.”
“I’m at peace now with my loss of faith,” Lacey says. “My wife is a very firm-in-her-faith Catholic. I really do enjoy the comfort in that.”