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From Prairies to Coal Mines, LES Art Show Captures Political Color

By Serena Solomon | October 19, 2012 1:10pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — Forget red and blue — Americans' political leanings can be gray, green or yellow, according to artist and photographer Brian Dailey.

The photographer's "America in Color" series, a concept two years in the making, saw Daily traverse the nation from Texas prairies to West Virginia coal mines, capturing citizens before a colored backdrop that represents their political preference.

The images recently went on display at the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery on Orchard Street, where they'll remain up even after voters cast their ballots on Election Day.

"We got a compete coast-to-coast, beach-to-beach look at America," said the 61-year-old Daily, who considers the series performance art.

He shot more than a thousand people, asking each to choose his or her preferred backdrop based on their political views. Blue went to the Democrats, red to Republicans, green to Green Party supporters, gray for independents, or yellow if the person chose not to engage in the political process.

Daily then requested they “perform to him” a pose that would best capture their personalities.

"I believe in full-length portraits rather than partial," he said. "I believe it represents the character and identity of the person."

During his lengthy road tip, Daily hauled a full set complete with lights and the colored backdrops, setting up the equivalent of a fashion shoot in locations throughout the country.

To find his muses, he engaged people on the street, plucked miners on their way into or out of their work sites, and set up shoots in fields for camera-shy cowboys.

"The hardest group to shoot were cowboys," Daily said. "They were fiercely independent and didn't want to get their photos taken."

After reaching someone he knew in Texas' cowboy community, numerous ranches agreed to host Daily.

"It took a lot of negotiation because the minute you used 'political,' they get scared and they avoid it," he said of the many different locales, subcultures and industries he chose to spotlight in the series.

For Daily, the judgmental reactions of viewers he showed the first images to fueled the project as he criss-crossed the country.

"People would say 'I can’t believe that person is a Democrat' or 'I can’t believe that person is a Republican,'" he said, adding that even a subject's facial expression would cause viewers to draw conclusions. 

"I realized just how people stereotyped others by how they looked."

"America in Color" is on display at the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery at 29 Orchard St. now through Nov. 18.