Alison Jackson, the UK Artist Famous for Mercilessly Satirizing Donald Trump, Is Now a Politician Herself—a Conservative One
The artist who creates spoof images of celebrities and politicians now represents an area in London best known for its famous residents.
The artist Alison Jackson is no stranger to politics. In the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, she self-published a series of satirical photos featuring spot-on Trump impersonator in a fake Oval Office, surrounded by scantily-clad beauty contestants. She then caused a stir in New York by hiring the lookalike—and more underdressed models—to appear in headline-grabbing performance piece outside of Trump Tower.
The work—which appeared when most assumed Hillary Clinton would ultimately win the White House—proved to be prescient. Jackson’s spoof images of politicians and celebrities are now in demand by newspapers and magazines.
Yet amid these successes, her most unlikely feat to date has fallen under the media radar: In May, Donald Trump’s scathing satirist was elected as a Conservative councillor in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, an achievement she describes as a great moment.
Asked if she considers herself an artist-activist, Jackson says, “I am, of sorts.”
Yet oddly for someone who has made an art of political parody, Jackson is reluctant to talk about her own Tory politics, though she does tell artnet News that she is “pro-enterprise.” (Her party, currently headed by Teresa May, is center-right in the UK.)
As Councillor Jackson, she represents the posh end of the borough. “It’s such a beautiful area,” she told the Daily Mail earlier in the year about her campaign. “There are things I really care about and I want to contribute to society.”
(Born Alison Mowbray-Jackson, she is the daughter of ultra-wealthy landowner George Hulbert Mowbray-Jackson. She has recently been involved in a public spat over control of a trust set up for her by her father, which she says owes her £500,000.)
Jackson sits on the borough’s planning committee, as well as family and children’s services scrutiny panel.
Given her ongoing critique of celebrity culture, it is fitting that her ward is Chelsea Riverside. The area is known for its famous former residents: It was the home to artists J.M.W. Turner, Oscar Wilde, and James McNeill Whistler, among others, in the 19th century.
More recently, billionaires like Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and ex-Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg have lived on its most desirable street, Cheyne Walk. It was dubbed Rolling Stones Row when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bought properties there.
Instead of talking borough politics, Jackson much prefers talking about the businessman and reality TV star turned US president, who met the Queen of England at Windsor Castle in July. The artist’s latest work includes her spin on this Royal occasion.
“I couldn’t believe [Trump] met the Queen, but I’m sure he loved it,” she says. “I’m sure he would be very informal. That’s why ‘Donald Trump’ is trying to edge up to her. He considers himself to be a king, so the king meets a Queen.”
Ever since she was a student at the Royal College of Art, Jackson has gone where no official photographer or paparazzo has ventured, creating brazenly parodic photos using celebrity lookalikes.
She first made the news back in 2000, while a student at the RCA. Jackson posed as a lookalike Princess Diana with a doppelganger boyfriend, Dodi Fayed (the Princess’s boyfriend at the time, who also died in the fatal car crash), along with a baby.
Those images, created three years after the crash, provoked an outcry, much to the college’s embarrassment.
“I was not allowed to show my work,” she recalls. “I had a letter to say if I talked to the media, I would be expelled. Posters of my work were torn down. I had a terrible time. Prince Philip did not open the photography show due to my work.”
Her latest work has only pushed that signature brazen style further. In one of the in-your-face images shot in the staged Oval Office, for instance, we see “Trump” having an intimate meeting with “Miss Mexico”—he wears her sash and the beauty queen is on her back on the presidential desk.
In another recent shot, a young blonde woman in a white dress applies a spray tan to a completely naked Trump lookalike. In a still more unsettling shot, the same woman is shown outfitting the fake president with prosthetic finger extensions.
Prints of the series have been selling like hot cakes in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. Jackson was invited to show the spoof images by the exhibition’s coordinator, artist Grayson Perry.
“Most people find Donald Trump rather amusing,” she says. “I’m sure the Democrats in New York don’t, but generally, he is a comical, cartoon character. My photographs bring the cartoon to life.”
The satirical power of her mock images have sometimes provoked threats of litigation against her, but these have yet to deter the artist.
“During the election, I was pretty sure he would be president. Nobody could understand why I was doing it. When I shot the pictures pre-election, the press said why had I bothered to shoot him in the White House?”
Now, the freshly minted Conservative councillor predicts that Trump will “most definitely” be a two-term president.
Jackson says she intends to press on, bringing the cartoon Trump to life on the stage. “Just today I’m writing a show about Donald Trump,” she says.
Her first theatrical production, Shot to Fame, returns to the West End in October. The show, which tackles “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and the fraught political terrain that created them, made its debut at the Soho Theatre in London in January. It promises to make a member of the audience a “somebody,” and includes a Jackson-directed photoshoot.
She also recently tweeted that she is hunting for a Vladimir Putin lookalike. Tracking down the Russian president’s double has, however, not been easy. “Putin has a very particular look, so he is difficult to find,” she says.
All of which sounds like a lot of work—and now she has to do it, presumably, on top of some very non-satirical duties as a local politician.
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