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Venting political frustrations in FAT Village

Political art spoofs the 2016 election at @FATVillageProjects in Fort Lauderdale.

Donald Trump's orange mug is scuffed with more footprints than any other campaign poster in Randy Burman's art installation "Vent-o-Matic," which invites people to burn off election-season stress by hurling old shoes at Republicans.

Subtitled "A Cathartic Public Health Service," the satirical artwork is distinguished by 54 caricatured faces of GOP congressmen, deep-pocketed donors and presidential candidates on red-and-blue posters attached to chain-link fences. Many divisive names are there, including Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio. The fences lean against the gray walls of the FAT Village Projects warehouse in Fort Lauderdale, five feet from a long, wooden table piled with musty footwear: floral cowboy boots, leopard-print pumps, Converse kicks, kid's cross-trainers. The idea follows carnival-midway logic: Stand behind the table. Raise a sneaker. Take aim. Bean a politician. Let the healing begin.

"The best part of the installation is that, even if you didn't hit the person you aimed for, you probably didn't miss," says Burman, whose politically minded works, equally left-leaning, have included a "Divine Comedy"-inspired painting of the Koch Brothers roasting in the eighth circle of Hell.

Burman, of North Miami, says his Canadian wife's ire over the Bush administration triggered the idea, as did an infamous shoe-throwing incident in 2008, when an Iraqi journalist tossed his size 10s at the president during a press conference.

"I realized that you weren't just getting angry that you're throwing shoes," Burman, 67, says. "You're releasing endorphins and venting frustrations, too."

Just in time for the 2016 election season, Burman and 13 other South Florida artists take sociopolitical potshots at politicos in the new group exhibit "Wrestling the Snake: Open Season in Political Art." The name of the show, opening Saturday, May 28, is a throwback to an anti-political Mahatma Gandhi quote and the Revolutionary War Gadsden flag, its graphic of a rattlesnake above the phrase, "Don't tread on me," an enduring symbol against oppressive government.

That the image has also been adopted by the Tea Party movement was too rich to ignore, says Peter Symons, a FAT Village Projects curator with his wife, Leah Brown.

"The image of wrestling a snake is perfect," Symons says. "The more you struggle in the coils of a snake, the tighter they constrict. Are you just going to take the oppressiveness? No, you fight back with humor and by reducing political systems to child's play."

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush and Trump become toys in Aurora Molina's "11 Candidates and the President" a diorama built from a shipping crate and depicting current and former presidential contenders as marionettes suspended from puppet strings. A handful of the installations here reach no further than on-the-nose symbolism: Billie Grace Lynn's 6-foot-tall "Obama Kite" displays the president's head tucked in the back corner of the warehouse, gazing out over the political satire below. During Saturday's FAT Village art walk, Miami performance artists David Rohn and Danillo de la Torre will spend 45 minutes striking theatrical poses and wearing clownlike makeup as "Mr. and Mrs. Candidate," a caricature of a presidential candidate and spouse.

By contrast, Richard Vergez strikes a more cryptic tone with his untitled installation of a reel-to-reel machine. When switched on, magnetic tape spools around the tape heads and loops through a series of metal hooks anchored to the wall, which bares two black-and-white photos of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The recorder plays recordings of Roosevelt's speeches, which sound muddled, like droning adults in "Peanuts" cartoons.

Ryan Farrell and Lisa Rockford, meanwhile, shoot for bawdier parody with "Diplomatic Relations," in which visitors are asked to wear missile-shaped dildos and spar inside a caged, Ultimate Fighting Championship-inspired octagon ring.

A spotlight fixed to ceiling PVC pipes shines on Luke Jenkins' "Letting the Garden Grow," a collection of what he calls "campaign promises" laser-cut into 20 wooden squares. Campaign slogans are printed on each square, spanning Ronald Reagan's "It's Morning Again in America" from 1984 through Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again!"

"If you read them chronologically, you see how many of the campaign promises are broken," says Jenkins, of Fort Lauderdale. "Campaign slogans look forward and backward, but they all sound the same."

"Wrestling the Snake: Open Season in Political Art" will open 6-10 p.m. Saturday, May, 28, at the FAT Village Projects space, 521 NW First Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free. The show will close Aug. 12. Go to FATVillageProjects.com

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