The link between Hillary’s campaign chair John Podesta and the incredibly twisted “performance artist” Marina Abramowicz is Podesta’s brother, Tony. It appears Tony and his wife, Heather, have… interesting tastes.
Political candidates eagerly tap Podesta’s mojo, too: He spearheaded President Clinton’s successful 1996 Pennsylvania campaign, and Sen. John Kerry has hired him to work the same magic for him in the Keystone State this year. Heather, 26 years his junior and several shades greener, carved a career aiding Reps. Robert Matsui and Earl Pomeroy; she joined Blank Rome’s law and government relations firm this spring.
Washington power brokers familiar with the couple’s art collection — regular rounds of parties at their two Washington area homes ensure plenty of viewing opportunities — regard the couple’s enthusiasm as something of a personal quirk.
Heather’s first taste of Tony’s art came on their first date, in the fall of 2001, when they stopped at his house to pick up his car before heading to the opera. Passing some of the quirkier selections, Heather recalls Tony remarking, “I don’t know why it is, but I have artworks where the women have no heads.” The next day, she sent him a note signed, “Woman with a head.” They were married last year.
Though pictures rotate on and off the walls of the couple’s homes, a piece in the Woodley Park living room stays. Called “Soliloquy VII,” the nearly eight-foot-tall color photo by British artist Sam Taylor-Wood is an update of a late-15th-century painting of the dead Jesus. Taylor-Wood faithfully replicates the original’s composition, here photographing, in vivid color and minute detail, a young man laid out on his back. Just one thing: Taylor-Wood omits the shroud, displaying his subject in all his nakedness.
Though often politely ignored, “Soliloquy VII” is rarely forgotten. Tony and Heather love it. They crane their necks to hear the whispers generated when the pols stop in. Tony often uses the work to launch into a story about Hillary Clinton’s visit, when she ducked and tiptoed around the work lest any photo opportunity capture her alongside the naked figure.
“You’ve got to be pretty secure to have an eight-foot-tall naked man in your living room in Washington, D.C.,” Heather says of her husband’s choice.
“At political events, there’s an inevitable awkwardness,” former Clinton administration official Sally Katzen said at a Women’s Campaign Fund dinner at the Podestas’ home this summer. “The art is an ice-breaker. It puts people at ease.”
Not always. Folks attending a house tour in the Lake Barcroft neighborhood in Falls Church earlier this year got an eyeful when they walked into a bedroom at the Podesta residence hung with multiple color pictures by Katy Grannan, a photographer known for documentary-style pictures of naked teenagers in their parents’ suburban homes.
“They were horrified,” Heather recalls, a grin spreading across her face.
WaPo meant this to be a puff piece on Tony and Heather Podesta. It’s not.
It’s a creepy glimpse into the psychology of people wielding clout at the highest levels of American politics.