A Very Andrew Cuomo Happy Holidays

ALBANY – The portrait was of William Jennings Bryan, but it was the octopus that got all the attention, its tentacles wrapped around emblems of American industry while Lady Liberty took aim at the monster with an ax of democracy.

The imagery, employed by Mr. Bryan during his ill-fated campaign for president in 1900, is an iconic example of American political poster-making, and it captured the imagination of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who keeps a framed reproduction on a wall of his office suite at the Capitol.

And for this holiday season, Mr. Cuomo commissioned a reinterpretation of the classic poster, representing what he sees as his own battles as governor. The octopus is now a sea monster, writhing in the Hudson River, with three heads, labeled corruption, bureaucracy and apathy. Swimming in the river are striped bass (a nod to Mr. Cuomo’s affection for fishing), and a truck passing by bears the message “NY Yogurt: World’s Best” (a reference to the governor’s advocacy for the state’s fast-growing Greek-style yogurt industry).

“I like history, and that school of art was interesting to me,” Mr. Cuomo said on Wednesday, pulling the Bryan poster off his wall and asking an aide to fetch him a magnifying glass to assist him in examining it. “There are a lot of campaign posters, but we wanted to do something a little different.”

Mr. Cuomo plans to give copies of the new poster to staff members and campaign donors as an end-of-year gift. He said he determined what priorities of his administration he wanted represented in the poster, and suggested elements that could represent them, but left the rest to Rusty Zimmerman, a painter and illustrator in Brooklyn.

“I have no artistic ability,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I can’t draw.”

He enjoys paying homage to the past, installing historical exhibits at the Capitol and overseeing the restoration of portraits of his predecessors. He also has a creative impulse, producing, for instance, a custom lapel pin that he and his aides wear diligently.

But the poster that Mr. Cuomo commissioned – and that prominently features an illustration of him by Mr. Zimmerman – goes above and beyond his previous efforts.

“So much of what I do is trying to communicate with people,” Mr. Cuomo said, “and you’re wondering: Are you connecting? Are they understanding what you’re saying? This is actually an interesting exercise for me: distill what you’re trying to say. How would you communicate it to a person graphically, visually, and what context would you use to communicate it so that it hangs together?”

The poster, financed with Mr. Cuomo’s campaign funds, is the second produced by Mr. Zimmerman for him. The first, during Mr. Cuomo’s 2010 run for governor, used symbols to depict his campaign agenda: for example, a house covered in a giant baseball cap represented his promise – since fulfilled – to pass a measure capping annual increases in local property taxes.

Mr. Zimmerman said that he had met with Mr. Cuomo to discuss ideas for the first poster, and said that while he did not speak directly with him to create the latest version, Mr. Cuomo had asked to see revisions along the way, and that the process took about five months.

“The governor will tell you he’s a fan of the iterative process,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “We went through a lot of fine-tuning and a lot of different ideas – trying with or without a number of elements.”

The poster focuses on the image of a bridge, representing a replacement for the Tappan Zee, which has been one of Mr. Cuomo’s top priorities. “The Tappan Zee is a metaphor for what we did, a metaphor for government performance,” he said. “So we made that the centerpiece.”

The Bryan poster was included this year in a book of visually significant presidential campaign posters produced by the Library of Congress. W. Ralph Eubanks, the director of publishing at the Library of Congress, said Mr. Cuomo’s poster was similar to campaign posters from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when, he said, “there was a tendency to pack a lot of messages into a campaign poster, because you didn’t have television, you didn’t have radio.”

“What you see over time is the message becomes very simple,” Mr. Eubanks said. He added that he had never seen a contemporary politician commission something like what Mr. Cuomo had produced. “That’s an incredible poster, isn’t it?” he said.

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