Recall, if you will, Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Only this oil-on-canvas image features George as a majestic eagle, his glossy white feathers poking out from beneath a tricorn hat, standing Captain Morgan style in a rowboat. Behind him a passenger vomits onto a wayward iceberg. A small white rabbit looks on in terror. That’s the rendering Echo Park illustrator Lisa Hanawalt whipped up for an episode of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, the animated series about a humanoid horse whose atrophied acting career has relegated him to the D-list. (Hanawalt is a production designer and producer on the show.) “In the original version,” she says of the painting, “their butts were hanging out. It’s a serious scene, so Netflix was like, ‘Maybe you should consider putting pants on them?’ ”
The 33-year-old artist’s buttocks-based aesthetic—her words, not ours—is only one facet of her delightfully debased illustrations and comics (she created the drawings of shoppers in a health food store and of Kim Kardashian as a lily, both below, for this article). More can be found in her newest book, Hot Dog Taste Test (June 14). The food-focused compendium pairs Hanawalt’s art with observations so singular in their weirdness that they result in side-splitting veracity. In the essay “On the Trail with Wylie,” Hanawalt punctuates her record of a day spent shadowing New York chef Wylie Dufresne with a medley of drawings. One depicts his conversation with a well-heeled tomato (no, seriously, it’s wearing stilettos); another provides a guide to pasta shapes (she labels the bow tie variety “Bill Nyes”). The piece, which originally appeared in Lucky Peach magazine, won her a James Beard Award.
Since she grew up on cartoons like Ren and Stimpy (which might explain the butt thing), it’s no surprise that Hanawalt delivers honest, scatological humor, often from the mouths of animals. The idiosyncratic style has served her well. “There’s a lot of parallel thinking with comedy,” she says. “It’s hard to find things that haven’t been said before or drawn before, but I’m trying.”
Hanawalt will be at Skylight Books on Wednesday, June 8, to discuss Hot Dog Taste Test. The event begins at 7:30 pm.