Gretchen Baer is impossible to miss at Hillary Clinton campaign rallies.
She’s the only one wearing a white pantsuit adorned with hand-stenciled images of the candidate’s smiling face. The artist who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard is also the only one who drives a car — a 1989 Toyota Corolla — whose hood is plastered with a whimsical portrait of the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Baer, who lives in Arizona now, has been wearing her “Hillsuits” and driving the “Hillcar” to Clinton campaign stops across the country, including in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and, for the past 10 days, in California, where she says the response was “almost 100 percent positive.”
“We get a lot of thumbs up and smiles,” says Baer, whose parents still live on Martha’s Vineyard. “I love to make people smile.”
Politics is a relatively new thing for the 53-year-old Baer, who never paid much attention to presidential campaigns when she was younger. (On her website, she says she’s descended from “a long line of miniature ship-in-a-bottle builders, Yankee Sea Captains, artists, and war heroes that foundered at sea.”) But when Bill Clinton was a candidate in the early ’90s, Baer became interested in Hillary.
“I thought she was progressive and intelligent, just an incredible woman,” Baer says. “I vowed that if she ever ran for president, I was going to do everything I could to make that happen.”
So when Clinton ran in 2008, Baer decided to put her talents as an artist to use, painting her car in flamboyant fashion and customizing the pantsuits she picks up at thrift stores. (She’s got eight “Hillsuits” hanging in her closet.) That run didn’t work out, but when Clinton announced she was trying again, Baer revved her engine.
As you might imagine, Baer isn’t a big fan of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Five years ago, she created Border Bedazzlers, a group of artists that works with Mexican children to paint sections of the 650 miles of border fence that separates the US and Mexico. She doesn’t like Trump’s idea of building an even bigger wall.
“I wish it would come down,” she says. “But for now we’re using it as a great canvas to do something positive.”
If you’re wondering if Clinton has met Baer, the answer is yes. Like we said, she’s hard to miss.
“I just saw her in California and talked to her,” says Baer. “She said she appreciates the Hillcar and will miss seeing it wherever she goes.”