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Lithuanian Artist Takes On Putin With Bread Crumbs

Vladimir Putin, pre-chickens
Vladimir Putin, pre-chickens

Bread crumbs and a dozen hens: those are the tools an up-and-coming Lithuanian artist is using to denounce what she calls Russia's "politics of plunder."

Despite her young age, 19-year-old Jolita Vaitkute has already made a name for herself in Lithuania crafting portraits of politicians and public figures with food -- a cycle she has titled Eat More Art.

In one of her latest works, a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin made of bread crumbs, she took the concept a step further by feeding her creation to a flock of hungry hens.

"This is my quiet artistic protest," she said. "I don't mean to insult anyone, I'm not into politicking. This is simply my way of speaking out against the Putin idea."

While some Russians have met Vaitkute's original art form with enthusiasm, Putin supporters are not amused.

Footage of the hens devouring his effigy, which the artist has posted on YouTube, has drawn a string of angry comments online.

Vaitkute says critics have also targeted her on social media. "These trolls reached my Facebook account," she tells RFE/RL. "But I understood straight away that their accounts were fake, so I decided not to react. Lithuanians support me and are happy with this project."

This is not the first time Vaitkute's work focuses on Putin.

The Russian president first appeared in some of her comic strips and later in her Eat More Art series, his face outlined with black pepper and adorned with marinated cucumber, cold cuts, a slice of black bread, and a glass of vodka.

The artist said the portrait, juxtaposed with a ketchup picture of U.S. President Barack Obama, was meant to evoke the deepening tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Lithuanian artist Jolita Vaitkute
Lithuanian artist Jolita Vaitkute

She herself describes Putin's regime as "the politics of plunder, propaganda, and rule of the masses." "It is hard for me to understand how such a country can still exist in our liberal times," she says.

Vaitkute says Putin is actually the only character in her edible-art cycle whom she personally dislikes.

Her series includes portraits of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite made of beetroot sauce, Austrian drag-queen singer Conchita Wurst made of chocolate ice cream, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein made of butter on black bread, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, whose face appears on a pancake coated with chocolate, whipped cream, and candy beads.

Lithuania and its neighbors have been badly spooked by Russia's forcible annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and its backing of pro-Russian separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

The Baltic states in particular have expressed fears that Moscow might seek to reassert its Soviet-era control over them.