Inauguration Day, doomsday, hangs a mere 32 days away. But for real, it isn’t. As a visual artist in my times of troubles I have always turned to art to make everything better at least for one serene moment. Not surprisingly, many artists have been turning to their craft as a coping mechanism, and the result has been the spearheading of an anti-Trump movement.
The first question that these artists must confront is: How does one parody such a blazing self-parody? According to many, the best way to make a boldly disrespectful political statement is with bodily fluids. In anti-Trump protest art, motifs of various excretions coupled with grotesque anatomies have dominated. Shit, piss, blood, and fat have all become running themes. Artist Sarah Levy brings this motif to a new level with her painting of the President-elect, titled “Whatever”. The portrait is painted with menstrual blood and applied with tampon. The beautifully grotesque shades of red and brown is in response to Trump’s infamous attack on debate moderator and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, from their beef in October when Trump told CNN “You could see blood coming out of her eyes, coming out of her, whatever.”
Other artists like Lloyd Brant play on the motif of bodily excretions differently, this time- not to be too crude- but with shit and piss. Don’t take it too literally: there is none of that in the actual artwork itself. However, in this parisian bathroom the work titled “Trump’s Potty Mouth,” there is a conveniently placed red urinal, shaped like an open mouth superimposed over the mouth of a larger-than-life Trump head. While I did warn readers not to take my words too literally, the artist does imply that the viewer may take some artistic liberties of his or her own in this potty talk piece.
Protest art that stands out due to a comedic approach and strong notes of irony, much like “Whatever” and “Trump’s Potty Mouth,” have become increasingly popular, but viewers should be wary of this style of art. Even though their element of satire is centered around levels of truth, it can still be categorized as propaganda art, and have negative implications. The one undeniable truth about these artworks is that they are purposefully disrespectful. We have to accept that this flaming self parody is our future president and search for alternative modes to convey our obvious discontent. If the artist truly desires to make a change, he or she should should use his or her work as a communications platform for a more positive course of civil discontent, one not centered around utter disrespect. When he goes low, we go high; that’s the liberal motto. One way to do this is to make art that avoids propaganda, and sparks conversation in a way that people from both ends of the political spectrum can engage in.
The T.RUMP Bus is a good example of progressive protest art, rather than art made in a blind rage. Here’s the rundown: leftist art collective t.Rutt purchased a former Trump campaign bus on Craigslist and transformed it into an art project against him. Since February 2016, they’ve been driving the transformed bus to rallies across the country. The vehicle’s political message is cryptic: One side reads “T.RUMP: Make Fruit Punch Great Again”; another side reads “T.RUTT: #Women Trump Trump.” At first glance, it still looks like a Trump campaign bus.
Due to this disguise, Trump supporters will enthusiastically approach the bus for selfies, only to eventually realize that “Make Fruit Punch Great Again” is not the President-elects real slogan. Conversely, confused anti-Trumpers have vandalized the bus, mistaking it for the enemy, which has led the artists to disguise the vehicle.
The fogginess of its message lets the bus acheive something previous protest art has failed to: spark dialogue between members of opposing parties. Instead of preaching to the choir, t.Rutt tries to engage both sides of the political spectrum, slyly getting Trump supporters to approach the art alongside actual Trump protesters. The difference between protest art and propaganda can be jaded, but it becomes clearer when an artist actively seeks to foster conversation instead of insulting a target, when their goal is to unite rather than divide. This is a hard result to accomplish, and especially hard to achieve with a high level of aesthetic and concept execution. It is defiantly a challenge, and a challenge that I would urge any young artist reading this to try.