Is visually shaming presidential candidates the best way to boycott them? Last week, an image surfaced of United States Republican presidential candidate and consummate foulmouth Donald Trump with his face wrapped around a lip-shaped urinal by designer Meike van Schijndel.
It’s a snapshot from the men’s washroom of Belushi’s Bar in the St Christopher’s Inns hostel in Paris – but it isn’t real. It’s a Photoshopped masterpiece by two California-based artists, William Duke and Brandon Griffin.
Ever since Trump stepped up for the candidacy, the megalomaniac billionaire has sparked a fiery, comedic movement of “Trump art”.
Unlike Shepard Fairey, who painted the Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008, artists are fighting with Photoshop, spray cans and menstrual blood-covered paintbrushes. Trump has become the art world’s joker – or, oddly enough, their trump card.
Trump has been creatively transformed into an Oompa Loompa, a drag queen and a fly-attracting pile of poo. One could call this the anti-Trump art movement, or simply, the genre of Donald Dump.
The toilet seems to be a common theme: we’ve had Trump toilet paper and 3D-printed Trump butt plugs. The New York street artist Hanksy, who started with the observation that Trump rhymes with dump, created a Manhattan mural of Trump as a pile of faeces.
“My work is usually lighthearted, but this guy is the absolute worst,” said Hanksy. “The fact that US citizens are cheering his name shows you how deeply misguided we are as a nation. God help us all if this booger with a wig receives the Republican nomination.”
Trump’s inflammatory statements about Mexicans kicked off the artistic fightback a few months back.
The Indecline art collective created a mural that gives directions, in Spanish, for how to get to Trump Tower in New York City.
“Street art and graffiti have always been a powerful voice in our culture,” the collective said. “It doesn’t seem like America is going to halt production on tyrannical pigs any time soon, so we should have plenty of source material to continue our fight from the outside.”
There is also an online programme called Paint With Donald Trump, which allows you to mess around with images of his face.
A mural in Lower Manahattan, New York. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AFP)
The Portland artist Sarah Levy, meanwhile, painted Trump using a menstrual blood-covered tampon and paintbrush after his public insinuation about a menstruating news anchor.
Trump’s comments on Syrian refugees sparked a response from satirical Syrian artist Saint Hoax. He has created more than a dozen artworks of Trump as Disney villains, and Photoshopped him in drag.
“My biggest problem with Trump is his racism,” said the artist. “In my art, I’m always trying to raise awareness of all the wrong things he does so he won’t win the elections. I think of it as a negative advertisement.”
Recreating Trump as a drag queen critiques the thin line between politics and entertainment.
“They put on a face, perform in front of an audience and lip-sync their speeches – the only difference is that, unlike the drag performers, these leaders don’t know when to take off their costumes,” said Saint Hoax, who has also made a Trump blow-up sex doll and gifs that show him with Kardashian-style Botox before-and-afters.
“Trump is providing artists, satirists and comedians with enough material to criticise him, but ironically I think he is happy with all these reinterpretations of himself. His strategy is to stay in the spotlight as much as possible,” said Hoax.
He may not win their votes, but Trump is like a blank canvas, ready to paint on – the butt of increasingly inventive jokes.
Rom Levy, a gallerist in London and editor of the Street Art News blog, is not surprised. “Trump is definitely a great source of inspiration right now,” he said. “It’s difficult for an artist not to find inspiration when watching a Trump debate or one of his latest interviews.”
Trump art is thriving online. One Tumblr poster has been replacing Trump’s mouth with an anus, while a Reddit Photoshop battle has transformed Trump on a podium into an Oompa Loompa, Lord Voldemort, an 0800 psychic and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
A design firm held a contest to Photoshop Trump into 124 horror movie scenes, making him the villain of films such as The Shining, Scream, Jaws and The Silence of the Lambs.
A key theme is his unruly mat of hair: the Kawaii Trump Tumblr shows Trump as a cute Japanese-inspired character with pink hair, and Trump Your Cat is a curated Instagram account of people’s pets wearing toupees.
Most artists who use Trump as an inspiration do so anonymously and as an expression of protest – but one, New York painter William Quigley, painted a flattering 2.75m portrait of Trump and sold it to the man himself at an auction for $100 000 . “It was one of the greatest days of my career,” said Quigley.
An anonymous journalist who runs the Christian Nightmares blog has been closely following the rise of Trump art. “Trump is a larger-than-life buffoon who begs to be mocked,” the blogger said. “He embodies the worst characteristics of America: he is crass, arrogant and delusional. When I laugh at the art he inspires, it’s mostly out of embarrassment for the current political state of America – it’s nervous laughter.”
Even for the California duo who first posted the Trump urinal last week, Trump is an inspiration.
“The way he behaves – mocking disabled journalists, bragging about his wealth and making derogatory remarks towards women – it’s pretty obvious why he would inspire the ire of artists,” said Duke. “Many have suggested they would be happy to queue up and relieve themselves.” – © Guardian News & Media 2015