Many people have heard of the English artist William Hogarth but many do not realize he was a brilliant social critic and editorial cartoonist in his day. In fact, he is credited with creating the comic strip like series of pictures we are familiar with today. He was famous for blasting the politically corrupt, social integration, & the vulgar. His “modern moral subjects” was the Facebook of the 16th Century. If he lived in current times however, I’m sure he would re-think naming his Pug “Trump”.
Artists by nature are the eyes, ears, heart & soul of a country; the pulse of the collective body of the unconscious. As with any body, you can have healthy white blood cells that heal or cancer cells that kill. Do you know how cancer cells kill? They come from a place of “me first!”, “me first!”, “me first!”. They eat healthy cells and organs and they do not care if they kill the organ or the entire body. Statistically I know there must be some visual artists that support Trump just as some people have cancer. I can’t imagine they are very well known however.
This comment is not intended to be insulting but is based on my meeting hundreds of artists when I was traveling with the US State Department with the now defunct Arts America Program. Art Ambassadors would be sent into places with an anti-American sentiment because the government recognized something important, even then.
“There is a universal art spirit that transcends the work of a thousand politicians.”
In my experience, I’ve never met a racist artist. In fact I don’t think I’ve found anyone more able to find the beauty of our differences in skin tone or ethnicities. There is a common trait of painters being able to spot the most beautiful, unusual, or unique in nature, architecture or people. We are always seeking that single red flower that holds its own in a field of green grass.
Trump takes great pride in judging his beauty pageants. Beauty pageants are the homogenization of everything that would be unique. The process of homogenization not only makes everything the same but in dairy products prohibits the cream to separate to the top. By its very nature, that which is unique or special must be submerged.
Another reason I find it difficult to imagine a visual artist supporting Trump is because of the process of creating art itself. Art space (that place of creating or connecting with art) feels a lot like meditation, or at the very least, communion. Artists can recognize that space in another which is why walking into a painting or drawing class can feel like you’ve walked into a church.
We don’t care how you get there: meditation, walking in the woods, yoga, or through your spiritual practice. We do not tend to identify one another by narrow parameters, such as “muslim, christian, or jew”. How you connect with your sacred interior is viewed as private. Trump’s words and practices penalize and segregate anyone who’s internal process is different by labeling them with highly charged words. Imagine if every Christian was portrayed as a Jehovah’s Witness or a Scientologist.
Women now represent over half the population and 55% of management in the workforce. In the arts, women painters now are leading the way with skill and honors. This is vital to understand this transition of gender in the workplace in regards to Trump. Historically, we live in a unique time as women artists. In the past we have systematically been left out of history books and credit for our art has often gone to our fathers, brothers, and husbands. Only with modern conservation technologies are we now discovering the truth of our legacy.
Currently, 65% of art students are women and nearly half of professional artists are women. Even now, only 15% of museum invitationals are to women. Women know discrimination. We know that when the sex of an artist is unknown our work is selected in equal proportion to men. We are creators of beauty and incensed by anyone that would judge our value as if we were a mare for breeding. Women artists who have self worth would not support Trump.
Artists are also professionally involved in the protection and conservation of art, and architecture. Many landscape painters are active in preserving the sacred in nature. (If you look at a landscape painting of New York City two hundred years ago you will know in an instant why this is important).
Trump has repeatedly shown a disrespect for the legacy of future generations. In architecture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art begged him for a pair of Art Deco reliefs that were part of the facade of the Bonwit Teller Building for their collection. Trump destroyed them along with the landmark structure to build Trump Tower.
In Washington D.C., Trump also destroyed the Old Post Office Building that housed the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He decided it would make a better hotel and forced everyone to relocate.
In regards to painting, Trump has used words like degenerate (aka Hitler) to describe paintings such as a Madonna and Child. Deceptively, he has implied such work was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. It wasn’t. This is derisive behavior to imply the NEA funds art no one cares about and is a waste of money.
Trump has used this stance to infer he will end funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA funds a small portion of many city orchestras, dance & ballet troupes, and theater productions. Only a few personal art grants are given. Most of the art grants are to help cover insurance and transportation costs of major museum touring exhibits. No, a professional artist would not support this.
I have often said, “the part of our brain that helps us create is also the part of our brain that helps us creatively solve problems. When the arts are removed from our schools you get a population incredibly easy to manipulate through the media”. Artists have a first rate “bullshit detector” built inside us. How could artists possibly support the master of gaslighting, Donald Trump?
Hogarth was known for being witty & subversive, he would be having a field day with the politics of the 21st Century.
Featured Image: William Hogarth self portrait (1745) with his Pug “Trump”. Located at the Tate Museum, London.