In the window of Bonfire Gallery in the International District is a sandwich placed on top of a table with a red and white striped tablecloth. It doesn’t look enticing or inviting to try. Rather, it’s an unsavory lunch with a fluorescent-colored topping.
A chalkboard reads, “TRUMP SANDWICH. White bread full of baloney, orange cheese, I.C.E.berg lettuce, Russian dressing with a small pickle.” The sandwich is placed on a square, red plate with a spin on Trump’s signature campaign phrase. It reads, “Fake America Great Again” written on the edges.
The sandwich is a mixed-media, found-objects piece created by L. Kelly Lyles. Her work is one of nearly 50 pieces of eclectic art in the “ARTRUMPS: Resistance and Action” show curated in reaction to Donald Trump becoming No. 45.
Gallery owner Will Gaylord greets the art with a “good morning everybody” when he opens the doors for the day. The space is brimming with resistance art and alive with emotion — all responses to Trump, his administration and its policies.
“I like that some may make you laugh, some may make you cringe, some may feel like it’s propaganda, some may take a very deep high art response,” Gaylord said. “This is a unique political situation in our lifetime.”
The show opened in April, and Gaylord’s enthusiasm in discussing the show hasn’t waned. He created the show as a way of dealing with his own angst from the election.
“I wanted to express myself through artists,” Gaylord said. “I really believe artists have a unique way of thinking and solving issues. They’ve always been on the forefront of dissent and protest throughout history.”
The show expresses a variety of perspectives through paper collage, postcards and poetry, just to name a few. The titles of the works alone read like a transcript of his first 100 days in office: “By Executive Order,” “United States of Dysfunction” and “Devolution.”
In the center of the gallery are 10 kinetic sculptures titled “Mr. Cheeto.” The figurines are made up of the orange junk food and move when you turn the crank. An internal skeleton inside the Cheetos ensures they’ll always work. Artist Casey Curran usually uses his creativity to address people’s relationship to nature and the environment. For the show Curran opted for a whimsical approach to Trump.
“We all make fun of him for his tan. This idea, him being a Cheeto and having his minions. I think there’s a larger conversation that can be had about how he became president,” Curran said. “It can also be kind of ominous in the sense that here are these things. Weirdly misshapen little things that are slowly duplicating. It looks almost like an army to me as I kept making more and more.”
While Curran steers clear of an overt political statement, other artists in the show don’t. New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast created “Trumpora’s Box.” In it a kneeling Trump is opening a patriotic chest as the words “despair,” “racism,” “sexism” and others float out.
“Captain Utero” by Ellen Hochberg Studios, is a nod to the hope superheroes provide during challenging times. Captain Utero — complete with cape, red boots and uterus emblems on her clothing — is a superhero protecting women’s reproductive health “one uterus at time.”
Uly Curry’s “Taking Seatac” is a black and white photograph showing U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, rallying a crowd at Sea-Tac International Airport earlier this year. She and other protesters spoke out against the first hastily executed Muslim ban.
In the back corner of the room is “AND NOW Behind Curtain #45” by artist and UW Tacoma professor Beverly Naidus. The mixed media installation includes a portrait of a woman wearing a blindfold with a barcode in the center. The phrase “what’s good for big business is good for America” is along the bottom. The night of the election, Naidus said she was physically disturbed.
“The signs were there for this to happen. I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen,” Naidus said. “The useful thing for me is that a lot of people have awakened from denial, and my students are ready to take on the label of activist for the first time since I’ve been there.”
The piece also includes a board game that takes participants through the ups and downs of being an activist. In one move a player could gain the attention of national news outlets for an environmental cause and in another a signed petition to prevent a big box retail chain from opening in the neighborhood gets tossed in the trash by an elected official.
“It’s acknowledging the small victories that we have as activists all the time and how wearing it is to have these constant discouraging things occurring,” Naidus said.
When all the players reach the center, they’re encouraged to have discussion and write down their experience on a card for the game’s archive.
What’s foreboding about Naidus’ piece is that it was commissioned by the Lehmbruck Museum in Germany in 2005. She reworked the piece for the Bonfire show, but it was originally 18 panels that formed a spiral. Naidus was initially responding to 9/11, homeland security and what she saw as the rise of fascism. Fast-forward to the present and Naidus’ work was foretelling. She’s introduced her students to Rebecca Solnit’s “Hope in the Dark” to try to give them a sense of possibility.
“Part of me believes — maybe it’s a Pollyannaish way — that he and his regime are the last gasp of the old system,” Naidus said. “Of patriarchy, of White supremacy, of colonial capitalism, corporate capitalism, that it’s dying and it knows it and it’s fierce because of it.”
In addition to resistance, Gaylord wants to spur people into action. Copies of “Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda” are available for those who stop by. The document offers straightforward ways to become more civically engaged beyond casting a ballot. The authors follow a similar strategy the Tea Party successfully utilized. Among the tips is to organize a local group to fight for local congressional districts.
Trump’s win dispelled the fantasy we were all living in a post-racial America with the wounds of the past healed. The art in the show is the visual representation of complicated emotions; the question now is how long will people stand tall in the storm.
WHAT: “ARTRUMPS: Resistance and Action"
WHEN: Runs through Sat. June 3
WHERE: Bonfire Gallery, 603 S. Main St., open Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday or by appointment
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge, Facebook EmeraldCityEdge
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