art, Culture, Donald Trump, Politics, Social Media

Artists are protesting Trump with a pointed fill-in-the-blank prompt

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?

For some, it might be “president.” But in today’s troubling news cycle, others — like Brooklyn-based artist Adam Ellis — find themselves struggling to choose between “rapist” and “racist.”

Since the 1970s, more than 20 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct — including one who claims Trump raped her when she was 13-years-old at a party hosted by registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Now that Epstein’s back in the news facing charges for child sex-trafficking, discussions of Trump’s past accusers have reignited.

During recent talk of Trump’s connections to Epstein, the president has also come under fire for writing a series of in which he told Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley to go back to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

It’s a deeply divisive time for America, so Ellis felt compelled to re-share an old comic — a Scrabble board that protests Trump with a powerfully pointed double meaning.

Ellis’ Scrabble board comic features the phrase “Trump is a ra_ist” along with two tiles, letters C and P, which can be used to win a Triple Word Score. 

“Both work,” the 32-year-old artist captioned his comic on Instagram, suggesting that Trump is both a rapist and racist. But as mentioned before, though the work of art is timely, it’s not new.

“I actually made the Trump comic in January 2017, ten days after he [Trump] was inaugurated,” Ellis explained in an email. “Like a lot of people, I was shocked and angry about the election results, and creating stuff is the only real way I can process things.”

Though not all of Ellis’ art is political, he noted that because he has 1.4 million Instagram followers, it feels “irresponsible” for him to avoid addressing important political and social issues when they arise. 

“There are powerful people making legislation that actively harms a large portion of the population. So I make political comics and try to use my voice and my platform to uplift marginalized voices and to advocate for politicians who I think can make a difference,” Ellis said.

Since re-posting the comic to Instagram on June 22, it’s gained more than 340,000 likes and newfound virality. It’s also inspired other artists, like 45-year-old Michael Schneider, to share original takes on the fill-in-the-blank prompt.

Schneider, an artist based in Portland, Oregon, recreated the piece using his signature style of bright colors and balloon letters. It’s only been two days since he shared the post on Instagram, but it’s already received more than 42,000 likes.

“I started using the balloons because they felt colorful and whimsical, which was an ironic twist to some messages that were more serious than others,” Schneider said in an email. He also explained that felt compelled to share Ellis’ message because “a lot of people, especially women and people in marginalized communities, are feeling especially targeted and isolated right now.”

‘While I’m happy that a lot of people are resonating with this, it’s sad that we even need to make this type of art.’

Schneider believes that “anyone who has privilege should be raising their voices against this fascist, sexist, racist president,” and wanted to help spread awareness about the severity of America’s current political climate.

Ellis said that in addition to Schneider he’s seen a lot of other people make their own variations of his Scrabble comment, which he appreciates. But he wants everyone to know that his comic was, in fact, inspired by someone else.

“My original comic was influenced by a sign I saw at the 2017 Women’s March, which I re-contextualized and added the Scrabble angle,” Ellis said. He made an effort to find the stranger who was holding the sign through Twitter in hopes of crediting her, but has since been unsuccessful in his search.

“I would still like to find her and credit her, if possible,” Ellis reiterated, so if this artwork reminds you of your 2017 Women’s March sign, consider reaching out. 

Ultimately, Ellis’ comic has been circulating on social media for two and a half years, so at this point he feels sharing it is simply an act of “performative wokeness.” 

“It’s like, we know he’s a rapist and a racist and a liar and a criminal. What are we going to do about it? When I made the comic in 2017 I was feeling angry and helpless and drawing was the only thing keeping me sane. But we need to do more now,” he said.

After several requests from followers, Ellis recently turned his comic into merchandise, and is donating a portion of the proceeds to charities such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU

“Making a political post on Instagram is literally the easiest form of protest and activism, so I don’t want to put too much importance on my comic,” Ellis said. “I do hope my art helps people feel less alone, keeps them angry and passionate and engaged in politics, but also inspires them them to make their own art and get involved in social issues.”

Schneider feels similarly about his work, but noted the popularity of the post is definitely bittersweet.

“While I’m happy that a lot of people are resonating with this, it’s sad that we even need to make this type of art,” Schneider said.

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