As Donald Trump was winning the New Hampshire primaries last Tuesday, feminist artist Illma Gore was unveiling what may turn out to be her most famous work. In a pastel painting called “Make America Great Again,” the Republican presidential contender is shown stark naked, sporting only a gold chain. The painting has now gone viral, and furious Trump supporters are inundating the artist with online threats and abuse.
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Los Angeles-based Gore says she started working on the portrait in mid-January. “A lot of my work is based around political topics and our physical self, the significance and importance we place on our bodies. And I don’t think one should be emasculated by their penis size. Your genitals shouldn’t define your power, or your status, or your gender,” she tells Haaretz. “I think all bodies are beautiful; I based this portrait on myself,” she adds, citing her inspiration.
Gore allows Web surfers to download the portrait for free on her website, and also offering a censored version that has already appeared on some news sites. On Friday, her Facebook page was flooded with angry posts from Trump supporters.
“I didn’t expect it to go viral,” she claims. “Trump supporters are very passionate. I respect that – they don’t have to like my work. A couple of them completely missed the point, and one of them did a similar image of me, which I loved! There were a lot of threats on my Facebook page, some comments that they have sent it to Trump’s team, how they are looking to sue me. Which is funny because of freedom of speech, and I would happily defend my work.”
Trump’s portrait is the first in a series of leaders’ portraits Gore is planning. “I was thinking of doing Bernie [Sanders] with female parts – it would be interesting to see the reactions. I think Hillary [Clinton] and Bernie care more about America than what their bodies look like, so I think they would approve 100 percent.”
Gore is a feminist artist whose previous work has dealt with the culture of rape in public spaces. In a previous work, she stood alone outside a convention of “pick-up artists” (aka the “seduction community”) in Los Angeles. The convention was canceled after a protest lodged against the organizer – the notorious Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh, who calls for the “legal rape” of women. He is persona non grata in many European countries. In her protest, Gore was seen dressed as a vagina and holding a sign saying “I come in peace.”
One of her most famous works was a 2015 project, “Tattoo Me,” in which she tattooed her body with names crowdsourced from the Kickstarter and GoFundMe websites for $10. “It’s about striving to give oneself to others on a canvas that breathes, a canvas that can’t be sold in a gallery,” she told The Guardian last year.
As she fends off Trump trolls online, Gore says her latest artwork has “the same message as my previous work. Your body is indisputably yours, but at the same time we are not defined by them. Basically, you can be a big prick despite what’s in your pants.”