Donald Trump Murals: Putting the Political Back into Street Art

Donald Trump has long been a controversial figure, from his rise in the eighties as a real estate and property mogul to his recent bid to become the President of the United States of America. He’s long been in the public eye and, at this point, is quite comfortable in front of a camera, a pulpit, or a boardroom filled with cameras. And with so much notoriety, The Donald has also gained the attention of some very talented, and very angry, street artists.

Graffiti, as it is sometimes pejoratively called, has also been closely associated with declarations, whether they’re political, territorial, or simply making a statement. Being illegal in so many different ways, it can also be a political statement through its very existence and, in the way that many people see it during their daily routine, its ability to capture an audience is similarly a political act. For some, the politics is key, and now that Donald Trump has decided to try and become one of the world’s most powerful people, artists are flocking at the chance to show off what they really think of him and his bid to become president.

One such piece showed up in Donald Trump’s hometown of New York City by a popular graffiti artist known only as “Hanksy.” The American-born artist is known for his tongue-in-cheek and often controversial comedic pieces, choosing to use the power of humour to convey his messages. For The Donald, Hanksy certainly has his opinions, and he certainly wasn’t shy of displaying them: a pile of feces featuring Donald’s face and famous hair (or possibly hair-piece). Hanksy took to Twitter to describe his artistic process, which wasn’t too complex even if the message is powerful: “okay. so I started with the fact that Trump kinda rhymes with dump. but I think I’m just gonna paint him as a giant pile of shit.”

Hanksy’s message will certainly have some detractors, but many people in New York have long had an antagonistic relationship with the owner of Trump International. Trump, and his extremely wealthy father before him, invested in multiple real estate initiatives that are tied to the gentrification and extreme, now legendary, housing prices in New York, and many people are sure to enjoy Hanksy’s take on Trump.

Trump’s campaign and infamy has made its way north of the border as well, with a Winnipeg artist giving visitors of a local pub’s men’s room something to ponder while they pee. The District Stop nightclub in the city’s Entertainment District features a painting of Trump, but with his mouth as one of the urinals. It was designed as a statement and publicity stunt, and it’s now international fame is certainly making people stop by.

Street art has always been political, so for artists to take their graffiti and point it at such a controversial figure is no surprise. And whatever your opinions about Trump are, it has at least led to some interesting art pieces around the world. They do certainly have a theme, though, one that may not be too far off the mark.

Hanksy’s Surplus Candy

Most of the world is now more than familiar with Banksy, the English street artist who’s name remains a complete secret. But a few more people are getting to know Hanksy, an American-born artist who has a deep love of puns. And while no one is going to say he’s making as political an impact as his English sort-of mentor, we still enjoy seeing his work.

Hanksy itself is a mash-up of Tom Hanks and Banksy, which is more just the name of the artist’s original series, which took famous Banksy pieces and put Tom Hanks in them. Think that famous Banksy of the riot guy throwing a bunch of flowers, but instead of flowers, it’s Wilson from Cast Away, and instead of some guy in a riot, it’s Tom Hanks. Pretty great, right? A lot of people think so.

Since his Hanksy pieces in 2012, the artist has become something of a street artist smirk, giggle and occasional eye roll. Pieces like writing “or swim” in a discarded sink or a portrait of Rick Moranis on the side of a van with the phrase “Rick Morevanis” beside it have been showing up all over America. Hanksy, it seems, isn’t really convinced that his art is changing the world, but he’s certainly having a lot of fun along the way.

Which Brings us to Hanksy’s latest project, a whirlwind tour of the “forgotten” cities of North America, the places that aren’t always showing up on people’s “this place has great street art radar.” Well, if we’re being totally honest, he’s going to places that aren’t New York, L.A., or Toronto and seeing what their street art scene is like. The idea came to him when he experienced a boom in popularity for his pun-ny art. “There’s a bunch of art getting painted on walls between New York City and LA,” Hanksy said in a recent interview, “And it’s my opinion that if a knucklehead artist like myself is randomly given some weird pseudo-serious spotlight, they use it for good not evil. The best thing I can do is show what’s up and what’s going down in the smaller markets of North America. Elevating others always beats out the dog-eat-dog.”

Looking at all those Art Scenes That Aren’t NYC or LA

Each episode in the series focuses on a different city, where the usually irreverent Hanksy seems to fall in love with everything around him, to the point of practically wanting to move there by the end of the episode. It’s funny, doing a good thing, but is also showing that Hanksy isn’t really wanting to take anything seriously, including romanticizing these forgotten places, which in itself is less condescending and much more humanizing. Middle America, or the Real America, as it’s sometimes called, is often completely ignored, stereotyped, or approached with apologies. In Surplus Candy, Hanksy is less interested in pandering to any audience and more just mischievously showing that amazing street art happens everywhere. And that’s a great thing.