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Five artists who rose to the Donald Trump challenge — nearly one year into his U.S. presidency

By Pieta Woolley

Leading up to the 2016 US. presidential election, neither newsmakers nor viewers could look away from the outrageous real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump. In fact, six months before election day, he had already received roughly $2 billion worth of free air time — about 23 times what U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders got. It’s only now — nearly one year after becoming the U.S. president — that Trump Fatigue has set in.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep paying attention to American politics however painful. That’s the call from Observer Editor-Publisher David Wilson in this month’s edition of the magazine. (The same issue features David MacFarlane’s piece about Winston Country, Ala., a region that nearly voted unanimously for Trump.)

Over the past year, artists have risen to the challenge, helping to keep attention focussed on America’s bizarre, dangerous and — in some quarters — much-loved president. Granted, much of their critical work isn’t all that sophisticated. They elect to poke fun at Trump’s physical appearance rather than addressing his outrageous policies or highlighting the high costs of his decisions.

Still, there are highlights.

Here are five artists who are keeping Trump in the spotlight.

1. Randy Rainbow

Who he is: Comedian and YouTube star based in New York City

What he did: Rainbow has produced a series of musical videos, in which he sings Trump-inspired songs set to old Broadway tunes. “How do you solve a problem like Korea,” a take on the Sound of Music classic, has about half a million YouTube views.

Artistic achievement:
At his best, Rainbow is extremely clever and funny. At his worst, he stoops to simplistic playground bullying. In “Desperate Cheeto,” he primarily points out that Trump looks funny. 

2. Jon McNoughton

Who he is: Utah-based painter who specializes in Christian and patriotic works

What he did: In August, McNoughton released “You are not Forgotten,” an image of a gathering of veterans, police, workers and soldiers outside of the White House. In it, Trump is in the foreground, crushing the head of a snake under his foot, as he watches a young farm couple water a plant in the cracked earth. The painting is an answer to another he produced about Trump (“The Forgotten Man”), which shows former U.S. President Barack Obama crushing the American Constitution under his foot.

Artistic Achievement: McNoughton’s works are obviously pro-Trump. Unlike the book Hillbilly Elegy, which seeks to explain Trump’s appeal to urban people who can’t fathom him, McNoughton’s art speaks plainly. For an outsider looking in, these are helpful images.

3. Pink

Who she is: American pop singer, songwriter and animal rights activist

What she did: In 2006, she released a song called, “Dear Mr. President,” a personal indictment of the presidents’ distance from the real challenges of America. “What do you feel when you see/all the homeless on the street? Who do you pray for at night / before you go to sleep? What do you feel when you look in the mirror? Are you proud?” In October, four current Broadway stars re-released their cover of the song, this time aiming at Trump.

Artistic achievement: The song is both thoughtful and melodic – two attributes that are largely missing from today’s protest music as opposed to that of the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a catchy rallying cry for dissent.

4. Snoop Dogg

Who he is: American rapper and music producer

What he did: In October, Snoop Dogg released the album Make America Crip Again (“Crip” is a reference to a particular street gang member) as an answer to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. On the cover, the artist is pictured standing over Trump’s dead body. The album’s title track is an angry screed that cites Trump’s racism: the chorus repeats, “Ay young world, the world is yours,” an ultimately hopeful ideal.”

Artistic achievement: Like Eminem’s rap at the BET awards in October, Make America Crip Again does an unparalleled job of distilling rage while articulating some of the origins of the anger toward Trump. 

5. Michael Moore

Who he is: Filmmaker and writer

What he did: This summer, Moore’s one-man stage play The Terms of My Surrender hit Broadway for a limited 12-week run. Moore, who spent his childhood in Flint, Mich., predicted Trump’s 2016 presidential victory at a time when the progressive left couldn’t imagine that possibility. The play is a forum for him to summarize the state of the union and Trump’s significance.

Artistic Achievement: Moore, a constant provocateur, is at his best when he can tell stories simply. His play joins two others skewering Trump from the stage: New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park’s Trump-themed Julius Caesar, and a new adaptation of 1984

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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