Meet artist and painter Illma Gore.
When Gore published the now infamous nude painting of Donald Trump with a fictional micro-penis on Facebook, she probably didn’t realise the problems it would cause her.
As if the farce of the 2016 presidential election couldn’t get any more bizarre or low-grade, Gore’s art prompted Republican candidate Trump to officially defend his penis size during a rally, thus duly taking the American political discourse even lower than it already was.
Since February, Gore has become a target of the free-flowing hate that powers much of Trump’s increasingly cult-like following; she has been dealing with death threats, rape threats, lawsuits, and was banned from Facebook.
Worse, she was also assaulted in the street. While walking in Los Angeles, a car pulled up next to her and a young man stepped out and punched her in the face. The offender allegedly shouted “TRUMP 2016!” and was cheered by others in the vehicle. I don’t know for certain how true this version of the story is, but what isn’t in doubt is that she was assaulted.
Gore’s work didn’t just cause violent outrage among Trump followers. In addition to getting numerous anonymous phone-calls warning her to remove the work, she also faced an anonymous copyright filing. As she herself writes in The Guardian, ‘I had two options: delete my Facebook page where I had originally posted the work, or counter the threat. This wasn’t really a choice: I had done nothing wrong. Whose copyright had I violated? The work was mine. But in countering the complaint, I had to give my personal information (including my address) to the anonymous third party and Facebook. This made me nervous, especially since I was already getting a barrage of death threats…’
In defense of her artistic freedom of expression, Gore has posted the artwork to her own website for anyone to view or download. The Maddox Gallery in London has also put the piece up for public viewing since 11th April.
What’s rich is that a high percentage of Trump’s loyal supporters are precisely the same kind of broadly anti-foreigner and specifically anti-Muslim types who would’ve no doubt been expressing their outrage at incidents where provocative drawings of the Prophet Muhammad have incited outrage from a handful of outraged Muslims – something to the effect of ‘those Muslims don’t respect our freedom of speech’ (which Fox News and various online right-wing forums repeated over and over again). Yet they’ll make death/rape threats against – or even physically assault – a woman over a piece of unflattering art depicting their political idol.
What’s the difference?
At any rate, one suspects most Trump followers wouldn’t get the irony anyway; but unflattering caricatures of political figures are a standard, common feature of both mainstream political journalism and the online community. I’ve lost count of how many deeply, deeply offensive caricatures or images I’ve seen online or even in some print publications of Barack Obama over the years (including the famous one of him and Michelle Obama as apes).
But this incident concerning Illma Gore is one among numerous that indicate a degree of fanaticism among Trump’s followers that is worrying; with Trump himself increasingly regarded as some kind of savior figure to disaffected right-wingers with very little respect for feminists, liberals, minorities, and just as little respect for freedom of artistic expression as any of those ‘Muslim fanatics’ who react violently to offensive cartoons of Muhammad.
I have actually tended to not be as bothered about Trump as much as many others have been (largely because I somewhat enjoyed seeing an outsider humiliate the Republican establishment for a while); but many of his followers provide a worrying sign of what they think his campaign is about and what kind of behaviour they think that campaign makes acceptable. And Trump, for his part, isn’t blameless, as he has not only failed to discourage violence – but has on several occasions openly encouraged or praised it.
Gore writes in The Guardian, ‘it is indicative of this election, how Trump is inciting violence and splitting America apart.’