On February 10th, 2016, Los-Angeles based artist Illma Gore posted an image on Facebook of a pastel-based work depicting an uncanny image of Donald Trump entitled “Make America Great Again”. The work depicts a nude Trump bearing a look of indignation, slouched and leaning over his knee, exposing a micro-penis. From the artist’s statement: “Make America Great Again was created to evoke a reaction from its audience, good or bad, about the significance we place on our physical selves. One should not feel emasculated by their penis size or vagina, as it does not define who you are. Your genitals do not define your gender, your power, or your status. Simply put, you can be a massive prick, despite what is in your pants.”
The work references a recent incident in which Trump responded to a comment made by Marco Rubio in Virginia on March 6th, in which he suggested that Trump has inordinately small hands. “He’s like 6’2”, Rubio said, “Which is why I don’t understand why he has the hands of someone who is 5’2. And you know what they say about about men with small hands? You can’t trust them.” Trump is apparently primed to be sensitive about this part of his body due to a decades-old comment made in Vanity Fair, and lashed out by insinuating that he does, in fact, have a large penis. Gore, who identifies as gender-fluid, is stressing the idea that physical genitals and one’s gender are not linked (a notion that radically conservative thinkers may find baffling), and Trump’s micro-penis in the work is a literal representation of this idea.
Facebook’s terms of service restrict anything that is “pornographic” or “contains nudity.” Oddly enough the image is not banned from Instagram, a brand owned by Facebook. Facebook has repeatedly shut down her account and banned features like photo upload, but Illma keeps posting the image anyway. When asked “why?” she said, “I am doing it to rebuke censorship.”
Gore’s work has also been censored by eBay. The artist listed the work for sale on the auction site, and it has been repeatedly removed despite posting a censored version of the work. The artist has responded by pledging to personally donate $100 to an opposing political campaign each time the work is taken down. eBay’s policies surrounding nudity in art are as puzzling as Trump’s campaign, stating that “Frontal nudity is allowed in Art categories when the item is considered fine art, such as Michelangelo’s David, vintage pin-up art, Renaissance-style paintings, and nude cherubs”. Who decides this hierarchy of “fine art”? How broadly can terms like “Renaissance-style” be defined? Why is this value judgement being placed on artworks for sale in an online market place, and why should opinions favouring the art historical canon prevent contemporary artists from selling their work?
It begs the question: When should nudity be allowed on websites like Facebook and eBay, and when should it be banned? In case you’re wondering, I was able to quickly find this random picture of Michaelangelo’s David on Facebook posted almost 2.5 months ago. Why is one artwork depicting nudity allowed on Facebook and another one banned? How should “fine art” be defined? Read up on the history of nude art here via Wikipedia.
In response to Facebook banning Illma’s work from the site I’ve decided to make my Facebook profile picture the tip of DT’s penis from Illma’s painting. You can see the number of zooms I took in the photo gallery below to get the tip distorted just enough:
Now that I’ve made that last zoomer my Facebook profile picture, I encourage you to do the same.
At the time of this post, Gore says she has been threatened by someone identifying as part of Trump’s team to the remove the image, or face legal action. Illma’s response was to make the image available for free download on her website, here.
At the time this post was published the tip of Donald Trump’s penis has successfully remained as my Facebook profile picture for 3 days, it has not been reported or taken down.