I Wish White Artists Would Stop Claiming Art Isn’t Political.
In 2017, an artist local to South Alabama painted a portrait of Donald Trump draped in an American flag. While the painting received glowing praise from Trump fans and Donald Trump himself, painter Austin Boyd maintained that his decision to paint the president was apolitical.
Last month, another artist got some attention for his painting of Trump that currently hangs in the White House. The painting, painted by Andy Thomas, features President Trump sitting in the center of other Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Gerald Ford. While Thomas recognizes why Trump likes his painting, he asserts that he “isn’t political.”
And just last week the Trump-riding-a-tank meme created by another “apolitical” artist was plastered on our terrorist of the week’s white van. The meme was created as a satire, but artist Jason Heuser claims to not be interested in politics.
I have one question here: who are these white artists kidding?
The Trump bar painting is actually a part of a set. There is a Democrat version, where Obama is seated at the table instead of Trump. But if you are a Democrat and/or a person of color, you may take issue with Obama having a beer with Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson, just as you did when you saw progressive Republicans Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln seated near Trump.
So what is the political statement that Thomas is trying to make? He will assert, like many white artists, that he had none, despite choosing to paint populist presidents. That’s what all these presidents have in common regardless of the political party: their populist nature.
Even if he were hedging his bets here, which appears to be the case, he comes off as “the white moderate”: the white middle-class joes who only talk about politics when it’s convenient. That is also a political statement.