One year after Trump's inauguration, his election and decisions in office continue to affect American society and incite protest. Over the last year, artists have channelled their emotions and opinions into their work, melding the personal and political into installations, apparel, Fine Arts theses, and more.
“I wanted to tangentially incorporate real–life events into my art and so I turned Trump into a cartoon,” stated Isabel Kim (C '18), who used to work as Opinion Editor for the DP. She is currently reissuing some of her cartoons of Trump, which she hopes to sell.
The Fine Arts major was the mind behind the anti–Trump “Pussy Grabs Back” apparel series that debuted during the final two months of Trump’s campaign. Isabel had previously designed posters and installations for campus women’s rights group We Are Watching's protest of the OZ email scandal. Kim and fellow College senior Amanda Silberling also run a print studio called Studio Alt Four, which produced the iconic apparel designs that served as a visual protest of then–candidate Trump’s infamous comments. All of the proceeds from the project were donated to Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), Philadelphia's only rape crisis center.
Many student artists were inspired to include the electoral and inaugural aftermath in their work after numerous instances of hate and hardship developed on Penn’s campus. In the days after the election, the Racist GroupMe Incident confirmed many students of color's fears of racial violence in the Trump era. Students from Muslim–majority countries faced travel bans in the weeks after the inauguration. Most recently, Penn’s already vulnerable undocumented population was hurled into an uncertain future with the repeal of DACA.
It is this last group that fine arts major Stephanie Garcia (C '18) seeks to help with a project she started after Trump’s inauguration. For her senior thesis You May Say I’m a Dreamer but I’m Not the Only One, Garcia interviewed and photographed dozens of undocumented Americans in both Philly and her native Los Angeles. Although she has her citizenship now, Garcia grew up in a largely undocumented community. She relayed to me that, while the Trump presidency has intensified problems for undocumented people, “this is nothing new for us.”
“I realized that I can no longer be terrified and that I have a responsibility to share these stories,” she said of her motivations to start this project in the early months of the Trump presidency. As she moves toward graduation, Garcia is considering expanding the project outside of the Latinx community to all immigrant groups facing hate from this administration.
Students aren’t the only artistic forces encouraging resistance to the Trump regime. Both Isabel and Stephanie are currently enrolled in FNAR 605, "Art in Resistance," which is taught by activist Sharon Hayes. The class is reading–based but also involves a design project which focuses on using art to promote social justice causes.
While both the political and artistic worlds have changed in a year post–Trump, this campus's spirit of resistance remains alive. Kim is thinking of doing a reprint of her infamous T–shirt collection to both commemorate a year of surviving and to keep the fight alive.
“I think the power of art is that it is a vehicle for visibility,” stated Kim.
That visibility is well–needed on a campus and a country where so many feel unseen and unheard. And hopefully, artwork can be a step in the right direction.