Magazine article The New Yorker

The Wall

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Wall

Article excerpt

The Wall

Molly Crabapple

On a recent afternoon in Astoria, Queens, the artist Molly Crabapple was adding color to her paunchy, man-child drawing of Donald Trump, part of a large mural titled "The Bore of Babylon." Holding a sceptre topped with a red "Make America Great Again" hat (on which Crabapple has scrawled "WHY" in white paint), the scowling President rides a Hydra-like monster with fifteen heads--one for each member of his Cabinet. The creature, rendered in scratchy lines and splotches of black ink, seems a terrifying amalgam of Hieronymus Bosch, Honore Daumier, and "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

Crabapple calls it Trumpbeast. It roams among more than a hundred and fifty works in the Welling Court Mural Project. In 2009, a resident named Jonathan Ellis sought to beautify Welling Court, a neighborhood along the East River; he persuaded building owners to donate their walls and reached out to the grassroots organization Ad Hoc Art, which now runs the project. Crabapple, whose work is in the permanent collections at MOMA and the Rubin Museum, was offered a space earlier this year, and gravitated toward the forty-fifth President as her subject. She has been drawing Trump since 2014, when, on assignment for Vice, she confronted him at a press conference in Dubai and asked him about allegations of exploitative labor practices on Trump-branded properties. She covered him again, for the Guardian, during his 2016 Presidential campaign.

Crabapple's renderings of Trump are darkly surreal. "I've always wondered, where does the orange stop?" she asked. "Is it full body? Do we want to know if it's full body?" But she considers the system that put him into political power--and that continues to sustain him--to be just as pernicious as Trump himself. "This is not just about one man. That's why I needed to draw the entire structure."

A thirty-three-year-old Queens native, Crabapple has long, jet-black hair and wide, mascaraed eyes, and she wore paint-splattered jeans. Her artistic inspirations are varied: Rivera and Picasso ("I fucking love all those macho dude modernists"), Mughal miniatures, Toulouse-Lautrec. For Trump's Cabinet, she turned to Albrecht Durer's woodcut illustrations of the Book of Revelation, which feature the Whore of Babylon astride a many-headed monster.

Taking out acrylic paints and brushes, Crabapple examined her creature. It has four mismatched legs, a tangle of writhing necks, and heads craning in every direction. …

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