The images are unsettling: photographs of moist, pink skin, stretched and bloated; rows of wet, shiny teeth glistening from a cavernous maw; clumps of straw-like blond hair bursting from the neck hole of a starched white shirt. Created by an anonymous Scottsdale artist, these digital montages are as troubling as a television interview with presidential hopeful Donald Trump, from whose visage each of them is made.
The Trump photo series, which began turning up on social media sites late last month, are attributed to a visual artist calling himself Dinild Trimp. He will not be interviewed, and would rather no one know he lives in the Valley. He is not, he says, interested in a debate with what he calls “the alt-right neo-Nazi man babies” who very likely aren’t loving his Trump-inspired artwork, which has received international attention, covered in the U.K.’s Daily Mail and the Huffington Post, among others.
The artwork has gone viral. The Trimp series has logged more than half a million Twitter views; its Tumblr has collected nearly as many hits; an Instagram account devoted to the collection (@dinildtrimp) had more than 1,200 followers its first week and continues to grow. The artist’s Red Bubble shop offers greeting cards and coffee mugs printed with images of The Donald’s gaping nostrils filled with sodden molars, a tote bag screened with a lumpen, faceless head wearing a signature Trump suit.
The images appear to be created using a digital photo-editing program. In some cases, Trimp clones patchy stretches of Trump’s skin to create vaguely alien-inspired creatures; in others, kaleidoscopic effects are fashioned out of lips and eyebrows. Still others replace Trump’s head with blobs of lips, nose, and protruding tongue.
Many are difficult to look at, which is of course the point. As with the recent nude statuary of Trump by the anarchist collective INDECLINE displayed in five U.S. cities, these portraits mock the much-reviled Republican candidate by making him an object of ridicule. But Trimp’s work, unlike INDECLINE’s more traditional statuary, also makes Trump unreachable; they reimagine the man as a repulsive entity, so “other” that we want to look away.
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The fact that we likely can’t tear our gaze from these gruesome images is what grants them great power. Just as millions who find Trump’s self-styled politics repellent rushed to watch this year’s first televised presidential debate, cringing and moaning at his demeanor, his repeated interruptions, his nonstop sniffing, so too do we recoil from Trimp’s vile must-see imagery.
There’s personal gratification for the viewer of Trimp’s work, besides. Finding our revulsion mirrored by another, literally anonymous source sends a reassuring yeah-me-too message we probably can’t get enough of. There’s subtext, too. While Trump blathers on and on in the media about the beauty pageant winner who dared to gain 12 pounds, Trimp’s ever-growing series of portraits denounce looks-ism by pointing out how very ugly Hillary Clinton’s presidential opponent can be.