27 September 2015

Translation: When Sarah Levy, An American Artist, Recasts Donald Trump's Portrait in Her Blood

This article by Sylvie Braibant was originally published in TV5 Monde on September 21, 2015 in French.

An American activist, artist, journalist, feminist and lesbian responds through a "performance" to a sexist remark by Republican primary candidate Donald Trump: a portrait of the billionaire in her own menstrual blood. The buzz and debate.

For some, she is crazy, a "bitch" or even "a sick whore." For others, she is cool, courageous, heroic. On September 12, 2015, by posting on her Facebook page a red, vibrant and sepia portrait of Donald Trump — the controversial candidate for the US Republican primaries preceding the 2016 presidential race — Sarah Levy probably knew that she would provoke a chain of reactions. In the legend accompanying the image of her painting, the artist mentioned the title and attributes of the work: "Whatever - menses on mat board."

This is not the first time that painters, men or women, use their blood or even other human fluids as primary material. The aftertaste of provocation permits their work to gain another meaning. Sometimes pompous artists statements accompany these undertakings. Sometimes the attempts are talented.  But for Sarah Levy, any artistic pretext in this work, ultimately resembling its model, was above all a political gesture. Tit for tat, the anger of a young painter from Portland (in the American Northwest), journalist, feminist, "artivist," after an offense too many from the billionaire who even strikes fear in the hearts of his own party. And a nice media stunt in the social media with the hashtag #BloodyTrump and even a Twitter account @bloody_trump ...

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," said Donald Trump on Friday, August 7, 2015 about Megyn Kelly, star journalist of the very conservative Fox News, who had co-presented the first televised primary debates on standby. The remark provoked a wave of indignation even within the Republican camp.

This portrait came to her all at once, like something obvious, as she was returning from an art course, or so she explained in a long text published on September 16, 2015, following the reactions of enthusiastic approval or hateful rejection that this work inspired. Normally using charcoal to draw, she collected her blood in a menstrual cup and went to work.

*"It seemed obvious. It came to me for the first time during the last day of my period. I had to paint Donald Trump's head with my menstrual blood in response to his comments against Megyn Kelly of Fox News during a televised debate because he could see blood coming out of her eyes, coming out of her from everywhere possible.

It seemed scandalous to me that someone aspiring to become president of the US — not just a minor regional governor or billionaire like many others, but president — could have said that and continue to be in the race. Thinking that he could speak in such a way about one of the most basic functions of women’s reproduction system, not in order to point to political issues but to insult Megyn Kelly's intelligence and that of all other women, was an insult and needed to be called to order.

Think about this: if the Fox presenter had been a man, would Trump have said, 'Oh maybe this man needs a colonoscopy?' Certainly not.

Women reacted by tweeting about their periods with the hashtag #periodsarenotaninsult, which was a good start. But for me, it was possible to multiply the strength of the counterattack with even a little more humor. I think that we can use art, especially if it's funny, to start to deflate Donald Trump's arrogance and give back some confidence to all those who are terrified at the idea of seeing a racist idiot like him lead their country.

This could seem minor, but I think that this shame brought upon menstrual blood is part of that general bodily shame that we want the girls and women in our societies to carry. Fighting against this shame is a small step in giving back confidence to the women who have the courage to fight for equality.

… Numerous reactions to my portrait of Trump that have circulated on the internet come from people who have been outraged, disgusted by this piece, and therefore, they think I am disgusting too. But what’s really disgusting are Donald Trump’s racist comments against Mexicans or other immigrants and the sexism he flaunts. What is really outrageous are the thousands of refugees from Central America, among them many women and children, who hope to find a better life in the US and whom we put in detention centers. 

There are many outrageous things in this world, but my little work of art is at the bottom of the list.”

Consistent all the way to the end, Sarah Levy has announced that the money from the sale of her work on Ebay will go to an organization that takes care of refugees and other migrants.

And here is “how to paint Donald Trump in five easy steps,” proposed with a humor that the author, an internet user, would like.

*Translator's note: This is an approximate translation. To read her actual words follow the link earlier in the article.

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