As Trump's Inauguration Nears, Miami Artists Plan Their Next Steps

The erstwhile When Pigs Fly.
The erstwhile When Pigs Fly.
Courtesy of New Florida Majority

A few weeks before the most surprising election in recent U.S. history, Miami-based artists Rei Ramirez and Ivan Roque came together to create. They worked in the sun, perfecting their masterpiece along Biscayne Boulevard. The result: a grotesque yet beautifully rendered mural of Donald Trump's visage painted on the body of a winged pig. When Pigs Fly poked fun at Trump's lowball chances of winning the presidency, but it also foreshadowed his victory.

Two weeks after the mural's completion, in the aftermath of Trump's election, When Pigs Fly had been whitewashed from the building.

The erasure of his work was disappointing to Roque. But that's nothing, he says, compared to his bewilderment and fear over Trump's impending presidency. "He brought out hatred in people, and now we exist in a divided nation," he says, "due to this angry Oompa Loompa trying to act as Willy Wonka without a single idea of how to run the chocolate factory."

Although he's been burned, Roque isn't shying away from politics. With his next project, he will take aim at another familiar foe: Fidel Castro. The postmortem mural of the recently deceased dictator "will be a ray of hope for the Cuban exile community and those on the island looking for a brighter future," he says.

Roque isn't alone. Along with being angsty and angry, many local artists have discovered within themselves a newfound resolve to right the wrongs of this election. Across Miami, the creative community has been incensed by Trump's election — and many are using those feelings to fuel new, politically motivated works.

The election has certainly stoked artist Randy Burman's creative fires. In 2011, Burman began the series Vent-o-matic, a project that ultimately comprised 54 portraits of right-wing American politicians and ideologues, along with a pile of old shoes. The premise: Art patrons relieve their frustrations by throwing the shoes at the portraits.

So it's no surprise that the most recent election results inspired him to create another outlet for catharsis. The morning of November 9, Burman began a new series of poem-drawings, titled Make the 1st Amendment Strong Again Poetry Project. The project consists of poems paired with digital drawings of President-elect Trump's cabinet members and appointees, including Steve Bannon, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, and Jeff Sessions. He will post each poem-drawing on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter as he completes them.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" he exclaims when asked about the election. "This is the end of democracy as we know it. I could not be more profoundly upset. Everything else has dropped away in importance." Burman says his political distress prevented him from attending Art Basel events earlier this month. "Seems so trivial," he grieves.

Like Burman, poet and activist Jaswinder Bolina has turned to social media to give voice to what he coins the "silenced majority." Bolina is the Green Rose Prize-winning author of the poetry collections Carrier Wave and Phantom Camera. In the days after the election, he formed Write the Power, a group of like-minded creatives and intellectuals organized to combat the far-right agenda emboldened and inspired by Trump's campaign.

"Our aim is to make persistent and sustained contact with elected officials to ensure the progressive perspective is represented in Washington," Bolina says. "Trump lost the national popular vote by over 2.5 million ballots, and I suspect he and his people are going to try to turn us into a silenced majority."

Just down the hall from Bolina's office at the University of Miami, M. Evelina Galang, author of the forthcoming book Lolas' House: Women Living With War (2017, Curbstone Press), is plotting her own anti-Trump agenda. In fact, Galang has a history of fighting misogyny, racism, and sexism — one she established way before Trump entered the political scene.

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Since 1998, Galang has been researching the Liga Ng Mga Lolang Pilipina (LILA Pilipina), the surviving Filipina "comfort women" who were forced into sex slave camps during World War II. While conducting research on the LILA Pilipina as a senior Fulbright scholar 2002, Galang laid the groundwork for Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images, a social protest anthology that exposed racist Asian-American stereotypes in American culture.

"Any material written by a woman of color in this culture and society is inherently political," she says. "In my case, the stories of the Filipina 'comfort women' fighting for their just apology from the Japanese government is expressly political. Anytime my characters — all of whom are women and mostly of Filipino descent — voice their concerns in stories, fiction or nonfiction, they are speaking from a historically silenced position.

"This election and its xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, religious-intolerant, and homophobic bent make the stories and voice of my characters and other characters from writers of color even more important than they were before."

Truth-speaking is dangerous in the looming Trump era, Galang says; for example, the president-elect has threatened to sue reporters who publish unflattering stories about him. To Galang, marginalized communities, including Miami's artists and writers, are most vulnerable to that kind of intimidation.

"Our work is at risk as this impending administration threatens our freedom of speech, as it threatens to reverse all the gains of the Obama administration," Galang says. "Now our stories and poems, our personal essays, carry more weight because it is through these writings that we are able to speak the unspeakable."

Vent-o-matic
Through Friday, December 16, at the FAU Schmidt Gallery, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton; 561-297-2661; fau.edu/galleries. Tickets are free. Watch Vent-o-matic at randyburman.com/vent-o-matic-video.

Make the 1st Amendment Strong Again Poetry Project
Viewable at instagram.com/randyburman.


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