The Most Subversive Art of the 2016 Election Season

Because if we don't look on the bright side, we'll just melt.


Even the most dedicated optimist would have trouble pinpointing one specific good thing that has come out of this long, messy presidential election. Maybe that the dark underbelly of hatred in our nation was finally exposed? We got to learn about a random guy named Ken Bones and his weird Reddit comments? There was a bunch of weird and provocative art featuring a wealth of micro-penises? Sure, let’s go with that.

If there’s one thing that can be said for the art inspired by this year’s election, it’s that it has been as unsubtle and unpleasant as the campaign itself. Pop an Advil, hope for the best, and come on a journey with us through some of the weirdest and most wonderful artworks of this election cycle.

Vic Berger’s ‘Election 2016’ Series

Video editor and comedian Vic Berger became an icon in the satirical world with his election videos, which he started to remix way back during the primary season of 2015. As one-off videos like Trump’s campaign announcement quickly became popular, Berger’s star exploded when he promised to get a Jeb Bush neck tattoo if a Vine of his reached one million loops, fooling Jeb himself into tweeting out support (2016 has been a weird year). Of course, the tattoo was fake, but the increased exposure paved the way to a productive partnership between Berger and Super Deluxe, and a now-legendary collection of videos that have screwed with every major moment of the election cycle.

Lushsux’s Hillary Clinton Pinup Mural

Lushsux's work, after and before.


Ah, nothing like a sort of sexist work of street art being vandalized into a somewhat racist piece of street art. Clinton was the target of graffiti artist Lushsux’s very poor taste on the side of a building in Melbourne, Australia, depicting the candidate like a Playboy pinup in an American flag bikini holding wads of money. The stunt got the artist banned on Instagram, in spite of the fact that Hillary is technically fully clothed and leaves a few things to the imagination in the piece.

Instead of waiting for the Melbourne authorities to retaliate and remove the work themselves, Lushsux instead revised his own work by covering everything but Hillary’s eyes in a black hijab, providing another dimension of controversy to the piece. To avoid criticism for the move, Lushsux preemptively announced that anyone critical of the work was a “sexist, racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, uncultured and ignorant bigot”.

I mean, that’s one way to silence the haters.

Ilma Gore’s Make America Great Again

Gore's work, in all its glory.

The Guardian

Trump-with-a-micropenis has practically become its own genre of fine art at this point, and it all began with illustrator Ilma Gore’s “Make America Great Again,” the first major hyper-sexual piece that demeaned Trump on the basis of his body. The 24-year-old artist defended what some have called body-shaming the candidate, even after being banned from Facebook and slapped with a copyright lawsuit because of the piece.

Not to be deterred, Gore made the work available to the public for free on her website, saying that she included the micropenis as a way to threaten Trump’s masculinity, which most can agree is an integral part of his person. Trump supporters were so enraged by the original work, now valued at $1.4 million, that Gore was even punched in the face over it.

Millennial Indie Artwork During the Sanders Campaign

Pop art by Twinsvega, a teenage artist duo in LA.


It’s not a shocker that some of the most prominent artists associated with the Bernie Sanders movement of the early half of this year were millennials — the 72-year-old senator was the darling of young people during the Democratic primary. The above piece is by teenage twins Miguel and Alejandro Vega, and is just one of many other pop art attempts that depicted Sanders as a young, virile dude of the people. Sometimes he was even on a skateboard, because why not? While there’s no single Bernie art piece that defines the campaign, the efforts to include Bernie in youth culture was the name of the game prior to his loss to Clinton.

Indecline’s The Emperor Has No Balls

Ah, the micropenis returns! This statue, in all its testicle-less glory, marked the bubble of political cycle art more or less bursting in late August. While there were different versions of the statue dispersed throughout the country, its sighting in New York prompted a major national conversation, inciting everything from shrugs and giggles to harsh criticisms of Trump’s body being beside the point. Indecline, the art collective behind the work, operates as a nonprofit and funds stunts like this by selling politically charged clothing. No matter how you feel about the objectification and mysterious lack of testes on Trump’s bod, this was without doubt one of the most heavily covered artworks of the election.

Aimee Mann’s Can’t You Tell?

There’s been plenty of politically charged music coming out this election cycle, including Rachel Bloom’s [Funny or Die] banger released last week. One of the more poignant releases of the cycle is a sensitively written and performed song by folk icon Aimee Mann. The title, “Can’t You Tell?” is written from the point of view of Donald Trump, who in this world is suffering from a mental illness. The tune was released as a part of the 30 Days, 30 Songs project aimed to create music that Trump would hate.

Mann, however, chose sympathy, speculating in the chorus:

“Isn’t anybody going to stop me? / I don’t want this job / I don’t want this job, my god / Can’t you tell? I’m unwell”

This was many examples of someone circumventing the “Goldwater Rule” which bars psychology professionals from commenting on the mental fitness of a candidate to serve as president.

There’s no doubt that tomorrow’s election results will spawn a whole new crop of artwork, but lets give these artists the Viking funeral they deserve. Free idea: Let’s burn it all as performance art and pretend this nightmare never happened.

Related Tags