One Grand Gallery—a not-for-profit art gallery located on East Burnside in Portland—came under fire in the wake of an art exhibition, “Fuck You Mr. President.” The show featured contributions by artists from across the country and committed to splitting all profits from print sales between Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center. All of the art focused around the central theme of distaste for the current commander in chief.
Although the general theme of the exhibition has been lambasted by many, the controversy was centered around a piece of window art displayed prominently in the front of the gallery. The mural by local artist Compton Creep depicted President Trump in the middle of having his throat cut in a fashion similar to beheadings carried out by various terrorist groups. The image portrays Trump’s face bloodied, a knife held firmly to his neck and his head being yanked back by the hair.
Once pictures of the window mural began to make rounds throughout social media on July 17 the gallery was instantly thrown into the national spotlight, and the reviews were unfavorable. The gallery’s Facebook page and Yelp were immediately bombarded with comments and negative ratings left by individuals from around the country. The comments ranged from threats to demands for the art to be taken down and even included warnings of the potential for government involvement.
The gallery quickly defended its mural on its Facebook page, stating “the same people offended over a ‘death threat’ are the same people upholding death threats & violence. Irony.” The message was posted and subsequently removed on July 17, the same day the pictures began circulating online. By the following Thursday, July 19, One Grand Gallery had removed its Facebook page entirely. Its website and Instagram are still online, but neither make any mention of the window art or of the exhibition itself. The mural was also taken down in the wake of the controversy.
The artist behind the mural defended himself and his artwork, saying “it’s an artistic interpretation of the chaos going on right now, nothing more.” The founder of the gallery, who has remained insistent on not identifying himself, told a FOX 12 reporter he had made the decision to remove the mural after the response, saying he was threatened by people who “want the gallery to go up in flames with [his] family.”
The backlash has not been restricted to the gallery and its founder, however. Dane Johnson, the owner of a shop located above the gallery, has been receiving phone calls from all across the country. “I’ve had threats to have rocks thrown through the window,” Johnson said. “I’ve had threats that we’re never going to do business with you again. And I’ve also had threats on my life; you know, we’re going to come and kill you.”
The sensation and outrage caused by the negative depiction of President Trump is no new occurrence; One Grand Gallery has become one of many individuals and organizations that have received national and international attention for acting as provocateurs against the current administration. Kathy Griffin became the subject of extreme criticism after posing for a photo in which she appeared to be holding the severed head of the president. The effect on her career was monumental—she lost a position with CNN and was the subject of an investigation by the Secret Service.
Jim Carrey recently released a painting that depicted a vampiric Trump eating a child’s leg. The painting features the words “Art of the Meal” and was posted on Carrey’s Twitter along with the caption, “If the Democrats would just stop the Mueller investigation, build a wall, declare me a God and pass a special law allowing me to marry my hot daughter, I wouldn’t have to devour these immigrant babies. It’s terrible what they’re doing. Obstructionists!”
As of now, a spokesperson for the Secret Service has said the organization is aware of the image but no further comment could be made regarding potential investigations. The Portland Police Bureau, when contacted, stated they had yet to receive any complaints.