In October 2015, the artists David Gleeson and Mary Mihelic purchased a Donald Trump tour bus on Craigslist.
It was the start of an art project that for the last few months has seen the newly dubbed T.RUMP Bus on the trail from Philadelphia to Miami Beach to Iowa. Gleeson and Mihelic, who cofounded the art collective t.Rutt, began by reappropriating the bus with a cheeky first accent—“Make Fruit Punch Great Again”—but the Republican presidential candidate’s controversial declarations soon sparked new additions.
After Trump proposed banning Muslim immigrants from the U.S., the artists added an Arabic translation of “Make America Great Again” on its back windows; after he claimed he could shoot someone in the middle of New York City without hurting his campaign, they appended a bullet-point list of Trump’s “struggles,” based on Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that includes “to not hate,” “to not exploit bankruptcy,” and “to not cheat at golf.” When the artists park at a rally, Gleeson takes to the bus’s roof to hit balls covered in Trump’s face with a golf club.
T.RUMP Bus is one of a host of art works inspired by the 2016 election, many of which feature distortions of the Republican frontrunner’s visage. Like the candidate himself, some aim for cheap shots rather than substantive commentary: One reinvention of Shepard Fairey’s iconic 2008 “Hope” poster calls Trump a “potato with butthole lips”; the street artist Hanksy’s painting on a building in New York explicitly compares Trump to feces; a U.K. mural of Trump’s face was painted only to be defaced by the artist, who reportedly threw eggs at it after he was finished. But the T.RUMP Bus in particular seeks to complicate the public’s understanding of the GOP’s most controversial figure by using his own performative tactics against him.