Wednesday, January 2, 2019

FDR 3: How does Trump show up at the park?

I’ve been blogging about how politics, broadly construed, shows up in the graffiti and street art at FDR skate park in south Philadelphia. In one post we’ve seen how patriotic symbols and dress are transformed and appropriated for FDR itself. In another we’ve seen expressions of war and peace. What about President Trump?

Yes, he shows up there. But let’s start back in 2014. Consider this photo:

In upper right corner you can see a crude bust at the top of a pedestal-like formation. Here’s a close-up:

It’s crudely rendered and is unpainted. Was it supposed to represent anyone in particular? I have no idea.

Now look at this photo from 2017. You can see that bust along the mid-line above the center:

It’s now been painted. The face is flesh-colored and the lips are red (though it’s hard to see them in this small an image). What color is the hair? It’s yellow, that is, blonde. Was that done to evoke Trump? I don’t know. But certainly his blonde hair is used as an identifying feature.

Now look at the bowl behind the bust, a bit below it and to the left. We see what appears to be “TRUMP CAN’T PUMP” on the wall in crude letters. Someone was thinking about Trump and put that up on the wall. I don’t see any obvious and strong connection between those letters and that bust, but those letters do make it clear that some thoughts about Trump do show up on these walls.

Here’s a photo I took in December of 2018.

“FUCK TRUMPS” is clearly scrawled on that bump. The anger is directed, not just at the president, but at his whole family. And this looks like an image of Trump:

Judging from the texture of the marks I’d say that it is a poster that has been pasted to the pillar, a so-called wheatpaste. I don’t know the significance of the lettering, “SYAM”. I did a quick web search but didn’t turn up anything that is obviously related. In particular, I didn’t turn up other images of such a poster. They might be there on the web, but it will take more searching than the five or ten minutes I did.

Now look at the medallion at the lower left. We have lettering around the silhouette of an elephant. Across the top we have “ANGRY ELEPHANTS” and “SPREAD PLAGUE” along the bottom. I’d guess that “PWW” at the left somehow identifies the person or group that placed that medallion on the pillar. Is it the same person who pasted up the poster? I don’t know, but there is a resonance between the two. I find it difficult NOT to see that elephant as the symbol of the Republican Party, which seems to have become the party of Trump.

Some yards away we see an elephant, an angry elephant:

Is there an intentional relationship between this elephant and the one in the medallion? Were they placed there by the same person, by people in dialog? I don’t know.

Finally, here’s a photo of that bust:

The hair is still yellow; the lips are red, but the neck and lower jaw has been painted red as well. There must have been a reason, but I can’t hazard a guess as to what it might have been. Does anyone at FDR think of that bust as representing Trump? I don’t know.

The only thing that’s clear is that Trump is represented at FDR, and not favorably. I don’t recall seeing any other national political figure on those walls. If I’d seen one, I’d have photographed them. For what it’s worth, while Pennsylvania went Republican in the 2016 presidential election, Philadelphia went Democrat.

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