In the last few months, Philadelphia artist David Gleeson has been called a "fascist," a "Nazi" and simply "un-American," among other slurs. These are the hazards of driving a rehabbed Donald Trump campaign bus to political rallies and parking it outside party town halls.
But Gleeson -- who's in New Hampshire today for the primary and will be back in Philadelphia Thursday for an art opening at the Crane building in Kensington -- is willing to endure it. In fact, he's put considerable money and time into purchasing and driving the bus, rebranded from TRUMP to T. RUMP, from Iowa to Florida to Philadelphia and now New Hampshire.
The absurdist exercise was undertaken by Gleeson and his New York-based collaborator Mary Mihelic under the pseudonym T. Rutt, a reference to Marcel Duchamp's alter ego, R. Mutt. Like Duchamp's Fountain, Gleeson considered the bus a readymade work of art, though he adapted it with slogans like "Make Fruit Punch Great Again." Gleeson added a Mein Kampf-inspired list of what he imagines are Trump's personal struggles, such as "to not cheat golf," and "to not hate."
"To me, a big part of this show is: What is Trump's moral compass?" Gleeson said. "He seems to be mostly about dominance and bullying people."
Gleeson hit golf balls off the roof of the bus at some stops. At others, he invited passersby to hurl fruit punch at a canvas. He said when he's parked at Trump rallies, people are often confused. "A lot of people want to take selfies. They think it's a Trump bus. And that lasts three or four minutes and then their faces start to sag. Other people get really annoyed." T. Rutt is running a Kickstarter campaign to continue the journey to more early primary states.
In the meantime, on Thursday, the bus will be back in Philadelphia for the opening of an exhibition, "America on the Rag," of artwork inspired by Trump, his comment that Fox News host had "blood coming out of her wherever," and a quote from one of his exes about his "swordsmanship" in the bedroom.
The resulting installation includes a ballot box penetrated by a sword; a bed covered with a quilt of immaculately stitched panty liners with a tampon fringe and a splattering of red paint; and a work that references one of the strangest Duchamps in the Philadelphia Museum of Art collection (you'll have to go look through the peephole yourself to see what's inside).