A California artist put up her latest piece this last Friday; an anti-Trump billboard that depicts the President between a pair of mushroom clouds, framed with rigid dollar signs that resemble swastikas. As reported by The Hill, the billboard was commissioned by a Phoenix art gallery. The artist, Karen Fiorito, has crafted controversial work like this before. In 2004, Fiorito was commissioned by the same art gallery to make a similar billboard, a depiction of President George W. Bush and various government officials next to the words “Dear America, we lied to you for your own good. Now trust us.”
Among the controversy around her latest billboard artwork, Fiorito found herself on familiar ground. When prompted on her choice of display, Fiorito explained that “billboards are perfect, because you don’t have to go to a gallery to see it. You’re creating a dialogue with the public. You’re reaching people you’d never reach with your artwork.”
— Karen Fiorito (@buddhacatpress) March 17, 2017
Per The Hill, Fiorito and her husband started receiving death threats just 24 hours after the billboard went up. The phone started ringing on Saturday morning.
“I’ve been called a communist, a Satan worshiper. I’ve been told I’m a ‘very, very sick person.’ I’m not sure what that means. I haven’t been answering the phone. My husband has because he’s not afraid to talk to anyone, but he told me he received a couple death threats this morning. They said they were ‘coming to get us with their boys.'”
The billboard overlooks Grand Avenue and is owned by Beatrice Moore, a local resident and art patron. In an interview with 12 News, Moore stated that “some of these issues are so important that you can’t not speak out. The billboard will stay up as long as Trump is president.” Moore has been involved with the art ventures along Grand Avenue for more than 20 years, and some even say she’s responsible for the district coming to fruition at all, as reported by the Phoenix New Times. Grand Avenue has been a beacon for artists across Phoenix for decades.
— FAMEAZ tweetv (@FAMEAZtv) November 13, 2015
The latest anti-Trump collaboration between Karen Fiorito and Beatrice Moore has stirred up more than they could have ever asked for. Whereas the death threats over the phone are uncommon, Fiorito always expects controversy, per AZ Central.
“At first I was really excited about doing it, but then you always have this fear, this ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen if I do this?'” The artist pushed her fears aside and went through with the anti-Trump billboard anyway, as Fiorito has dealt with angry audiences before.
“I’ve had people tell me they’re going to come rape me and kill me.”
A neighbor to the property, who withheld his name, expressed irritation on ABC 15. “I’ve been in the neighborhood for thirty five years. This is the worst tagging stuff I’ve ever seen. I’ve gotta wake up to Nazism for the next four years.” The anti-Trump billboard looms over a number of businesses and residential areas, as well as all the traffic along Grand Ave.
Jeremy Bacpac, another onlooker, called the anti-Trump billboard “fantastic,” explaining to ABC 15 that “it does what art is supposed to do- make statements.”
Fiorito has a similar idea about her billboard.
“It’s more of a form of resistance, a form of protest. I feel that I’m really just speaking for other people who might not be able to say anything, or speak out, or may not feel safe in doing so. Part of it, the back of it, is a call to unity. It’s a call for people who feel like they’re in the minority to come together.”
The anti-Trump billboard looked over this weekend’s “Art Detour” event in downtown Phoenix. No death threats were reported.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]