Donald Trump 'Make America White Again' Art Removed From New Jersey Exhibit After Backlash

Gwenn Seemel Donald Trump art
Gwenn Seemel's anti-Donald Trump art pulled from a New Jersey exhibit. Gwenn Seemel

A piece of artwork criticizing President Donald Trump was pulled from an exhibit after just 30 minutes, as it upset a group of people.

The satirical painting by artist Gwenn Seemel featured Trump wearing a "Make America White Again" cap and a mock-up of the Hello Kitty brand, with the latter word changed to "Shitty."

It formed part of a Studio Montclair exhibit called "Love and Fear," featuring the works of six artists at the Montclair Public Library in Montclair, New Jersey, running through April.

But within minutes of the exhibit opening to the public, people were responding negatively to Seemel's work, titled Hello Shitty, Available in a White House Near You! (Grab Him by His Pussy)—and it was quickly removed from display.

In a statement to Patch, Susanna Baker, Studio Montclair's executive director, claimed the artwork breached the library's policy on curse words.

"We've been showing work at the Montclair Public Library for years and have always been told that the policy of the library is to not display curse words or nudes," Baker said.

"In the past, we have been asked to remove work for both those reasons. We greatly value our long relationship with the library, and have always respected and understood the parameters of showing work in a public place that caters to young children.

"The title of the piece on all our documentation was 'Hello Kitty...' and the curse words were not obvious to us in the images we had seen of the work prior to the installation.

"When we saw the word 's*****' written many times on this painting, we realized that it needed to be removed because it violated the library's policy of art in their public space. We didn't discuss this decision with library personnel."

But Peter Coyl, director of Montclair Public Library, said the library has no policy restricting the artwork hung there. "We support free speech and abhor censorship," Coyl told Montclair Local. The artwork was eventually rehung.

Seemel told Newsweek it is "false" to say Studio Montclair had "Hello Kitty" on all its documentation. "Baker may not have known personally about the original title, but Studio Montclair had plenty of documentation with it," Seemel said.

She cited an email exchange with the collection's curator Marianne Trent in which the pair discussed adapting the title from "Hello S*****" before the exhibition in the library.

Seemel told Newsweek: "We can and should be talking about whether or not this painting should be displayed in a library, but I hope that in our conversation we don't lose sight of the fact that this painting will never be more offensive than a president who locks children in cages and watches them die."

She posted a video on Facebook about the artwork and what happened at the exhibit. "I started to make this painting in 2017, just a few months into Donald Trump's presidency, and at the time I was feeling powerless," Seemel said in the video.

"Already, like many people, like anyone with sense, I knew that this man was not fit to be president and I wanted desperately for him to be removed from office, and I was frustrated that there was nothing that I personally could do to make that happen.

"And then I realized yeah, I can't make him go away in a larger sense, but I can paint his portrait. I'm a professional portrait artist. I can paint his portrait and surround him with his crimes. And in my small way I can make sure that he doesn't get away with everything."

Seemel said she thinks the people reacting badly to her anti-Trump painting were doing so because of similar frustrations to her own.

"From what I was told about what their reactions were, they would like to see him removed from office as well. And they know that they personally cannot make that happen, but what they can do is remove his face from their library," she said.

"They can make sure that this painting of him is not on display, and specifically a painting that shows him with a hat that says, 'Make America White Again.' That was the especially offensive part of this piece to this group of people that had gathered.

"So they can't make Trump go away in a larger sense, but in this small way at their library, they can make him go away, and so they contributed to him, or this painting of him, going away."

The artist added: "For the record, I'd like to say that I don't think anyone in this situation did anything wrong."

Updated 2/10/20: This article was updated with more comments by Seemel and Peter Coyl.