Presidential Follies

Quiroz’s political paintings at UAMA demonstrate the need for critical art in the age of Trump

By the time you read this, Donald J. Trump may already be president.

That means Alfred Quiroz has work to do.

A satirical painter of scathing political art, UA art prof Quiroz has already skewered American commanders-in-chief from George Washington to Barack Obama. His neon-colored cartoon caricatures of the nation's leaders are in the Presidential Series, an exhibition now in its last days at the University of Arizona Museum of Art.

Quiroz studies history, and his 12 paintings, carefully crafted in oils and acrylics on canvas or wood, castigate assorted presidents for their sins: for their slave-owning hypocrisy in the land of the free (Washington and Jefferson), for their criminal contempt for the U.S. Constitution (Nixon, Reagan) and for the truth (George W. Bush), and for their sexual indiscretions (Jefferson, Buchanan, FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, etc., etc., etc.).

Nudity abounds in this show; everywhere you look, you see giant erections, breasts and bare bottoms. A 2005 painting, "Oval Office Orgy," crowds a legion of licentious leaders into the legendary White House office. With the exception of Jimmy Carter, who's pictured here as an innocent who merely lusted in his heart, the whole naked batch of them grope and thrust and grab.

Even worse are the presidents who save their sexual energy for ravaging the law and waging deadly wars. In "Nix-on-Hell," a naked Richard Nixon is raping the Constitution, his penis tearing into the hallowed document. Meantime, the tapes that lost him his presidency are erupting from his rear end.

Nixon presided over much of the Vietnam War, which took the lives of some two million Vietnamese civilians, some 1.1 million North Vietnamese soldiers, 200,000 to 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, and 58,000 Americans, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Quiroz, a veteran who did two tours in Vietnam, has placed Nixon on a burning hot plate in the painting, where he's "paying for his sins in hell."

George W. Bush, instigator of the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, appears in "The Mendacious Maniacal Magician." He's nude except for the Air Force mask hiding his genitals, a reference to the controversy over his own military service. But the painting is mostly devoted to the war in Iraq. The twin towers stand next to Bush, a reminder that his administration famously used the tragedy of 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the plane attacks, and bolstered its case by providing false claims about Iraq's nation's supposed weapons of mass destruction. In the panting, a puff of yellow smoke represents these imaginary weapons. Iraq, depicted as a green map, is about to be flushed down a toilet. Bush adviser Karl Rove has been stuffed in the toilet tank.

Deceit and corruption wend their way their way through almost every one of Quiroz's presidential works. The painted stories of presidential misdeeds are ugly to look at and ugly to hear. Jefferson, in the punning painting "Thomas Jefferson Sows the Seeds," is strolling a field, casting seeds into the rich soil of Virginia; he's also carrying a naked Sally Hemings, the slave believed to have been his mistress and the mother of six of his children, all of them slaves freed only after his death.

Buchanan, rumored to be gay in his day, wears a dress; more importantly, as an instigator of the Mexican-American War, a conflict designed by the U.S. to grab its neighbor's territory, he's gobbling up Mexico—rendered here as a piece of meat. Kennedy is taken to task as a womanizer (his head is made of the naked bodies of women), and dinged for incompetence when PT-109, the ship he captained in World War II, was rammed by the Japanese. Reagan is excoriated for his illegal Iran-Contra affair.

Now it's time for Quiroz to add Trump to this rogues' gallery. He has plenty of material already.

Last spring the artist exhibited "T-Rumped" at Davis Dominguez Gallery, inspired by Trump's unforgettable campaign boast that his penis is not tiny. "I guarantee you there's no problem," Trump said at a Republican debate in March.

Riffing on Marco Rubio's taunt that Trump has small hands, Quiroz took his naked Trump down to size in a miniature painting, giving him both tiny hands and a petite penis, strategically hidden by a tiny dollar bill.

Now there's more, so much more, that Quiroz could add to a Trump portrait.

He'd be sure to show the real-estate mogul grabbing women "by the pussy," a pastime that Trump bragged about in a 2005 secretly recorded video. Quiroz could add in Trump's demonization of Mexican immigrants and find a way to picture his repeated lies denying his previous support for the war in Iraq. His mocking of a disabled man would be easy to depict, and so would his encouragement of violence against protesters at his campaign rallies.

The Trump painting would have to get bigger to accommodate his declaration that women who have an abortion should be punished; his stiffing of the contractors who built his hotels and his cheating the students at his so-called Trump University (he agreed to a $25 million settlement in that case). Oh and let us not forget his contempt for the First Amendment and his threat to punish the press by changing our libel laws.

If Trump holds to his campaign promises, Quiroz can paint him kicking newly uninsured Americans out of doctors' clinics and hospitals, rounding up immigrants by the millions and deporting them, and welcoming private industries to set up their damaging operations on cherished public lands.

He could show him pal-ing around with Putin and nixing longstanding conflict-of-interest protocols. Quiroz, who long ago collaborated with two Mexican artists on an art installation on the border wall at Nogales, could have fun painting Trump's "bee-you-tee-ful" new multi-billion-dollar border wall.

So many outrages to document, so many policies to protest. If anyone is up to the job, Quiroz is.

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