Humpty Trumpty Fell
Written by Genie Davis
Political rancor has run high this election year – as anyone with a Twitter feed, or access to a television or newspaper can surely attest. But a little taste of this vitriol hit the art scene Tuesday evening when artist Rick Dallago’s witty work featuring Donald Trump as Humpty Dumpty was vandalized. The artwork was hanging at Angel City Brewery in an exhibition curated by Diane Williams and Sheli Silverio. It was the only piece damaged in this seemingly targeted attack.
Cheyanne Sauter is director of Art Share L.A., the gallery sponsoring this Your Art Here exhibition, which brings artwork out of the gallery and into the community. She notes “Art Share L.A. loves when artwork provokes a reaction in people; we just wish it would have been done in a more civil manner.”
Dallago offers his own take on the incident. “I am not surprised that someone smashed my art piece, Humpty Trumpty Sat on the Wall,” he says. “The 2016 Presidential Election has been the most contentious in history. The other day I noticed that no cars have election bumper stickers. Normally they are plastered everywhere, but people fear their car will be keyed. Violence has become the new norm.”
The artist describes his work as “inspired by Trump’s desire to build a wall along the US/Mexican border.” He adds wryly, “Like my painting, hopefully Trump will share Humpty’s demise and fall.”
Dallago plans to replace the piece with a similar one, defending not only his artistic expression but that of free speech.
Self-described as an artist “influenced by family, politics, life experiences, visual/moving media, and color,” Dallago’s work here has the lovely color tint of a fairy tale illustration. On the left, a cheerful group of immigrants waits behind an area marked with a “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” sign. Behind them are two conquistadors, bearing the Mexican flag – perhaps representing the ‘king’s men’ of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. On the right sits a sleepy-eyed, big-egg-head version of Trump, gussied up in a Humpty Dumpty suit, straddling a wall – perhaps the wall the most outrageous presidential candidate in history keeps speaking of building to keep those immigrants out. With those half-lidded eyes and plastered-down wild man hair, this Trump seems almost benign, certainly not demonized in any way. To his right is a beautiful crop of flowers, perhaps emblematic of the paradise the wealthy can create for themselves beyond the walls they build both literally and figuratively, keeping the “have-nots” out.
While the piece is obviously a political expression – and not in Trump’s favor – there is nothing cruel about it; nothing that calls for a vengeful act.
Dallago, whose background includes fine art photography and film-making, describes his current work as that which “marries photography, painting, and storytelling with a tiny ‘wink of humor,’” which is certainly the case here.
The beautifully drawn oil pastel is whimsical, fanciful, and fun – as well as pleasantly but firmly putting the fragility of Trump’s wild rhetoric to the test. After all, like Humpty Dumpty himself, someone with this candidate’s towering ego, lack of logic, and tendency to incite the most base forms of enmity within the electorate, he’s destined to fall, right?
The artist’s careful, even delicate work here proves the artist’s description of what inspires him. “Besides a clear concept, I’m attracted to technical and artistic challenges—a facial expression, dramatic clouds, the drapery of a dress.”
He considers his art an extension of his work in film, and certainly his work shows both motion and a cinematic scope in his technique. As to his subject, Dallago says he likes to examine today’s information overload. “My ‘Presidential Nude’ series is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Emperor’s New Clothes. Like the child in that fable, I state the obvious. Presidents and First Ladies, like us, are naked underneath it all. They are flawed and flabby like us. I want to strip away their scripted, ‘focus-grouped’ personas and expose the real man or real woman.”
Dallago’s Humpty Trumpty character continues this approach to stripping away and speaking an obvious truth. It’s a sad commentary on our increasingly polarized political process that one man’s opinion – and artistic vision – can incite the impotent wrath of vandalism.
We look forward to seeing the piece with which Dallago replaces his damaged artwork and to the art community’s support for our precious freedom of speech.