Severed head of a president and other indignities of art

Before and after: We altered the painting to put the artist’s own head in place of President Trump, because…well, it’s art.


If University of Alaska Anchorage artist Thomas Chung wanted to be famous, someone call his mom: He’s finally done it. He’s getting his 15 minutes of fame.

Chung painted a workmanlike depiction of a Captain America holding the severed head of President Donald Trump, while a vampish Hillary Clinton clings to the naked hero’s leg and birds caw around his ears. She’s wearing a pantsuit and she’s let her hair grow a bit. Various other things challenge the viewer of the painting, including the word: “Everything.”

Whatev’, as the kids all say.

Today is maybe the last day you can see on display the painting that has by now gotten the world’s attention, the painting that has caused rather a big ruckus in the world of “people who take offense at almost everything.”

The sheer barbarism that flowed from Chung’s mind onto canvas has earned him worldwide notoriety. He may have a pretty face, but what’s in that Chung head of his? Apparently, it’s not a pretty place.

Chung told KTUU that he wept after the election of Donald Trump in November. And, as artists do, he put brush to canvas and came up with something that is a disturbing mash-up of his own fears, bad dreams, and political projections.

It’s not particularly wonderful or skillful, but it captures a moment in time in the artist’s interpretation of the world. Donald Trump was elected and by roughly half of the people who voted. It happened, and fragile folk like Chung are working through their grief — crying, painting, knitting pink pussy hats, detaching Trump’s head from his body, and having a miserable time.

This artistic interpretation is all about Tom Chung himself, of Brooklyn, NY, the UAA art professor who on his Facebook page posts reams of adorable and/or mysterious photos of himself, in which he’s almost always shirtless, such as this one, where his trim, youthful physique is very much like his depiction of Captain America: Chiseled and lean.

Thomas Chung frolicking in the ocean somewhere in Facebook-land.

The art world is full of crimes against art like, if you will, Robert Maplethorpe. We’ve seen much worse than an American’s president’s severed head painted by an MFA graduate. All over the world of ISIS there are real severed heads, and women much more oppressed and beaten down than Chung’s artistic depiction of Hillary in a soiled, suffragette-white pantsuit.

We’re reminded that President Obama suffered his own indignities, such as the time when this polar bear sculpture made a bloody mess of him:

Chinese artist Vincent J.F. Huang created this sculpture of a polar bear holding President Obama’s severed head. Our inner art critic thinks it is gross.

Consider, if you will, the misogynistic indigities to which Sarah Palin was subjected, this being perhaps one of the least offensive unless, of course, you are Lady Liberty, bloodied on the snow at the hands of Alaska’s most famous governor:

Sarah Palin bags Ms. Liberty, or perhaps she’s saving her from a brutal attack. We’ll never know. Art by Zina Saunders. 2008

And even President Bill Clinton was skewered by artist Boris Vallejo in this hilariously heroic depiction, with a shapely, somewhat sexy Hillary clinging to his testosterone leg, while donkeys peer around — and who knows that that thing is that they’re propped up on — perhaps someone’s dead body?

Compare and contrast: Boris Vallejo painted this of Bill Clinton with a shapely Hillary clinging to his leg. It makes Thomas Chung’s artwork seem quite derivative .

Before we set Thomas Chung out with the recycling, we remember that art is not always comfortable. People could very well read into the Chung painting that American progressives have unfairly beheaded Donald Trump, and that Hillary Clinton has never been more than a simpering wimp, clinging to false idols. Yet we read into this painting what we think the artist thinks, and some of us are none too pleased. We may be reading too much into it. We may be giving Chung too much credit for something that is not much more than a comic book illustration.

Given the time and a shared cup of coffee, we’d tell Chung how the art department at the University of Alaska, including the heat for the buildings, the plows for the parking lots, the paint Chung uses, and the canvas he abuses, are all paid for by public dollars, dedicated to learning by a tolerant, Constitution-loving citizenry, some of whom might prefer that Chung make his living in the private sector, and allow the actual marketplace to guide his creative genius.

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