‘Driving out the Donald’

Artist David Gleeson transformed a Donald Trump tour bus into a mobile art exhibit.

David Gleeson, project manager of the T.Rump bus exhibit, hits Donald Trump themed golf balls off the vehicle, a former Donald Trump campaign bus. | Margo Reed TTN

In the parking lot of the Crane Arts building on American Street near Master, David Gleeson sits amid piles of scattered pipes and vinyl wrapping inside a dark blue, visibly aged tour bus. Garbed in orange corduroy pants and a black jacket, he sports a peculiar assortment of political memorabilia—the most prominent article being a red trucker hat with a duck silhouette plastered over the words “Make America Great Again.”

As the mantra scrawled on his headwear suggests, the T.Rump bus is the latest mobile exhibit from the t.Rutt team, which utilizes a bus from Donald Trump’s campaign to critique the candidate’s political stance. Used as a party bus by its former owners, the vehicle’s sides now display massive banners inscribed with the phrases “T.Rump” and “t.Rutt”—a nod to renowned artist Marcel Duchamp’s porcelain urinal.

A former avid golfer and project manager for T.Rump bus, Gleeson has made a habit of hitting a Trump branded golf ball off the roof of the bus at the end of each day on the road, honoring the exhibit’s theme of  “driving out the Donald,” he said.

As part of the exhibit, Gleeson also encourages spectators to throw shot glasses filled with punch at the bus, an act he hopes will make for a lighthearted method of venting political concerns.

“Even in a sphere like politics, art can really play an important role in trying to counterbalance some of the vitriol and divisive behavior that can so often frustrate us,” Gleeson said. “The fact that this is a campaign bus that’s being used differently and in an artistic way could help to let people do a very simple, physical expression of something that’s really cerebral and emotional.”

The decked-out bus is one piece of a larger—and equally politically fueled—exhibit in the works at Crane Arts titled “America on the Rag: Absorbing the Blood and Bile of Donald Trump and His Magic Sword.”

The exhibit focuses mainly on Trump’s controversial comments regarding women throughout his recent campaign, featuring pieces like a Spanish sword shoved through a ballot box and a decapitated Trump mannequin golfing.

The front of the bus is covered in similarly motivated images: a painted badge displaying the words “The Scrotal Majority” twists Richard Nixon’s famous quote to promote the idea of the male majority population supporting women’s rights, Gleeson said.

Gleeson acquired the bus from a mechanic in Des Moines, Iowa via Craigslist Oct. 17 at the suggestion of fellow artist Mary Mihelic, whose work centers around global feminism.

Before its return to Philadelphia Oct. 23, the bus made a pit stop at a Chris Christie rally in Newton, Iowa, a move that Mihelic believes is essential in promoting the exhibit’s message.

“Speaking to the converted isn’t really what we want to do,” Mihelic said. “Of course, we could go to a Hillary rally and we’ll have a blast. Everyone will love us, but if you’re in a red state, you’re really challenged more in a way that’s interesting. I think we actually get more out of it from listening to the other side, in a way.”

Gleeson hopes to bring the full exhibit to the Conception Contemporary Art Fair in Miami, Florida from Dec. 1-6. Other tentative plans for the bus included a trip to the Rockefeller Center in New York when Trump hosted Saturday Night Live and a “universal U.S. constitution,” which will allow passersby to write a line of the constitution in a language of their choosing, in response to Trump insulting Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish to Breitbart News.

Sarah Muehlbauer, a 2010 Tyler School of Art alumna, caught wind of the exhibit through fellow alumna artists working at Crane Arts. Currently in charge of social media and video promotion for T.Rump, Muehlbauer thinks the bus has the potential to spark an increased interest in politics within the Philadelphia community.

“I think it’s really easy to just get lost in how dry politics is, and to really not feel like you have much power or control or connection over it,” Muehlbauer said. “But if somebody can do a project like this that sort of throws a wrench at the whole thing, everybody can kind of loosen up and feel like they can have a shared experience around the issues.”

“One of the things I really like about Philly culture is it’s political and personal at the same time,” she added. “This is definitely on the far side of the political, but also striking a note with the whole social activism art scene.”

Eamon Dreisbach can be reached at eamon.noah.dreisbach@temple.edu.

Edit: Originally, David Gleeson was referred to as “Crane Arts co-founder.” He is the project manager for the T.Rump bus. “The Conception Contemporary Art Fair” was also mistakenly identified as the “Concept Art Fair.”

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