For many artists, the practice of making is the serendipitous combination of subject and medium, hopefully in ways where each informs and amplifies the other. Never has this been more true than in the case of Cleveland-based public artist and designer Stephen Manka, who has used a treasure trove of 2,020 vintage metal dildos purchased from a scrap dealer to render a large-scale portrait of Donald Trump — or, as he will now be known, SCROTUS.
“The topic of monuments is front and center,” said Manka, in an email interview with Hyperallergic. “Confederate monuments are toppling. An incredible Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Rumors of War’ is unveiled. And our President [is] mugging with his face positioned on Mount Rushmore.”
“What is a proper monument to mark the hopeful end of divisive Trumpism? None at all. Or Dongs.”
Dongs, indeed! Never has a medium been more perfectly suited to present a subject. It’s almost a pity, because divorced from their sexual or political associations, the dildos are fascinating objects in and of themselves.
“There really is an incredible variety,” said Manka. “Along with the expected gruesome and veiny bastards, there are some that look like stolen artifact[s] broken off a Kama Sutra Temple. Or a valve tip from the Michelin Man. There is definitely a story to be unearthed about where they all came from.”
According to Manka, Cleveland was known for early porn and dildo manufacturing thanks to Rueben Sturman, known as the “Walt Disney of Porn.” Manka speculates that these salvaged dildoes may be part of Sturman’s lost legacy, but this is unconfirmed.
As a public artist, Manka is not content to simply let these dildos, which are currently assembled in his studio space, circulate virtually. The artist launched a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of taking these dongs on tour, to add fuel to an election year that feels like a make-or-break point in US politics.
“I envisioned a large vertical portrait depicted with dongs and a gilded frame, with Kickstarter necessary to fund it,” says Manka. He calls the portrait a “new direction” in his art practice, “merging photography, sculpture, found objects, and a charged political position.”
Certainly, the political climate has inspired many of us to exceed our own comfort zones and blaze new trails in terms of activism, civic engagement, and maybe even sex toys (it’s been a long, lonely summer, y’all). Congrats to Manka for combining these topical issues into a piece of art that reminds us just how fucked we’ll all be if we don’t vote that man out of office in November.
Published at Thu, 10 Sep 2020 11:00:50 +0000