With the election of Donald Trump, a dangerous, not to say criminal gang of thieves and incompetents came to Washington. They were sinister, yes, but they were also highly comical in their ignorance of basic American Civics 101 and in their startling ineptitude. These weren’t just gangsters, they were gankstas!™ (You can view the whole series and more at gankstas.com)
The faces and resumes of this new crop of crooks suggested a mafia, a gang, albeit a gang that couldn’t shoot straight. there were so many of them, I began to think I needed one of those FBI gang charts, colorful mob names and all, to keep them all straight, and that’s where the idea really took off. The individual images of these various gankstas would be like baseball cards, with their jobs and their stats. Some of the “gang” names for these characters suggested themselves right away: Paul “Paulie No Nuts” Ryan, the unprincipled coward; Steve “Big Pussy” Bannon; Kelly “Hype Man” Conway.
Some of names came about because these gankstas had faces made for caricature, as in the case of Commerce Secretary and Gollum look-alike Wilbur “Precious” Ross. Using the beautiful, if crude, filters available on the Prisma™ app on my iPhone, I was able to give this remarkably ugly group of people a kind of ugly beauty. The restricted palette of black, white, red and purple popped in a sea of color on social media. I really enjoyed working with this font, Bebas™. Because of its extreme verticality, I was able to get a lot of text in a small square, and its clean lines were very modern and fresh.
HUD Secretary Ben “Uncle Ben” Carson got a theme based on the movie Get Out, with the scars of a brain transplant visible on his forehead.
Some were not even Americans, like the Russian Ambassador to the US and reputed spymaster, Sergey “Karla: Kislyak, named, of course, after John LeCarré’s fictional Russian “hood,” Karla.
The main attraction, the capo di tutti capi was of course, Donald “Don Fugazy” Trump. The slack corruption of his face really came across when filtered and colored in the style of this series. A “Fugazy” is a fake, a fraud. The term was popularized in the mob film Donnie Brasco.
The visual style of these square images (square to fit on Instagram) lent itself to communicating other messages, and soon I was talking about “Flynnghazi,” the scandal surrounding disgraced 24-day National Security Advisor General Michael “Tovarich” Flynn.
The White House became “Scand-A-Lago,” where the phone is a party line, and so is everything else. (Obviously, the hammer-and-sickle flag of the old Soviet Union no longer represents Russia, but it perfectly communicated the KGB-spawned totalitarian vision of Vladimir Putin which seemed to be ruling the day in Washington.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions was found to have had as many as three separate interviews with Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, this image, “Et Tu, Jeff?” seemed to capture the moment.
All of the Trump gang’s men who had (so far) been discovered to have met with Kislyak goat their own special image.
As the series grew, I began to use more color, keeping the filtered art and the Bebas font.
The color images appear in between every two or three of the black and white gankstas. (there are so many crooks in this new administration, you really do need a scorecard to get a grip on them all.)
There are plans for this series, which so far only exists in the digital space, to get printed up and mounted and to become a traveling show.