Graphic illustration

We spoke to the Portland artist whose graphic illustration of Trump sparked national controversy

One of the Portland-based artist’s illustrations recently went viral – a graphic illustration of President Trump with a knife down his throat and blood spitting out from his neck. Creep – who refused to share his first name – had already sold the image on a few hundred T-shirts for about a year. But at the end of July, a larger version of the image was displayed in the window of One Grand Gallery on East Burnside Street, as part of an exhibition titled Fuck you, Mr. Chairman.

Days after the show opened, the image spread across social media and sparked national vitriol, including coverage of conservative niche blogs that claimed Creep was advocating the assassination of Trump. One Grand Gallery’s Facebook and Yelp pages, as well as Creep’s Instagram, were shut down due to a flood of angry comments.

The image has since been removed from the window, along with the rest of the art on display. But Creep says the death threats haven’t stopped. WW told Creep about the intentions behind the drawing, or lack thereof, and why he thinks it was misinterpreted.

WW: What kinds of things have people told you?

Compton Creep: It’s weird to say the typical death threat but just “Watch your back, we’ll find you. I know where you live, I know where your mother lives,” which, they don’t know a thing about that shit. It just got silly, frankly, that people care so much about a drawing in an attempt to threaten someone’s life.

You said you initially thought the illustration would look cool on a t-shirt, but did you want people to think or feel something special when they saw it?

I wanted to annoy people, yeah. But I don’t show up to people, like, “Look at my shit.” It’s a T-shirt. There are a lot of offensive t-shirts out there, and I’m a pretty offensive person.

What is your intention with your other designs?

My stuff is hypersexual, sometimes hyperviolent. “Oh shit” – I like that factor, but not like a “Damn!” It’s like girls tied up consensually and sexually. But most of them are made from images working with the person in question. So it’s hypersexual but not aggressive but can be seen as aggressive, and that’s the line I like.

What was the intention with Trump’s drawing?

There was literally no thought process. I drew it knowing it was offensive. I literally wasn’t thinking shit. I just did a fucking drawing. I wasn’t mad when I drew it, I wasn’t happy when I drew it, I don’t even really remember when I drew it. There is literally nothing behind it. I didn’t even think it was offensive, directly. I just drew it. I waited a year to post it.

But you said you knew it was offensive.

Well, he’s got his head cut off. Maybe that was a misinterpretation, that people think I was calling for something to happen, and I don’t care. I have one [illustration] that says, “Fuck cops.” It doesn’t ask anyone to come out and do anything, it’s like I don’t like cops. These are all meant to stir a bit, but they’re not meant to crush anything in anyone’s brain.

Would you have done something different with the illustration of Trump?

Not at all. I literally don’t care about this drawing. I probably wouldn’t have posted it on my Instagram again. If all these people weren’t freaking out about it and trying to screw up my existence personally, I wouldn’t be like, “Well, now I’m going to put it on my website.” I feel like you have to stand up for yourself when so many people attack you without saying bullshit aggressively.

People who are angry but don’t make death threats, do you think they’re also defensive?

I have no problem with people who get so angry that they think, “This is just not in good taste.” People are upset. It is very good. Tell me my art sucks, I got a bunch of it. It doesn’t affect me at all. But I think you’re missing something in your psyche if you switch from viewing an image online – these people haven’t even seen the image themselves, they’ve seen it in a new post, and these are the messages I get like Florida and shit, I think that shows how disconnected you are, like across the country you tell them you’re going to kill them.

Do you feel like you’ve crossed a line?

What line could I have crossed to draw something? I don’t own the gallery, I didn’t put it on the window, I didn’t even know it was going to be on the window until I got there.

But it looks like, with your drawings of women, you think there are lines that can be crossed.

I’m not a woman, just like I would never draw openly gay people graphically, with things that hurt them, because I don’t think it’s up to me to be able to do that in this area. I am female artists on Instagram who show extremely violent things that happen to women. That’s their place, but I don’t think I necessarily have that right.

You keep saying it doesn’t make sense and it’s just a drawing, but it’s just drawings too.

It’s just my personal placement. You can go to therapy and you can listen to my session and some bullshit, but like, there’s no deep reasoning other than my respect and knowledge of my placement on this. Without making it seem like it’s more than it is, but that’s why I put lines on it. And I don’t necessarily think the other side needs a line.

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