this artist’s rendering of donald trump with a flaccid penis went viral

Art provocateur Judith Bernstein on why she continues to actively campaign against Trump, and her reasons against making a series on the recent scandal around Harvey Weinstein.

by Lara Monro
16 April 2018, 10:52am

Art Judith Bernstein

Judith Bernstein has been advocating female empowerment and anti-war activism through her politically charged and often phallic art since the late 60s. The artist’s voice travels loudly through her visceral canvases, which continue to emulate her unapologetically bold and outspoken opinions on gender politics, sexual aggression and warfare. She’s been deemed one of the most provocative feminist artists of her generation. “My focus has always been the artwork, and wherever it takes me,” she tells i-D. Each of Bernstein’s series document her rage at injustice. From the Vietnam war to Trump's recent appointment as President of the United States, her work navigates through social, cultural and political critique married with provocation and humour.

“My work is autobiographical, and for the last 50+ years it has been the connection between the political and the sexual -- which is at the core of what I am about. It is a focus on my rage at injustice. I’ve been committed to all my series from 1966 to the present, starting with Fuck Vietnam, Screws, Signature, Birth of the Universe, and my Anti-Trump Series: Cabinet of Horrors and Money Shot. Whatever my response has been, it is nowhere as horrendous as the issues I am dealing with.”

For years, the mainstream art establishment avoided Bernstein and her work. Her iconic horizontal and vertical motifs of an anthropomorphised screw are, an amalgamation of sex, anti-war, and feminism” . In 1974 a work taken from this series was censored for its obscenity in the exhibition FOCUS: Women’s Work--American Art in 1974. According to Bernstein “Many were apprehensive, because sexual and political work has always been a hard sell. Thankfully the censoring of my work caused a stir with artists, collectors, dealers, writers, and museum professionals, who demanded my inclusion.” While Bernstein acknowledges the positive change in attitudes towards the advocacy of women in the arts and the importance of equality, like many, she feels we are only at the beginning of a long campaign; “Women have made gains nationally and internationally in the workforce. We are just getting started, and all fields still need equity. Artwork made by women commands much less money, is in fewer major collections, and is featured in fewer museum and gallery exhibitions.”

More recently, Bernstein has been recognised for her representation of Trump. The series Money Shot includes large scale canvases that offer up the President spread-eagle, with a flaccid penis for a face that is branded with the swastika. She explains, “We’ve gone from Obama to Trump. I am showing Trump for what he is: a fool, a monster, a jester, a sexist, a racist. Donald Trump is a con artist, using the white house as his own personal cash machine.” While Bernstein continues to unveil her political convictions on male figures such as Trump, she has no interest in creating work on figures such as Weinstein and his unforgiving attitudes towards women. “I am dealing with Cockmen in larger arenas -- insecure Megalomaniacs, people with the kill-switch. There are many different issues, and each artist and generation has to find their voice. My screaming anti-Trump series Money Shot addresses what is now at stake. The times are more complex, with life-threatening international issues like cyber hacking, global warming, and nuclear annihilation. We have a totally incompetent president and a White House that is in disarray, allowing for Russia, North Korea, and others to exploit us.”

As Bernstein continues to enjoy her daily routine of waking up, going to the studio and “starting in”, she is grateful to the institutions and organisations such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Studio Voltaire and the Hall Art Foundation who have shown, bought and supported her work. As she exclaims: “What a privilege!”

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