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Edel Rodriguez, the artist who draws Trump to fight him

April 10, 2023 10:55 AM


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Edel Rodriguez's striking, at times controversial, illustrations of Donald Trump have graced the covers of major publications like Time and Der Spiegel -- and with the indictment of the former president, the artist is back at it.

The Cuban American's latest illustration set for the next edition of Time will run next week in the United States, but it's already been released and shared millions of times.

It features a stark black background on which a fingerprint spirals outwards from the howling mouth of the Republican mogul.

"He's caught in a storm of his own making," Rodriguez says of Trump, speaking from his Victorian home in a bucolic corner of New Jersey.

The image is far from his most controversial: in early 2017, to criticize Trump's decree targeting immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, he published a cover with the German magazine Der Spiegel that showed the then-American president brandishing a knife and holding the bloody, decapitated head of the statue of liberty.

Anti-Trump demonstrators deployed the image at their rallies, but it triggered outrage from some politicians and opinion writers.

- Responsibility versus 'neutrality' -

The 51-year-old artist who left Cuba as a child says his images are intended to stir something in viewers in the face of dangers to democracy.

Rodriguez also does not impose the duty of "neutrality" on himself.

"I understand that you have to maintain a certain neutrality," he says, sitting among a smattering of his illustrations, including on the covers of The New Yorker and the French review America.

"But you always have to ask yourself when is the neutrality going too far, and I felt that being neutral with Trump in 2016 was not the right thing to do, because I could see what was coming."

Rodriguez has depicted Trump like a meteor about to smash Earth, or a child sitting atop a missile with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

And like other artists, he has also depicted Trump with symbols of the Ku Klux Klan, particularly when the 45th president failed to condemn white supremacist activists who attacked anti-racism demonstrators in Charlottesville in 2017.

Per Rodriguez, the January 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol building by Trump supporters lent credence to the notion that danger was brewing and neutrality was moot.

"We were this close to a coup," he says.

Rodriguez's own story feeds his work: as a nine-year-old he fled Fidel Castro's Cuba with his parents.

In a comic book to be published this fall, he recounts his experience with "dictatorship" and the Mariel boat lift of 1980 in which he migrated to Florida, which saw a mass exodus of Cubans.

Rodriguez feels that Trump brought out the worst in people, creating an image of the United States that contrasted with his own experience: "I know how good the people in this country are," he says.

He says he draws inspiration from his family and Cuba but also the work of Picasso, Matisse, or Paul Klee.

In drawing Trump, he uses recurring visual codes, like orange skin, bright yellow hair, an open, yelling mouth, and a lack of eyes.

"These covers that I create don't normalize (him) and they show him as who he is," Rodriguez said.



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