Trump's wall US side-1

t.Rutt’s wall near Jacumba Hot Springs (all photos courtesy the artists)

The beginnings of a wall with Trump’s name on it have emerged along the US-Mexico border, but it is not likely what the presumptive Republican nominee has in mind. Last week, art collective t. Rutt erected the 52-cinder block structure near Jacumba Hot Springs, California, a mere 20 yards away from an official, looming border fence, to contemplate the economic effects of restricting immigration from Mexico. If the collective’s name sounds familiar, you may remember them as David Gleeson and Mary Mihelic, the pair who transformed a former Trump campaign bus into a mobile protest work that they’ve been driving around the country since last year.

This latest, static piece features a curious collage, marrying a Trump campaign sign with an assortment of fruits and vegetables, among other seemingly random objects. It is, as the artists told Hyperallergic, “about what would happen to the US if all the immigrants were stopped at the border and Trump truly deported 11 million people back to Mexico.

Trump's wall Mexican side

The side of the wall facing Mexico (click to enlarge)

“The US side of the wall is made from materials that symbolize how our lifestyle in the US would be impacted,” they wrote in an email. “For example, dead flowers represent how the flower industry would be affected, rotting fruit and vegetables symbolize the agricultural impact that would have on the country; and rakes, hoses, and toilet bowl brushes represent the effect on landscaping and American households.”

Contrasting with this heavily adorned surface is the Mexican side of the wall, which simply presents the naked surface of blocks painted fluorescent yellow — the color of road warning signs — accompanied by a scattering of cacti.

“That color symbolizes everything from ‘don’t get run over by what’s coming down the road’ to peaceful protest — ‘please come over and engage with us about Trump,’” the artists said, adding that the cinderblocks hint at the interiors of detention centers.

And in a gesture that highlights the absurdity of Trump’s demand that the Mexican president pay for the wall he envisions, t. Rutt has mailed Enrique Peña Nieto an invoice for this portion of the wall — construction of which amounts to $14,635.42.

“On behalf of the good citizens of the United States, we submit this invoice for prompt payment for work completed to date on the Trump wall,” reads the document, which tallies the cost of everything from material to the annual US land usage fee per square foot to maintenance fees.

Unlike most site-specific Trump protest art, which tends to be short-lived — see the Central Park Trump tombstone or Plastic Jesus’ “No Trump” street signs — this one is likely here to remain indefinitely by the border. The spot was what t.Rutt describes as “a gift” from the landowner, David Landman, who actually holds over 200 acres of the desert town (including a nudist resort that he personally frequents). The couple came across the location while on the road in their bus and called up Landman, who granted them permission to erect the wall and said he plans on leaving it up “forever”  — despite the fact, according to the New York Times, he is a registered Republican who will likely vote for Trump.

“We didn’t know the landowner was voting for Trump until we read that in the New York Times,” t.Rutt told Hyperallergic. “It’s wonderful that through this art even the sort of brutal divisiveness that Donald Trump is creating can hopefully be bridged as the country tries to find its way into the future.”

Gleeson and Mihelic envision the wall as an open-to-all collaboration, hoping that other artists will visit it and add their own creations so it stands as an ever-shifting artwork. So know that while public parks and streets are essentially off-limits to your reactions of frustration at this election, there is one very visible plot of real estate in the outskirts of California that will welcome your micropenis drawings, menstrala portraits, and other creative antics.


t.Rutt’s wall near Jacumba Hot Springs

side view

t.Rutt’s wall near Jacumba Hot Springs

Trump's all US side detail-1

The side of the wall facing the United States

fence one

The official wall that runs near t.Rutt’s own wall


The official wall that runs near t.Rutt’s own wall

mailing letter in Tuscon-1

Mihelic mailing off the invoice for the wall in Tuscon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

11 replies on “Artists Start to Build Trump’s Border Wall, Using Anti-Trump Art”

  1. Very creative, but I have a real problem with the US impact of blocking and deporting Mexican and Central American migrants being stereotypically reduced to agriculture, janitorial work and gardening. The problem with these policies isn’t that US citizens will not have anyone to clean their toilets! I’m too far away to add things myself, but I’d want faces of actual people, of families broken up, friends separated, and all the Mexican and Central American restaurants, the abundant music, the cultural richness lost. Framing the loss as just a lack of low wage services for USers is offensive. Gotta deepen the message!

  2. I see the insults on both sides of the wall and overall, but no door for those who want to legally enter the US.
    Walls are not for stopping immigration, they are for identifying those who enter, their dreams, aspirations and willingness to understand and adopt the US culture.

    1. “Walls are not for stopping immigration”? I do believe that’s exactly what they are for.

      1. Well, you’re wrong.
        Your fence, if you have one, is not to keep your daughter from getting married, or to prevent your son from joining a socker team and from inviting friends over for a party.
        The Vatican’s wall is not to keep people out, whatever their faith is.

        1. Indeed, you are correct: this is true for fences. Now, however, we’re discussing a wall. Such as in the old Berlin wall, the even older Great Wall of China – or the many, many walls that are currently being constructed around Europe with the very specific purpose of keeping people out.

          Not trying to be arrogant or nitpicky here, but let’s be real about the purpose of this wall.

          1. Fences, walls, even barricades have an expressed purpose.
            Hadrian’s wall, China’s were meant to limit aggression and smuggling, not friendship.
            The Berlin Wall was a leftist device, to keep western ideas out and oppression in.
            I’ve been there. I’m an old anti-Communist hunger strike protester.
            (meaning that I hurt myself to get the attention of the media, not to kill anyone)

  3. The current wall — over 700-miles long — is not Trump’s wall, but belongs to previous presidents. Obama has deported more refugees from Central America, mostly women and children asylum seekers, than any other president. How about an Obama’s wall? Ignorant politics make for bad art.

  4. An irony to consider: Whatever presidents were in office when the pictured walls were erected, they have the cobbled together look of the ones put around junkyards. Trump’s says his wall “will be beautiful” and, based on the height and length, very expensive. Which means, as a federal building project, shouldn’t the “percent for the arts” apply? Which would be big money for some artist(s). Could t.Rutt apply?

  5. It all sounds very artsy and lovely to defend the uncontrolled illegal immigration in to the U.S. but the reality is something else. I am not opposed to legal immigration from Latin America. In 2004 the cost of illegal immigration from Latin America to the State of California was over 10 billion dollars. This was the cost for education, health care, and incarceration. That number has probably increased to about 25 billion per year in 2016. Not to mention the cost of diseases spread in our vegetable and fruit farms from giardia to salmonella. I know this sounds harsh to liberals but sometimes one has to face reality.

  6. Well, bless their hearts, maybe the local community theater can use their artistic talents.

  7. 14000 for building THAT? What Mexicans are getting paid 13900 for slapping up some cinder blocks? Surely these good people intend to redistribute that wealth back into the immigrant community. White privilege

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