Photo Essays

13 Artists Design Flags for the Age of Trump (with Plans to Burn Them Later)

The 14 flags reflect the fury and despair over Donald Trump’s presidency, but with some glimmers of hope. Here are a few of my favorites.

Installation view of Bleed&Burn: Catalytic Flag Making at the Soap Factory, Minneapolis (image courtesy the Soap Factory)

MINNEAPOLIS — Amid fury and despair over Donald Trump’s presidency, curators Alexa Horochowski and Crystal Quinn asked 13 artists to create their own flags. The only requirement was that they measure three by five feet, “the size of a standard American flag,” as Horochowski put it. The 14 flags (Horochowski and Quinn each also designed one) are on view in the exhibition Bleed&Burn: Catalytic Flag Making at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, but they will eventually be burned, after the show closes, and documented in a book put out by Beyond Repair. For now, I stopped by the gallery to check out the flags. Here are a few of my favorites.

Eunice Pitts, “Flag,” found flag, ink, canvas, thread (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

Eunice Pitts, “Flag”

Pitts hangs her American flag upside down, after having doused it in black ink. She pairs it with a white surrender flag with the message “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump, for those following along at home), lightly stitched into the cloth. Subtle? Not so much. But this piece is my favorite in the simplicity of its guttural rage.

Gudrun Lock, “All That is Solid Melts into Air,” mixed media

Gudrun Lock, “All That is Solid Melts into Air”

Even if this isn’t actual menstrual blood, it might as well be. Here Gudrun Lock waves the flag of surrender, but one that was not easily won. Perhaps another battle looms in the distance, at the next moon. Note the title comes from Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” but also resembles a speech by Prospero, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air

Oh, if only Trump were just an illusion!

Sarah Petersen, “Ante,” cotton

Sarah Petersen, “Ante”

Like several other artists in the show, Sarah Petersen takes on the white flag motif, in this case with a suggestion of the outline of the confederate flag. This flag looks as if it were slashed, despite the surrender, but there’s a lovely light that seeps in through the cracks, suggesting hope.

Crystal Quinn, “Pissing in the bath,” fabric, thread

Crystal Quinn, “Pissing in the bath”

Alluding to Trump’s alleged escapades in a Moscow hotel room, this flag provides a perfect metaphor for the country’s current predicament.

Channy Leaneagh, “Alt-Die,” canvas, gesso, India Ink, fabric, foil tape, thread & glue

Channy Leaneagh, “Alt-Die”

Channy Leaneagh’s participation in this exhibition was one of the things that intrigued me about it initially, because I’m a huge fan of the synthpop band Poliça, for whom she is the lead singer, and hadn’t been aware that she was a visual artist too. Like other flags in this exhibit, this piece reverberates raw emotion. With the American flag’s red stripe standing in for menstrual blood, the stars ripped at the female’s feet and dotting her nipples, the piece acts as a battle cry tuned to a female pitch. The “Alt-Die” title adds a nice mic-drop touch.

Katinka Galanos, “Flag project (untitled),” waterproofed canvas

Katinka Galanos, “Flag project (untitled)”

Credit goes to the curators for the placement of this flag, which offers a window to the exit sign. The flag hints at an emptiness to American patriotism, while also suggesting that there’s an escape if we look past the flag.

Geoffrey Hamerlinck and Katy Collier, “We invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart,” acrylic, screenprint, woodcut, applique, various fabrics, may or may not contain human hair

Geoffrey Hamerlinck and Katy Collier, “We invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart”

A KISS quilt flag? What’s more American than that?


Bleed&Burn: Catalytic Flag Making continues at the Soap Factory (514 2nd St SE, Minneapolis) through February 12. Each artist will burn their flag after the exhibition closes at the location of their choosing. 

Correction: A previous version of this article attributed a quote to Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale instead of The Tempest. This has been amended. 

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