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Sam Gilliam, “Coffee Thyme” (1980), color oil crayon on paper (© Sam Gilliam, Courtesy Steven Andersen, Vermillion Editions, Ltd.)

Before reading the rest of this report, take a moment to consider Sam Gilliam’s “Coffee Thyme” (1980), featured above. Does it strike you as a legitimate piece of fine art? Your answer to this question may indicate your political inclinations, according to a new study.

A poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress, in partnership with the left-leaning research company YouGov Blue, found that people who approve of Gilliam’s drawing are more likely to oppose President Donald Trump, while those who don’t are more likely to support the Republican president. The poll surveyed 1,100 respondents who were shown an image of Gilliam’s drawing without any further identification.

Polling on political preferences has traditionally relied on variables of race, ethnicity, age, gender, or possession of a college degree. The new poll might have been the first to attempt to find a correlation between support for the President and a respondent’s taste in art.

According to a report by Vox, the newfangled “Coffee Thyme Gap” between Trump supporters and opponents is larger than the “college degree gap” in polls. Among respondents who think “Coffee Thyme” is legitimate art, Trump’s approval rate is at 36%, whereas among college graduates he’s at 45%. Self-described Republicans in the poll who “somewhat disapprove” of the drawing register as Trump skeptics.

Data for Progress intentionally chose Gilliam’s colorful drawing to test a personality trait called “openness to experience,” Vox reported. According to the report, the pollsters predicted that people who score high on this test are more likely to belong to the left side of the political spectrum.

In an email to Hyperallergic, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which owns the drawing, asked to clarify that “Coffee Thyme” is not a finished work but rather “a preliminary study for an editioned print series.” Gilliam, who’s now 85-year-old, is a leading figure of the third wave of Color Field painting. His work has gained renewed interest in the past year: a long-term exhibition of his works is now open at Dia: Beacon; and prior to that, an exhibition at The FLAG Art Foundation in Chelsea, New York showed new paintings he’d made.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

11 replies on “Can This Sam Gilliam Drawing Reveal Your Opinion of Trump?”

  1. Who cares about Trump.
    This obsession with him [and CC for that matter] is mindless, recalls Gustave le Bon and George Mackay on “madness of crowds”.
    People have too much time on their hands!
    He’ll be gone soon, become a minor footnote to history.
    People should try thinking for themselves.
    Or take a long walk through a forest with their favourite parrot.
    And enough change case they stumble on a Good Coffee.
    Which rules out most US forests!

  2. It’s color field painting.
    Formalism.
    Dated.
    I’m ‘meh’ about it.
    So, I’m supposed to be a republican but I’m instead a socialist. The metrics for this exercise are off, their idea of “the left” ends with liberalism.

  3. Wow, has there been a Hyperallergic/Pop Sugar merger that I had not heard about? The decision to run this inane article, in my opinion, reflects very poorly on the entire editorial staff.Having a particular set of standards by which we make judgements about the kind of art that we respect equals an openness to racial bigotry, overt misogyny and self serving narcissism? I don’t think so! I certainly would have expected better from Hyperallergic. Very disappointing!

  4. There’s definitely a correlation between massaging test results to prove your supposition and the amount of publicity you want for your useless conclusion. And yourself, of course. Hate the doodle and hate the pseudo-prez.

  5. My reaction was also ‘Meh’. The drawing is offhand and careless, and I believe it will appear that way to most of the people who view it. It’s not all that significant one way or another. The 45% approval rating given by college graduates appears not to register ‘openness to experience’ but schoolishness: college graduates are better at sensing what they’re _supposed_ to think — because this is both trained and tested for at the college stage of the education system. The main objection of this category of persons to Trump seems to be not that he runs the country badly, but that he violates ‘norms’. It’s certainly not his warmongering or his favoring the interests of the rich, which they also took from the Clintons and Obama without much objection.

  6. The study is art if it was done by an 8 year old and is taped to the parents’ fridge. Passing a study for finished (and very fine work from what I saw in the link) art, pretty much negates whatever point was trying to be made. What bothers me most is that the tank’s flawed survey probably made them tons of money from some feckless group with money to push their agenda. As someone who despises Trump and his supporters, this is as infantile as anything I expect from the Right.

  7. Conservative people tend to have more conservative views of what art should be. Yeah. I get it. What a shocker! This is drivel. Within a week you’ve posted inane pieces about Trump. Enough already.

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