I had the honor of probing the mind of Jim Agpalza. He is an artist I first met at Bizarrocon in Portland, Oregon, years ago. You would not expect such visceral art from such a sweet, quiet, and soft spoken guy who almost seems to fade into the corners of a room. He is one of those people who listens more than he speaks. It is always the quiet ones that are the most trouble. His art is powerful and evocative. It elicits a gut reaction. I have always been a fan of his crisp visual style that is hyperreal and yet surreal, but when I saw some of his Trump caricatures, it was more than just enjoying something neat-looking. I felt such a rush of mixed emotions. These images make you laugh and cry, and whatever that manic dread in between is. Art should be transgressive. Art should piss you off. Art should make you cry and vomit and laugh like a maniac. In art, nothing is sacred and everything is permitted.
WARNING: This art is not for fragile snowflakes.
LEZA for CLASH: So you have all this art with Trump in various compromising positions. They are a bit on the grotesque side as well as satirical. Tell us about your art aesthetic and what prompted you to start doing these Trump images.
JIM: I refused to do a Trump piece during the whole election. Thinking the whole time that it would be useless to do one because Captain Orange wouldn’t win. How could he? Then on election day he won. I was wrong, I felt crushed, sad, and really fucking bitter, you know like all the libtards out there. As a person of color who has biracial kids, I became increasingly worried for the safety and future of my kids. Nothing in the news nor the continuing insane rhetoric from the President-elect alleviated my anxiety. What to do?
So on election night after my wife and kids went to bed I decided that I was gonna do a Trump illustration. Him with his shit-eating grin holding a Luger with his tiny hands to the head of a beat up brown person. And with the rejected TP logo in the background, it was done. I called it “America Welcomes A Nu Start”. It’s a heavy piece. It incapsulated the bitterness and anxiety I was feeling/still feeling.
The next piece would be my “The Trumpus: Winter is Coming”. Which entailed the Don as the Krampus. He’s naked holding a big sack with one hand with two refugee kids in it. The other hand holding a bundle of branches to beat the kids with. I felt I needed to lighten the mood a bit, and make him more ridiculous and less scary. Don’t get me wrong he’s still scary, but his thin skinned persona and utter contempt for the left and muslims along with his zombie horde of red caps begged to be made fun of. So I added Mike Pence standing behind him nude except for a tie, electrical tape x’s on his nipples and fishnet stockings and some high heels. After I was done with this one, I started to feel a little better, and less bitter.
There’s so much I can do! There’s so much material to pick from. His cabinet picks, his kids, his associates, his fans, his FACE and HAIR! His tiny hands in ALL of them. So much fodder, and 4-8 years of fear to draw from. It’s like an awesome Christmas gift that makes you laugh and cry and then kicks you in the brain right when you think you can get a handle on things. Wether people want to believe it or not, people like me are doing gods work. GODs WORK!
CLASH: Tell me a bit about your artistic history. What sorts of things first inspired you and do you think art has the power to shape culture. Can art be as powerful as politics?
JIM: Like all kids, I started life as an artist. It’s just a struggle to remain that way. What inspired me as a kid were monsters and super heroes. Then as I got older, monsters and super heroes were still there, but were pushed to the back burner and made way for boobs and genitals(of both genders). Art is so broad and expanses many areas of thought and philosophy and aesthetics. I just chose the gutter to dwell in, and with what the world seems to be moving into, I think it’s a perfect place to assess and judge it. Depending on wether people are drawn to and understand it, I think it is the perfect pulpit to shape the culture.
I don’t know if art can be as powerful as politics. My id says yes. Did Goyas May 3rd painting or Picasso’s Guernica do anything to ease the plight of those affected by war? No, not really. People became more aware of what had happened though. It might sway how people think and vote, but not much beyond that. I’m not lumping myself with these guys, or claim to have the same reach as them, but I gotta try. We all have to. Otherwise bullshit from evil people will keep happening.
CLASH: Now that Trump is the president of the united States do you think subversive art will suffer or thrive? What do you think the social impact of art can be in this new climate? Where is your head at, now that he’s won? What do you think of the massive protester turn out all over the world?
JIM: Subversive art will always thrive. Any art can be subversive. Some art will suffer though, but there’s so much art out there it’ll be like shooting a swarm of bees with a gun. Something’ll sneak into the subconscious of the populace and subvert something wether it be literature, visual art, music, TV, plays, something. I have hope in that. I hope mine won’t suffer though. I think it’s good, and needs to be seen.
Where’s my head now that Americas first king has been elected? I’m worried for my childrens future in this country. I had hoped, like many parents, that this country that I was born and raised in would give my kids a better opportunity than it gave me to follow their dreams. Now it seems even that hope is about to be dashed away by people who want to keep diversity in a choke-hold till it passes out into oblivion. I can’t let that happen, and many people feel that way. So I’m gonna keep fighting the way I know how, with art. I’m not articulate enough to say how fucked up everything is or is gonna be, but I can paint and draw it like a motherfucker, and it’s gonna be disturbing, bleak and funny. My hope is it’s going to put these selfish bastards under the microscope.
I think the massive protester turn out is fantastic. Already Trump’s first day is mired in disappointment from all over the globe. It’s fantastic! We need to do more. It’s gonna take a while. Keep fighting! (You probably shouldn’t but..)Punch/kick a Nazi-man in the dick! Take no shit.
Born on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Jim Agpalza now resides outside of Portland, Oregon, where he works as a cover artist, character designer and storyboard artist. He also teaches painting classes at various bars throughout Portland. He has a book out now written by Kevin Shamel and illustrated by Jim Agpalza called “Not Safe For Kids” you should get it. It’s GUARANTEED TO EMOTIONALLY FUCK UP YOUR KIDS.