Death threats not deterring artist behind controversial Trump billboard
PHOENIX – Even though she is getting death threats, the artist behind a bold and controversial billboard that is decidedly critical of President Donald Trump is not backing down.
The Phoenix billboard features Trump’s face flanked by mushroom clouds and dollar signs evocative of swastikas. Right down to the Russian flag lapel pin Trump is sporting, artist Karen Fiorito’s message is not subtle and it’s shocking people not just here, but all over the world.
Reactions, naturally, are mixed.
One woman described the billboard on Grand Avenue between 10th and 11th avenues (Fillmore and Taylor streets) as “a horrible thing for people just to see in general.”
Another said she liked Fiorito’s creation but would have preferred it to be smaller, “not so much in everyone’s face.”
“As long as his tweets are going out to millions of people, how do you fight back?” asked a third.
Fiorito, who is based in Los Angles, said she often uses her paint for politics.
“There are people who say, ‘Well, it’s offensive,’ but the current administration, its policies, the people that are put in power are offensive to me,” she said unapologetically.
Fiorito, whose Twitter handle is @buddahcatpress, tweeted an image of what the billboard would look like on March 1 with the hashtags #WorkInProgess and #ComingSoon, among others.
She said the sign, which went up Friday, represents politics and money, dictatorship, the destruction of our planet and more.
“[T]he current administration, its policies, the people that are put in power are offensive to me.”
The outspoken artist said her email inbox and social media accounts were flooded with comments – good and bad – Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after the billboard was put in place.
Among those negative responses? Death threats.
“They want me to be so scared that I fear for my life, that I take the billboard down, that I don’t say anything again,” she said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Fiorito said the backlash was not unexpected. She has seen it with her past work, including signs about George W. Bush and a “Shox News” billboard parodying Fox News in Santa Monica in 2005.
“If you’re going to speak out and speak truth to power, you can have a backlash,” she said.
And that she certainly has.
“I think it’s a bad idea and is dividing the people,” one man said of the billboard, which is owned by a friend of Fiorito’s.
But it’s not just the front of the sign that Fiorito, who received her MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University, wants people to see. There’s another part, a message on the back. It’s the word unity in sign language.
She plans to keep the piece up for at least a year, if not through the end of Trump’s presidency.
Her other current public art project is a series of 12 billboards about California’s drought she created with another artist. “Got Drought” has been touring since 2015.
“Taking a break from social media and the news for personal reasons. More soon,” Fiorito posted on Facebook page Monday.