First it was the inflatable chicken just outside the White House. Now it’s a giant Trump Rat balloon, which is towering over the green at Dupont Circle, just a short hop north of the White House. It will remain in place for two days.
At first, it just looks like a parody of Donald Trump. Until you get to the teeth. They jut out of the mouth of the #LiarInChief, mimicking a rodent’s nasty face, to remind us that Trump is very much a rat.
The oh so apropos hot air balloon is 15 feet tall and was created by New York gallery owner John Post Lee. Lee said he was moved to help create the inflatable insult just after The Donald was elected last November. When asked about the timing, he answered, “Probably when my Ambien ran out.”
A self-described humanist, Lee says, “My values are those that many people share.” Those values are wanting a federal government that protects, rather than takes away people’s rights, a government that is interested in actually doing something about our crumbling infrastructure instead of just talking about it, and ending war profiteering,
Originally from Philadelphia, Lee has been a resident of New York for 35 years and is well acquainted with Donald Trump as a public figure. His description of the real estate developer turned reality star is cutting and to the point: “For those of us who lived through New York in the ‘80s, Trump was no more than a sleazy, mean-spirited real estate developer that we were all wise [to]. …He represented a vulgar, tawdry opulence, stylewise – the Gilded Age dictator-in-exile eclectic modernism.”
In other words, Las Vegas brothel, only not as classy.
Now, Lee views Trump as a “toxic existential” threat.
For the past 25 years, Lee has run the BravinLee Programs gallery in Chelsea. Despite having always been interested in politics, he and his wife have kept a low profile in political matters and for the most part eschewed featuring obviously political art. However, the election of Donald Trump, which he describes as a “debacle,” moved him to take action.
“I wanted to do something meaningful, and also something cathartic to help myself,” Lee says. “This is what I know — I know how to help artists make things.”
He contacted New York-based artist Jeffrey Beebe, and they began work on coming up with a sketch for a rat-faced Donald Trump: “like an early Walt Disney character but more snouty,” Lee said. Renderings of the work-in-progress can be seen in the sourced Washington Post article.
Once they got just the look they were after, they launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $10,000 to get the balloon made. Hundreds of backers pitched in and once the money was in place, Team Trump Rat hired Ohio-based Inflatable Images to manufacture Trump Rat to spec.
Two weeks ago, the hot air Trump Rat debuted outside of Trump Tower and, according to Lee, garnered a lot of vocal support as well as some colorful personal insults.
Lee emphasizes that Trump Rat is not a symbol of hate or anger. Rather, Lee says it is a satirical commentary on the man he calls “the ridiculer in chief” – a man who exploits racism and science denial to gain political advantage.
“I’m trying to hold a mirror up to how this person behaves,” Lee says, “as a character portrait of the man.”
When asked what message he would have for a member of the current administration who just might cross paths with Trump Rat, Lee answered, “I would ask a member of his administration, ‘Have you no decency sir?’ Because this is not about partisanship. This is about decency.”
In closing, Lee promises that “As long as Trump is in office, Trump Rat lives.”