Duo cash in on their no­to­ri­ety by lam­poon­ing another con­tro­ver­sial head of state

Bangkok Post - - ART - By Cather­ine Tri­om­phe

They shot to fame in 2015 with a por­trait of Vladimir Putin made of bul­let shells from the killing fields of east­ern Ukraine. Now, the two Ukrainian artists are back with a por­trait of Don­ald Trump made from coins and poker chips. Threats forced Daria Marchenko, 35, and Daniel Green, 34, to leave their home­land in Novem­ber 2016. They now lead an itin­er­ant life, trav­el­ing and ex­hibit­ing their work in the United States and Latin Amer­ica.

The Trump por­trait, fin­ished one month ago, is made of nearly 4,000 one cent and five-cent pieces. Poker chips are used for the US pres­i­dent’s shoul­ders.

The artists are now search­ing for a place for a pub­lic un­veil­ing.

As with their Face of War por­trait of the Rus­sian leader, the Trump ver­sion, called Face of Money plays in the light re­veal­ing dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sions. Marchenko’s favourite? The one in which “he is very proud of him­self,” she says in New York.

They came up with the idea of the enor­mous por­trait − 2.4 me­ters by 1.7 me­ters − last sum­mer when Mr Putin or­dered the United States to re­duce its diplo­matic foot­print in Rus­sia by 755 em­ploy­ees.

Mr Trump re­sponded by thank­ing Mr Putin, say­ing it would al­low the US to cut down its pay­roll and “save a lot of money”.

“I thought, ‘oh my God, you are so cheap, how can you be Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’?” says Green. “At that mo­ment, I thought coins is the best way to show his por­trait.”

The duo de­lib­er­ately chose one-cent and five­cent pieces, the small­est de­nom­i­na­tions of US cur­rency, to il­lus­trate their point, Green ex­plains.

Coins dark­ened with fire are used for the pupils, eye­brows and to em­pha­sise the chin.

The poker chips are a nod to the casi­nos the bil­lion­aire once ran in At­lantic City, New Jersey

− but also, in Green’s words, to his brand of in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy.

“He does in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics like he’s play­ing. Some­times he wins, some­times he loses big,” says the artist.

Green sin­gles out t he US pres­i­dent’s an­nounce­ment in De­cem­ber that he was recog­nis­ing Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, and pre­par­ing to re­lo­cate the US em­bassy from Tel Aviv.

“When only eight coun­tries fol­low you, it shows Amer­ica has lost all power,” he says.

The artists left Ukraine fol­low­ing the back­lash over their Putin por­trait, and af­ter a kid­nap at­tempt against Marchenko.

“We had threats by email. When you are walk­ing on the street, some­body comes to you and tells you some­thing,” says Marchenko, her dread­locks tucked into a beanie.

“Mostly not di­rect threats but ‘Guys, don’t hurry to create ... be in a hurry to leave,’” she car­ries on. “We be­came tired of this. Morally it was very dif­fi­cult. So we left.”

But the Trump por­trait isn’t mak­ing things eas­ier for them.

They of­fered it for ex­hi­bi­tion at New York’s Ukrainian Art In­sti­tute of Amer­ica, which is al­ready ex­hibit­ing their work on Putin and the war in Ukraine.

The in­sti­tute how­ever was re­luc­tant “to make waves,” between Kiev and Wash­ing­ton, Green said.

The artists now hope to show the Putin and Trump por­traits to­gether, per­haps in Las Ve­gas or San Fran­cisco. “They will be face-to-face, they will have a di­a­logue,” says Marchenko dryly.

She and Green, who both took part in the pro-Euro­pean up­ris­ing of 2013-14, now con­sider them­selves po­lit­i­cal refugees without a fixed home, trav­el­ling around the United States and to Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries at the in­vi­ta­tion of bene­fac­tors.

Their next project is a por­trait of Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, even if that could com­pli­cate their re­turn one day to Ukraine, Marchenko says.

For Mr Poroshenko’s por­trait, the artists may use choco­late wrap­pers - a ref­er­ence to the choco­late com­pany where he made his for­tune.

SMALL CHANGE: ‘The Face of Money’, a por­trait of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump which was made of coins and poker chips, on dis­play in the artist’s stu­dio in Kiev, Ukraine.

DOU­BLE ACT: Artists Daria Marchenko and Daniel Green pose for a por­trait in New York.

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