By Sue Edwards.
A one day site-specific art event was held on Sunday 4th July, 2010, at Mill of Menie near Balmedie – the home of Michael and Sheila Forbes.
The exhibition took place in the granite steading of the Forbes’s farm, watched over by a magnificent Highland pony stallion and a white goose nested on top of a hay bale. Despite stormy weather and rain before the event, visitor numbers to the exhibition were impressive from noon until sunset.
The artist, David McCue, was prompted to create his magnificent artworks to explore the issues and emotions surrounding the threatened compulsory purchase of homes and farmland for the creation of a golf resort and housing development planned by the New York businessman, Donald Trump.
David told Aberdeen Voice, “I began this art project because I wanted to reach my own conclusion and discover for myself the truth about the social issues fed to the general public by the media, local government and Trump Organisation.”
Aberdeenshire Council has been asked by Trump to use its powers of compulsory purchase to obtain land currently owned by others. The Council has consistently refused to give assurances to families that they will not follow this course of action, causing residents continued stress and worry.
Three families living in the properties under threat have refused to be bought out of their homes and land. Despite Trump’s “derisory offers”, the families concerned have made it plain that they have no intention of giving up their homes and lifestyle in Menie at any cost. The developer’s reaction to this opposition to his plans has been to make insulting and false statements about the residents, including calling Michael Forbes a “village idiot” and his farm “a slum”.
The group Tripping Up Trump (TUT) has been campaigning against Trump’s plans and has recently acquired some of Michael Forbes’s land. Already 7,000 people, including Local Hero film producer David Puttnam, have taken up TUT’s offer to own a piece of ‘The Bunker’ in an effort to protect the families from the threat of compulsory purchase.
Describing how he set up the exhibition and the problems he faced, David said, “I found it very disturbing to experience at first hand the psychological tactics of the Trump Organisation. I was stopped by the police, who visited the farm every day I was there. The security presence was intrusive as were the bulldozers and the flags marking out Trump’s site. I experienced the pain of the local people who feel let down by local government and hurt by unfair and inaccurate comments about the condition of their homes.”
The exhibition itself was entered through a large marquee, just inside which a large putting game was laid out, consisting of a ramp with retaining walls forming a large US dollar sign. At the top of the ramp was a statue – the head of Donald Trump – his mouth forming the target for golf balls, in an aggressive pose characteristic of his TV persona.
Inside the dark steading where the main artworks were on display, the impact of seven large, dramatic and spotlit oil paintings was stunning. Trump in all his vaingloriousness! The first painting had been created on a canvas covered in dollar bills, those still visible through the image of Trump in one of his hackneyed poses – stern-faced, offering a two-fingered salute to the viewer. The second, Trump Stakes, showed him leering, slitty-eyed, over a display of raw, red steaks, caricaturing a photo from his website, his hands, face and tie splattered with excess red paint, as if it was blood. His ”You’re fired!” stance from his TV show was next, followed by an Andy Warhol-esque painting of a madman with mad sticking-out hair. Many people said that if Trump himself saw the portraits he would feel flattered and would want to own them as he would be unable to see the irony in them!
Three oil paintings of Michael Forbes himself and a truly lifelike crayon drawing of his wife Sheila faced the Trump paintings, offering viewers some sort of visual normality.
The artist was quite clear in describing his purpose. “The paintings work best as a series. Confrontationally placing the paintings of Trump directly opposite those of Michael and Sheila Forbes created a dialogue between them and the multi-faceted aspects of the images together produced more than any single work”.
Back in the marquee, David had framed and hung a series of letters from people all over the world showing support for Michael and his family. “Stick to your guns man, I’m proud of you,” said one. Finally, visitors were offered a fine spread of soup, sandwiches and fancy pieces, devoured over enthusiastic conversation, debate and discussion, before reluctantly leaving what was truly an exceptional exhibition.
The struggle continues. To find out more about TUT, visit the Tripping up Trump website.