ANDERSONVILLE — In the eight months since Donald Trump announced his intent to become the Republican presidential candidate, he has made plenty of shocking statements, whether he's calling Mexicans "rapists" and "drug dealers" or disparaging women like reporter Megyn Kelly and fellow contender Carly Fiorina.
But it was a statement by Trump two months into his campaign comparing himself to a vigilante hero that inspired Edgewater street artist and illustrator Jacob Thomas to begin his anti-Trump campaign.
"The first image came from a news story when he told some kid that he was Batman. I just had to illustrate that. That became the idea: This is funny. This is cracking me up. Keep making fun of him and making people laugh at him,'" said Thomas, who will open his first solo exhibit showcasing the work next month at Vignette Vignette, 5407 N. Clark St.
To see more of Jacob Thomas' work on Instagram click here.
Thomas, 38, grew up in Maryland as a fan of comic books, collecting them almost exclusively for the art, and as a self-professed "pop art nerd."
"Comic book art does more with less," he said, adding he was inspired by the creativity of Marvel illustrator Todd McFarlane and MAD magazine's political satire.
He spent about 11 years in New York, which inspired his street art and furthered his love of pop art.
"In Brooklyn, I used to go out and I would see a lot of street art that was sort of angry, tense, gritty and violent. I wanted to go against that, so I was doing a lot of heart-related type things. I did a kissing image and some comic book-inspired imagery to lighten the mood," he said.
When Thomas moved to Chicago, he was surprised by the lack of street art and aimed to change that by beautifying desolate spaces with his work.
Thomas decided to take aim at Trump after an image of the hot-tempered candidate as Batman appeared on the cover of a friend's magazine Haus Frau, a comedic photo-driven publication from Brooklyn.
With a positive response to the initial work, the Bat Trump, he was inspired to make more images depicting Trump as Richie Rich, Rich Uncle Money Bags (aka the Monopoly guy) and as an Andy Warhol-inspired Mao Zedong.
The images are posted on boarded-up buildings and construction sites across the city, including Uptown, and for several weeks, next to Cheetah Gym in Andersonville. The prints will be available for the first time when he opens the exhibit.
The gallery will feature 20 to 25 prints, the bulk of which will retail for less than $100, plus some unique prints that might cost a little more. The opening reception will be from 7-10 p.m. April 1, and the exhibit will run through April 24, according to the Degenerate Art Gallery website.
"We want the normal person to come in here and if they can’t buy a painting and they want to walk away with something, we have a print for them," Thomas said.
But one of the artist's most controversial images may not make it into the exhibit or ever be offered for sale. Thomas is on the fence about including his image of Trump as Adolf Hitler, which "seemed to strike a chord" — it got 150,000 views on Facebook, "which is about 148,000 more than normal for me," he said.
Despite its viral success, Thomas said the image might be "too obvious."
Though his latest work has been undeniably political, and he previously created street art during Barack Obama's campaign as well, Thomas doesn't consider himself "extremely political."
Rather, he said, his work stems from simply having "something to say."
Street art of Donald Trump depicted as Adolf Hitler. [Jacob Thomas]
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