Words: Erin Donnelly
Ivanka Trump has inspired a performance art piece at a Washington, D.C., gallery — and she’s not happy about it.
Artist Jennifer Rubell’s Ivanka Vacuuming installation at the Flashpoint Gallery features a blond model — a dead ringer for President Donald Trump’s daughter — in Stepford Wives mode as she cheerfully smiles while vacuuming up crumbs flung at her by gallery-goers.
“Inspired by a figure whose public persona incorporates an almost comically wide range of feminine identities — daughter, wife, mother, sister, model, working woman, blonde — Ivanka Vacuuming is simultaneously a visual celebration of a contemporary feminine icon; a portrait of our own relationship to that figure; and a questioning of our complicity in her role-playing,” a press release on the project reads.
“The public is invited to throw crumbs onto the carpet, watching as Ivanka elegantly vacuums up the mess, her smile never wavering. This process repeats itself for the entire duration of the performance.”
The piece has already prompted criticism from Trump supporters, with conservative outlet the Federalist accusing it of “oversexualising Ivanka’s body and ignoring her hard work.” Many, including her brothers, have accused it of reinforcing sexist stereotypes.
Sad, but not surprising to watch self professed “feminists” launching sexist attacks against @IvankaTrump. In their crazed world, sexism is OK if hurts their political enemies.
That's ok, they can go put on their stupid hats & she’ll get back to actually fighting for women. https://t.co/yxXIDz2R8e
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 5, 2019
Eric Trump lashed out at “leftists” and defended his sister as a “powerful woman who has done more for women than probably anybody in Washington, D.C.” during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Tuesday.
The first daughter herself has responded to the look-alike exhibit, tweeting this on Tuesday:
Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter. https://t.co/MFri4xKhNI
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) February 5, 2019
The first daughter’s followers have called her a “class act,” praising her for a “gracious and classy response.” One critic, however, shot back, “You are in service to a man who has done more to hurt the interests of women than ANY president in recent history. You, Ivanka, are a hypocrite.”
But Rubell has insisted that the piece isn’t an attack on Trump.
“Usually the qualities of feminism and femininity are seen in opposition,” Rubell told Refinery29. “Most women clearly lean toward one side or the other in their self-presentation. Something very interesting about Ivanka — her clothing line, too — is that it seems the goal is to achieve both of these qualities as part of the conversation. This is something women struggle with, and her conclusion is unusual and interesting.
“I’m most interested in the complications of the viewer; how they decide to engage with this feminine figure,” she added of the crumb-throwing element, which she said represented “the cheapness of our appreciation of her [and] her desire to clean things up.”
“What does it mean to either throw crumbs, or stand there watching other people throwing crumbs?” she said, adding, “ One thing [it] could say is that we’re all complicit in this dynamic and how it relates to feminism and femininity.”
Ivanka Vacuuming is on view until Feb. 17.
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