Instagram Disables Artist’s Account of Disturbing Politician Portraits

We can't look away.

Phillip Kremer, Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Phillip Kremer, Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of the artist.

You might find them disturbing, but you also might be unable to turn your eyes away from Houston artist Phillip Kremer’s grotesque, distorted portraits of politicians like Donald J. Trump, Ben Carson, and Bernie Sanders.

In what seems like a potential case of censorship, the artist’s Instagram account was disabled as of late last week. Houston Public Media has asked whether Kremer’s lampooning images of presidential candidates could be the reason. It’s not the first time; Kremer told the Houston Chronicle that his account had been suspended in 2015 as well.

“I have never gotten a warning,” he tells Houston Public Media. “It’s not that I won’t adhere to their policies, it’s just that I can’t find the policy that I’m breaking to adhere to.”

Instagram did not immediately respond to artnet News’ request for comment, though the social media company’s Gabe Madway did tell Houston Public Media on Monday that “Although I’m not allowed to comment on individual accounts, I can tell you that the depictions of Donald Trump had nothing to do with the account being removed.”

Phillip Kremer, <em>Ted Cruz</em>. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Phillip Kremer, Ted Cruz. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In one image of the New York real estate magnate, nearly the entire face is taken over by a shouting mouth.

In an image of Ted Cruz, the Texas senator’s eyes are replaced with black dots, as if in a child’s drawing; an image of a gun, from a poster hanging on a wall behind him, points directly at his head.

In what we’re pretty sure is a head shot of Ben Carson, meanwhile, the brain surgeon’s entire face is a blank expanse of featureless flesh.

Phillip Kremer, <em>Ben Carson</em>. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Phillip Kremer, Ben Carson. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The disturbing images could be interpreted as one citizen’s way of distorting the faces of those who distort facts for political gain.

It’s not just Republicans who come in for the Kremer treatment, however. A chilling image of Bernie Sanders superimposes duplications of the Vermont senator’s mouth over his eyes, creating a Linder-esque portrait of hunger and desire.

Asked via email about his artistic inspiration, Kremer cited Francis Bacon, his brother Paul Kremer, who’s also an artist and the one behind the hilarious Great Art in Ugly Rooms, and fellow Houstonian Mark Flood.

Phillip Kremer, <em>Bernie Sanders</em>. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Phillip Kremer, Bernie Sanders. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“I’m just tired of seeing their boring faces and wanted something fun to look at instead,” Kremer added. “People are using my distortions (without my permission) to illustrate their articles, blogs, tweets, grams, and that’s fine by me. If it makes someone smile, then good.”

Kremer, who has no artistic training, once told the Houston Chronicle that he started distorting images of faces that he found online until they made him “feel uncomfortable in ways I can’t describe.” While he declined to say just how he creates the images, he did let on that it’s with a phone app and not Photoshop.

You can still find the artist’s work on his Tumblr.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, Instagram has not contacted artnet News, but they have been busy at the delete button; Paul Kremer tells us that Instagram has removed a post that consisted of a screenshot of the author’s tweet about the present article.


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