26 Famous Figures Given Small Penises in New Portrait SeriesRolling Stone — Michael Stahl
Tiny penises may soon be trending.
On Wednesday, the painter Illma Gore unveiled the first of what will be 26 depictions of political and cultural figures, both contemporary and historic, ranging from international terrorists to saints to superheroes. The roster includes Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Richard Spencer and Osama Bin Laden, along with Darth Vader, Superman, Albert Einstein, Pope Benedict XVI and Jesus Christ. There’s just one catch — they’re all being painted nude, with extremely tiny penises.
Small-genitalia portraiture is a familiar dive into controversial waters for Gore — she is, after all, best known for her portrait of a naked Donald Trump sporting a tiny penis, which went viral in February 2016. After posting the Trump piece on Facebook, she was banned from the site and publicly accused by some of body shaming the eventual president, including actress Amber Tamblyn. In the aftermath, Gore also said she was anonymously threatened with legal actions, held captive in an Uber, received death threats and was punched in the face by a Trump supporter.
Nonplussed, shortly after posting the first new portrait, that of a nude Kim Jong Un, Gore said in a text to Rolling Stone, “Let’s see if I get banned before I can put more up.”
But this time, Gore’s mission is to get a message about masculinity across more clearly. She tells Rolling Stone that the response to the Trump portrait became “disheartening,” because the furor over it proved to her that our cultural bias against modestly sized male genitalia — that small penises somehow determine a man’s value — is holding firm. To help ensure her disapproval of this perspective is more accurately understood with this new batch of work, Gore, 26, is offering an explanation of sorts up front, in the form of a written apology to the president.
“I am sincerely sorry for the role I played in the criticism of your body,” a portion of the statement on Gore’s website reads. “You, as a human being, do not deserve to be judged by fictional ideas of your body by anyone. … Your body, whatever it looks like and is capable of, does not define the job you do or your ability to do that job well.”
Gore, a gay, female Australian-American artist living in Los Angeles, is not being sarcastic, though there’s certainly an underlying irony.
“A lot of the stuff this administration has done is simply disgusting,” she tells Rolling Stone, but the original micro-penis portrait of the president was an experiment that had little to do with her personal feelings toward the then-GOP presidential candidate. With that piece, Gore had set out to show a female friend of hers that she held a bias against small penises — something her friend didn’t believe to be true. Gore painted the body of a male friend of hers, but put the sneering Trump mug in place of her model’s face because, Gore says, whether “you love him or you dislike him … Trump is someone who elicits a reaction.”
When Gore showed a sketch of the work to her female friend, “of course she immediately laughed,” Gore recalls. When she then asked her friend why she’d responded to it that way, the friend replied: “Because it’s funny; he has a small dick.”
“That’s exactly the bias that we hold,” Gore tells Rolling Stone.
In other words: Judge men not by their bulges, but by the content of their character.
In reflecting upon the original Trump portrait, Gore regrets ignoring her personal ideology about the human form when she knew some people would ridicule him. “The idea that the perception of your body would shape the way you interact with the world is really fucked up,” she tells Rolling Stone.
Still, Gore is releasing more portraits of men with tiny members in tandem with the apology to Trump. “In order to dismantle prejudice and stereotypes we must confront our biases head on,” she says as justification.
Gore chose the 26 new subjects because they, too, garner strong reactions from viewers, and people will bring their pre-determined perceptions of them into their interpretations of the nude portraits. If Superman becomes less heroic with a micro-penis, Einstein becomes less smart, Jesus becomes less chivalrous, or if Kanye West’s unhinged behavior and David Duke’s racism somehow make more sense if they have small schlongs, well, that’s on the viewer.
Since her controversial entrance into the art world, Gore’s been eager to paint more portraits of men like this, but only recently began to feel that the timing was right. “Tiny penises should have representation — naked women do!” she says. But in the wake of the Trump-piece controversy, Gore “didn’t want it to be, ‘Oh look, now it’s the tiny penis parade.’” If at that time she’d continued to release similar paintings, Gore adds, her message could have become even more misconstrued, emerging as a general middle finger to men in power, Facebook and her critics. “I love ‘fuck the establishment,’ but … I didn’t want [the art] to be for any other reason than what I believed in,” Gore says.
And the same point can be made about how the heavyset people in the portraits are received. If some think she’s body-shaming her subjects, “then that is a reflection of their own self,” Gore asserts. “It depends on the individual’s own standard of what is ‘bad’” in terms of body shape.
In short, Gore doesn’t want anyone to be judged solely by their bodies, or body parts — not even the president, who she says has actually led her to believe in democracy more since his election.
Admitting that she comes from a relatively “privileged standpoint” as a white person, she says, “To even have a person like this elected, democracy has to work, and we know democracy is strong because it has stopped most of Trump’s authoritarian moves.”
But Gore also wishes a commitment to American values from out of the White House would be a bit more apparent. “Artwork is not a guide to human decency and morality. That’s what the government is supposed to be,” her statement says in closing.