Will Ivanka Trump’s role in her father’s administration merely leave crumbs for other women? Or will she be instrumental in draining — nay, vacuuming — the swamp?
A participatory performance art piece in Washington DC’s Flashpoint Gallery, “Ivanka Vacuums,” asks viewers to throw breadcrumbs at a tall, blonde woman, a doppelgänger for Ivanka Trump. The model, in a pastel bell-sleeved gown with elbow-bows and stilletos, vacuums up the crumbs endlessly in the work by noted artist Jennifer Rubell, of the ritzy Jewish Rubell family.
Trump and her brothers Eric and Don Jr. both responded critically.
“Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter,” Ivanka tweeted, including a link to a piece about the artwork. Don Jr. called it sexist, and both he and brother Eric trumpeted Ivanka’s connection to women’s issues.
A closer look at the artwork shows that it is neither sexist nor feminist, but rather an exploration of the role Ivanka’s femininity has played in her political life. Indeed, Rubell suggests that it is less of an indictment of Ivanka than of us, for our fascination with Ivanka.
“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,” reads a press release for the two-week instillation. And despite protests from Trump family members, Rubell told Refinery29 that she hopes the crumbs will represent “The cheapness of our appreciation of her. Her desire to clean things up…One thing [tossing the crumbs] could say is that we’re all complicit in this dynamic and how it relates to feminism and femininity.” She responded to Ivanka, inviting her to form her opinion in person:
Ivanka, I would encourage you to see the piece and form your own direct response. I would be happy to arrange for you to do it alone with none of the media circus that has formed around it. Not knocking anyone down. Exploring complicated subjects we all care about.— Jennifer Rubell (@jenniferrubell) February 5, 2019
“Art can offer a truth that politics can’t,” she said. “It can create a portrait of things that contradict each other. This is a great gift of art and a great defect of politics.”
“Ivanka Vacuums” runs through February 17.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny