Compton Creep is watching his back.
One of the Portland artist's illustrations recently went viral—a graphic illustration of President Trump with a knife to this throat and blood spewing from his neck. Creep—who declined to share his given name—had already sold the image on a few hundred T-shirts for about a year. But late in July, a blown-up version of the image was displayed in the window of One Grand Gallery on East Burnside Street, as part of a show called Fuck You, Mr. President.
A few days after the show opened, the image spread through social media and provoked national vitriol, including coverage from niche conservative blogs that alleged Creep was advocating Trump's assassination. One Grand Gallery's Facebook and Yelp pages, along with Creep's Instagram, were shut down due to a flood of angry comments.
The image has since been removed from the window, along with the rest of the art in exhibit. But Creep says the death threats haven't stopped. WW talked to Creep about the intentions behind the drawing, or lack thereof, and why he believes it's been misinterpreted.
WW: What kind of things have people been saying to you?
Compton Creep: It's weird to say the typical death threat but just "Watch your back, we're going to find you. I know where you live, I know where your mom lives," which, they don't know any of that shit. It's just gotten silly as fuck, truthfully—that people care that much about a drawing to attempt to threaten someone's life.
You said you initially just thought the illustration would look cool on a T-shirt, but did you want people to think or feel anything in particular when they saw it?
I wanted to annoy people, yeah. But I'm not showing up at people's house, like, "Look at my shit." It's a T-shirt. There's plenty of offensive T-shirts out there, and I'm a decently offensive person.
What's your intention with your other drawings?
My stuff is hypersexual, sometimes hyperviolent. "Oh shit"—I like that factor, but not like an enraged "Fuck!" It's like girls tied up in a consensual, sexual way. But most of them are done from images working with the person whose images those are. So it's hypersexual but nonaggresive but can be viewed as aggressive, and that's the line I like.
What was the intent with the Trump drawing?
There was literally no thought process at all. I drew it knowing it was offensive. I literally didn't think shit. I just drew a fucking drawing. I wasn't angry when I drew it, I wasn't happy when I drew it, I don't even really remember when I drew it. There's literally nothing behind it. I didn't even think about it being offensive, straight up. I just drew it. I waited a year to post it.
But you did say you knew it was offensive.
Well, he's getting his head cut off. Maybe that was the misinterpretation, that people think I was calling for something to happen, and I don't give a fuck. I have one [illustration] that says, "Fuck cops." It's not asking anyone to go out and do anything, it's just like, I don't like cops. Those are all meant to stir up a little bit, but it's not meant to stomp anything in anybody's brain.
Would you have done anything different with the Trump illustration?
No, not at all. I literally don't even give a fuck about that drawing. I probably wouldn't have posted it again on my Instagram. If all these people didn't fucking freak out about it and didn't try to fuck around with my existence personally, I wouldn't be like, "Well, now I'm going to put it on my website." I feel like you have to defend yourself when so many people are attacking you without aggressively talking shit.
The people who are angry but who are not making death threats, do you think they're being defensive, too?
I have no problem with people getting upset to the degree of like, "That's just not tasteful." People are upset. That's fine. Tell me my art sucks, I got a bunch of those. That doesn't affect me whatsoever. But I think you're missing something in your psyche if you go from viewing an image online—these people didn't even see the image themselves, they saw it in a new article, and those are the messages I'm getting from like Florida and shit—I think that just shows how much disconnect you have, like across the country you're telling them you're going to kill them.
Do you feel like you crossed a line at all?
What possible line could I have crossed for drawing something? I don't own the gallery, I didn't put it on the window, I didn't even know it was going to be on the window until I got there.
But it sounds like, with your drawings of women, you do think there are lines that can be crossed.
I'm not a female, just like I would never draw people that are openly gay in a graphic way, with things harming them, because I don't think that is my place to be able to do that in that matter. I follow female artists on Instagram who show extremely violent things happening to women. That's their place, but I don't think I necessarily have that right.
You keep saying it's meaningless and it's just a drawing, but those are just drawings, too.
That's just my personal placement. You can go into therapy and you can listen to my session and some shit, but like, there's no deep reasoning other than my respect and knowledge of my placement of that. Without it making it sound like it's more than it is, but that's my reason for putting lines with that. And I don't think necessarily that the other side needs a line.