It'd been about three years since Cleveland artist Stephen Manka came across a cache of more than 2,000 metal dildos, and he hadn't quite yet hit on the right idea for how to use them.
Solid copper, the dongs were decades old and someone — he won't divulge the source, who prefers to remain separate from their eventual use — had offered them up.
"They are vintage molds, positives of the molding process for creating dongs," Manka said. "This is my guess, but I envision that these were on the assembly line, dipped into a mold, and then removed, and then other materials were cast to make solid dongs. So, straight from a dildo manufacturing process. And there are just so many different ones. They were dusty, some were gnarly looking, and they range from outrageous veiny bastards to more decorate ones. There are some butt plugs in there too. It's a real mix."
As the Trump presidency went on, Manka struck on the idea of using them to create Trump's face. The urgency grew as this election cycle started to heat up. So he bought them from the anonymous source and projected Trump's face down on the ground of his studio and set about, over the course of a week, the process of creating the portrait.
It took some effort to create the right shadow effects through careful consideration of dong length, density and shape, and hours on a catwalk installed over the space so that Manka could place each dong by hand without knocking anything over, but the end result is unmistakably perfect.
Manka is hoping to take the temporary, horizontal installation on the road. He's launched a Kickstarter to help fund an effort to make the portrait something permanent that could go vertical and travel on the campaign trail. Short of that, he's considering ways to fasten the dildos and create panels so that the installation could be installed in public horizontally — on a street or parking lot — and viewed from a perch above.
"I don't know if Trump supporters will like it or whether it would change anyone's mind," he said. "Maybe someone would look at it and think, 'Yeah, this guy is a dick and I'm a dick for helping him win.'"
For now, it exists in the studio, and Manka continues thinking not only about the possibility of getting it in front of voters but also the short time frame in which he'd have to make that happen.
"I wonder what a successful public display would be," he said. "Some kind of presence along the trail — there's a debate here, and that's good chance. But with it being horizontal, all you can see up close is something like a futuristic city of towers, this field of dongs."
This story was originally published by our sister paper The Cleveland Scene