There’s a new MAGA artist in town.
It’s Lena Ruseva, whose phantasmagorical portraits of the former president imagine him in a variety of mystical and historical situations, including as a Roman emperor, a pharaoh, meditating in the robes of a Buddhist monk, and a warlord astride a bear. Her collection is called “Trump: Parallel Universe.” And it has attracted the attention of bigwigs in the MAGA universe.
Take the piece-de-la-resistance, the one before which Bernie Kerik posed: “The Expulsion from the White House.”
It’s something out of a quaalude MAGA fever dream. The work depicts Trump as an avenging angel – toga, wings, and flaming sword – casting an Adam and Eve-esque Biden and Kamala out of the edenic White House and off into the darkness.
In another Ruseva masterpiece, Trump’s divinity is more explicit. Inspired by Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” she portrays Trump as an astronaut reaching out his finger of god to a green alien. It is titled “Star Peace.” Trump is no mere tribune of the American electorate. He is a deity with a divine right to the Oval Office – and to the galaxy.
Ruseva, an aspiring muralist, takes that approach to the canvas, resulting in a vaguely defined landscape and human subjects who are either the victims of pituitary dysfunction or misplaced satire.
Let’s move on to another notable work in Ruseva’s collection: Trump as Santa.
In this depiction, we have the former president fulfilling the role of saintly gift-giver, only to be thwarted by a grinch-like Joe Biden, absconding with votes. The color palette is typical of Christmas painting, a tired arrangement that doesn’t inspire much apart from the bizarre scene its used to convey. Perplexingly, Ruseva strikes a note of incoherence here: Why is Santa-Trump so helpless? Why does he stand with his arms open, looking on as Grinch-Biden sneaks away with the election results?
It’s in the dogs and cigars, however, that Ruseva’s ouvre really hits its stride.
Ruseva doesn’t depict Trump directly, here, but it’s all MAGA. Veterans can commission her to paint a large dog in their own uniform smoking a cigar of their choice. In this world, the painting screams, men are men. And, they’re dogs too.
In a Tuesday interview, Ruseva gave TPM some insight into her art, saying that “99 percent of my clients are gentlemen.”
She got her start in the painting business only recently, after her boyfriend posted on Facebook a painting she gave him as a gift of a smoking lion in a tuxedo.
“I started to get tons of requests from men who like cigars, who love hunting, so I discovered my target audience,” she said. “And so I started to paint as professional artist for people who love cigars or hunting.”
But it’s about more than just cigars. Ruseva, a Russian immigrant, sees the paintings as a way to commune spiritually with those Americans who regard the Biden administration as hell-bent on a Putin-style takeover. Rhetoric that Biden’s economic agenda is a step towards Soviet-style communism – and that the 2020 election was decided by Putin-style fraud – resonates with her, and in her art.
Take the “expulsion” of Biden and Kamala. Ruseva described it to TPM as the “deportation of Biden and Kamala out of White House,” likening it to a “biblical mural.”
Apart from the “expulsion” of Biden and Kamala, Ruseva’s Trump: Parallel Universe collection features him riding a shark and as the Statute of Liberty, holding a book titled “How to Serve Democrats.”
Ruseva’s stab at the political led her to the cigar aficionados at New York City’s Republican party.
Bernie Kerik, the ex-con, Giuliani associate, and former Iraq interior minister, was the first “big name” to reply to an invitation to Ruseva’s October 2021 exhibition, she said. Kerik introduced her to Sean Spicer and Andrew Giuliani, Ruseva said, and even sent photos of her work to Trump himself.
Boris Epshteyn, a co-host of Steve Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic podcast, even bought a painting at an October showing at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Republican Club.
Ruseva had initially partnered with the New York Young Republican Club to find a venue, but she said that a mixture of violent anti-Trump threats, unwillingness to book, and high prices meant that nobody in the five boroughs would give her a place.
Ruseva addressed the difficulty in a post that linked towards a Trump portrait called “Anti-terror.” It features Trump strangling a bearded man wearing a baseball hat that says “terror” on it – another triumph for the Donald.
But at Ruseva’s exhibition, Kerik himself struck a darker tone.
He said that he came to support Ruseva because he believed that New York City’s art galleries had unfairly cancelled her. She “shouldn’t have gone to three or four different venues, she shouldn’t have been thrown out of different venues because of her opinions, because of her art,” Kerik told the crowd, according to a clip posted on YouTube.
He added that Ruseva, a former resident of the USSR, had a lot to teach Americans about history and that Joe Biden was only President thanks to Republican legislators “who didn’t have the courage to stand up and not certify those votes.”
Kerik added that he “took a bunch of photos” of Ruseva’s paintings.
“I want to make sure the President sees them,” he added, to thunderous applause.