Draw bridges: Trump inspires painting of Verrazano

Opening night: Artist Sam Messer stands in front of his massive painting of the Verrazano Bridge, on display at Bric House until Aug. 6.
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He’s creating connections.

A Bedford-Stuyvesant artist will discuss his Trump-inspired exhibition “Bridges” at a Fort Greene arts space on July 12. The show, on display at Bric Arts Media through Aug. 6, features paintings of almost every bridge in the five boroughs, and is meant to help people talk about bridging their political differences. The idea struck the painter while he attended New York City’s Women’s March in January.

“I took part in the women’s march and I made a sign that said, ‘Bridges not walls’ and I thought, ‘Actually, I’m just going to paint bridges,’ ” said Sam Messer. “It’s as simple as that.”

Messer’s original plan for his exhibit was to feature portraits of Brooklyn residents, but Trump’s unexpected win made him change course. He painted bridges across the city, including the Whitestone, Hellgate, 59th Street, Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges.

His depiction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the largest painting in the show, measuring more than 16 feet across. Messer chose to emphasize that span because it brings together conservative and liberal boroughs, and he hopes it will help create conversation between those with differing ideas.

“I realized that Staten Island is the one borough who actually voted for Trump, and I think a lot of the issues we have are people don’t talk to each other,” he said. “So I really thought it was important to have that bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn — it’s a very simple way of looking at bridging those two communities.”

The exhibition also screens a series of crudely animated cartoons that Messer made for each of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. Titled “Years of the Cock,” the videos portray Trump as half-human, half-rooster, and they detail whatever scandal emerged on that day, including the “alternative facts” comment and news about his campaign’s connections with Russia.

Messer realizes that his animations might offend some people, but hopes their placement next to the bridge paintings will make critics open to discussing their feelings.

“The animations can be cathartic for some people, and it will make other people rather mad because they may not agree,” he said. “I hope the bridges next to them will make them have bigger conversations, or be open to conversati­ons.”

Messer will also host a mass drawing session on July 17, and a musical collaboration of Vernon Reid on July 26

Sam Messer at Bric House (647 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene, July 12 at 8 pm. Free. Exhibit on display Tue–Sat, 10 am–6 pm through Aug. 6.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:57 pm, July 9, 2018
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