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S.C. artist Ment Nelson inspired by Trump to produce absurdist critiques of "strange times"

"I feel it's the most relevant thing that I could paint right now."

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Ment Nelson, an artist based in Varnville, S.C., can't help but paint works inspired by current events. "One of my jobs is to document what is happening right now," he says. And what's happening right now is the era of President Donald Trump, a presidency marked by absurdity and too many tweets. Nelson captures the absurd in such striking portraits as "Ronald McDonald," which he posted on Instagram this morning after completing the piece in one sitting.

Nelson hails from Varnville, S.C. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Nelson hails from Varnville, S.C.
In case you haven't been following the drama of all things fast food and football national championship related, earlier this week president Trump served a lot of, well, fast food to Clemson football players to celebrate their national championship win.

As Trump put it: "I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamburgers etc. Within one hour, it was all gone. Great guys and big eaters!"

Nelson's "Ronald McDonald" watercolor is inspired by those "massive amounts" of fast food served in the White House. "It was a shocker for me," he laughs. "If I got an invitation to the White House, to a presidential dinner, I wouldn't think I'd get the same thing I got on the bus ride over."



"This is like a movie or something," says Nelson of life in America today. "It holds my attention. I feel it's the most relevant thing that I could paint right now."

An avid social media user on both Instagram and Twitter, Nelson's newsfeeds are constantly inundated — bombarded, if you will — with what's happening around the country, and the globe. And perhaps more coverage than necessary is spent exclusively on the crazy shit that happens at the White House.

"Current events are one of the most interesting things to pull inspiration from," says Nelson. "With social media and some of the technology we have access to now, we're seeing a lot of firsts." Nelson mentions Kanye West — another celebrity he's painted, famously wearing a MAGA hat — visiting the White House as being a part of the "strange times" we're in. (A cool "$1 million" for that Trump-Kanye joint, so he says.)

"I see humor in a lot of what's happening," says Nelson. "I put my personality in my work."


A full-time artist, Nelson says that he's currently focusing on what's right in front of him. Recent success, from a feature in the Post & Courier to being featured in a traveling Smithsonian exhibit seems promising for Nelson, but he's not one to rest on his laurels. He's actively painting every day, and he's looking for a space that's a little bigger, because those paintings are beginning to fill up a room in his parents' house.

"My creations will create room for me," says Nelson, who doesn't have any immediate plans to move out of his small hometown. After all, when he's not painting our president, Nelson is capturing really poignant moments of life in his town, in pieces like "Old Sheldon" and "We Got 8."

If the power of social media is any indication, location really doesn't matter when you're an artist trying to put your work into the world. As Nelson says, "What matters are your ideas and where your mind is. You've got people in prison and homeless people who can create the most incredible stuff."

Find all of Ment's work online at mentnelson.com.

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