Donald Trump’s July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in 2020 will likely go down as a lasting symbol of his chaotic four years in office in several ways. The massive fireworks display was criticized as dangerous due to wildfire risk, and gathering so many people during a pandemic also drew ire. There were also protests from Native American groups due to the troubled history of the monument carved into sacred ground for local tribes. It’s all a mess.
One of the funnier anecdotes from that saga, though, was a report last August that South Dakota governor Kristi Noem gave Trump a replica of Mount Rushmore with his own head added to the group of presidents depicted. That came on the heels of reports that Trump actually reached out about adding himself to the monument, as stark a moment of hubris that came during his presidency if there ever was one.
And as it turns out, those reports were, indeed, correct. The Daily Beast did the legwork here, actually tracking down a photo of the replica that you really need to see to believe.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s strange gift to Donald Trump has never been seen. Until now. https://t.co/L5ZvoY1PSa
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) September 5, 2021
The piece reveals that not one, but three models of the modified Mount Rushmore exist, with two going to “donors” who helped fund its creation. The sculpting process is detailed as well, and it’s not a surprise the two people who worked on the model — Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby — are Trump supporters who were thrilled to work on it for the now-former president.
Employing what’s known as “lost wax” casting, an ancient process that uses a clay model, hot wax and molten bronze, the duo grafted a bust of Trump in a suit and tie onto the mini-Rushmore.
Three copies were created, Leuning and Treeby revealed recently, with one going to Trump, and the other two to the unidentified donors—the names of whom are unknown even to them.
The pieces are “bookshelf-sized,” Leuning told the Daily Beast—27 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 8-1/2 inches deep.
Everyone involved was apparently asked to remain quiet about their involvement, which is probably why we haven’t seen photos of Trump grafted onto another work of art until now. But the sculptors were told that he “loved” the piece because, well, of course he did. And the sculptors are really big fans of Mount Rushmore in general, which despite its many troubled ties to racism doesn’t seem to bother them as much as the fact that they didn’t get an invite to last summer’s fireworks spectacular.
“We’re working artists,” Leuning said. “We’re prostitutes for art. We do art for money.”
They said they have only one regret about their involvement with the Trump replica: They were not present when Noem gave it to him before the speech.
“We weren’t invited,” Leuning said. “We were told he loved it.”
The only real mystery left here is who funded the creation of the Trump-addled Mount Rushmore, as Noem’s office has been adamant that it cost just $1,100 and was paid for by private donors. But there are three of them out there somewhere. And it would certainly be something to stumble upon a bookshelf-sized Mount Trumpmore at someone’s home.
[via The Daily Beast]