A Brooklyn-based, 30-something performance artist who claims to have conceived, commissioned and planted the Donald Trump tombstone that stood in Central Park for a few hours on Easter Sunday morning spoke with us on the condition of anonymity on Friday, insisting that he/she was by no stretch playing an April Fools joke on us. The artist, X (he/she asked that we not disclose his/her gender for fear of identification, so we'll use the gender-neutral pronoun "ze" moving forward), said that ze wanted to set the record straight on the concept—a "political satire and a guerrilla art piece"—and denounce a narrative that X says "right wing publications" are propagating, that the tombstone was planted as a death threat.
Soon after the stone was removed from Central Park, around 9:00 a.m. last Sunday, ABC reported that it was "unclear" whether the Secret Service had gotten involved, much less whether the agency considered the tomb a death threat. They did, however, speak to a Secret Service spokesman ("We're not going to comment on protective procedures or protective knowledge like that").
"For a day or two I was staring out my windows seeing if someone was tracking me," X said on Friday. "I want to make [the truth] known so that I don't get pulled into a van and questioned and interrogated. I watch a lot of movies."
X said that it took 5 months to plan for and execute the headstone, which depicts Trump's name over the epitaph "Made America Hate Again."
The project is tentatively called the Legacy Stone, and the timing, Easter Sunday, was apparently intentional. "It's the day Jesus was resurrected, and the point is to have [Trump] remember his legacy," X said. "There are some poetic ties."
"I've seen a lot of different pieces in the art world come out about [Trump], but I thought they were surface level in a way," X added, calling out Hanksy's Dump Trump likeness in particular. According to X, the tombstone was meant to hit Trump on an existential level. "I was trying to find a way where I could literally connect to Donald and say, 'Wake up man,'" X said. "I was trying to get him to understand what he would be remembered for at this point." Asked if X was intentionally mimicking Ebeneezer Scrooge's moment of reckoning in A Christmas Carol, X laughed and said ze was not but, "You're not the first person to mention that to me."
X said that the stone was purchased from a tombstone shop in the New York City Metropolitan Area. The cross and flowers had apparently been carved into the stone in the 1970s, and Trump's name, birthdate and epitaph were carved for this project, on commission (X is not a stonecutter). The engraving took a month and was financed, according to X, by "collectors and backers" who have "supported me in the past" and don't necessarily have a "political motivation." The stone apparently weighed a thousand pounds, meaning it took "a lot of effort" to get it into place.
As for the logistics of the project, X claims to have rented a moving van with a lift gate around 2:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday. X and four accomplices loaded the stone into the van, and drove to the edge of Central Park, arriving around 4:00 a.m. (X asked that the make of the van and the parking location be withheld, citing the possibility of identification by security camera). Central Park was a logical location for the stone for two reasons, X said—beyond its proximity to Trump Tower, "Central Park" is a Trump trademark.
The group allegedly lowered the stone to the ground and mounted it on to a refrigerator dolly with two wheels and straps so that X could roll it into the park. "I stopped quite a bit," X recalled, clarifying that the group stuck to paved pathways because the stone was so heavy. "It was a very labor intensive process, but I had people telling me the coast was clear."
X clarified that the four accomplices had walkie talkies, and that the only other people they saw in the park that morning were a few joggers, none of whom stopped to ask questions. The stone was finally planted around 5:30, on the north side of Sheepshead Meadow near Tavern On The Green. X says the spot was selected during a scouting trip, since the fence nearby had already been broken once and wired back together—X used wire cutters to snap it open.
Once the stone was planted, X says that the group left the park to return the moving van. X then headed back to the park alone to "watch from a distance and see how long it was going to stay, and see the response."
"I thought it would be up longer," X said, of the tombstone's Sunday morning removal. X claims to have been in the park, nearby, around 9:00 a.m., watching as the stone was removed. As of this week, X has no idea where the tombstone is.
"NYC Parks removed the tombstone shortly after it was discovered Sunday," a spokeswoman for the department stated on Saturday. Parks has been monitoring the location since then, but deferred all questions about an investigation to the NYPD.
Reached for comment, a spokesman for the NYPD said that the stone was discovered by Central Park Conservancy personnel between 7:30 and 7:40 a.m. on Sunday March 27th, near the intersection of 72nd Street and Cross Drive. According to the NYPD, the tombstone was deemed a "political statement," and there is no further investigation underway. He suggested the Conservancy might know where the stone is, but a spokesperson for that group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
X wouldn't disclose a presidential candidate of choice on Friday, but did claim to be a registered independent. "I try to go with whoever is best serving the people," X said. "But I would say I'm leaning more towards the left."