The 2016 presidential election was one unlike any other in our lifetime. The political landscape changed so drastically, students were called to action with a small, but powerful juried exhibition. Represent opened in early February, just as unprecedented Executive Orders were signed. Fifteen College of Art and Design undergraduate students explored and dissected personal social and political narratives. The exhibition utilized portraiture as a way to represent such narratives within a larger political conversation. The show, on display in Raizes gallery in the Lunder Arts Center, was recognized by local press, and was even a cover story for the Metro Boston newspaper.
Mosheh Tucker King Mensa or King Vic
Jurors included Fine Arts Chair Associate Professor, Matthew Cherry, who spoke to the work and the current political climate in Metro Boston. “The more people we add to the table, we’re able to have expansive conversations,” he said. “If you’re excluding a person because of race, gender, sexuality, then you're excluding that diversity of thought.”
Students examined a range of topics including transgender harassment, female identity, Muslim discrimination, African-American representation, and self-imposed ignorance, among others. When asked to discuss their work, students professionally articulated their distinct experience and how it fits into the larger body politic.
As quoted in Metro Boston, Junior Fine Arts student Mosheh Tucker reveals of his painting, King Mensa or King Vic, “this piece is both a commentary on today's influential figures within the African-American community and the lack of Black and African imagery in classic paintings." He adds, "I tend to dive into my own subconscious when coming up with ideas for paintings."
Representation of all populations is important for an inclusive society. As Tucker describes, historically people of color, specifically; African or black individuals, were omitted from classic paintings. By including influential figures of the African-American community, Tucker has revised the conversation on race and allowed the space for these people to exist on canvas for others to see – elevating their representation.
Aria Carpenter, a Senior Fine Arts student, has decidedly included transgender people into this political conversation. Her work depicts “the sensation that my mouth is being pried open and peered into.” Her personal experience has helped shape her artmaking and form a powerful narrative.
“Instead of hellos and how-do-you-do, too often we are met with harassment and fetishization from even the most well-intentioned people. Rather than handshakes, we are probed with invasive and inappropriate queries like, ‘But what’s…down there?’ ‘So…did you get the surgery?’ Knowing that strangers think of my physiology as a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be cracked, or some sexual guessing game gives me the sensation that my mouth is being pried open and peered into as a crowd observes with dissociated glances. I sought to capture the fear and rage that I and so many other transgender people are forced to suppress on a daily basis.”
Linda Danison ’16 (BFA Illustration) was compelled right after the election to assert her support for those living in this country that may be targeted, and that she had no intention of leaving the country.
She states in Metro Boston, “I remember so many people on campus saying they were going to leave the country if Donald Trump was elected.”
“I felt strongly that I would not be scared out of my own country or home, a place where I have a right to be,” she said. “People should not be made to feel bullied during this scary time.” Her portrait in the show is of a young woman wearing a hijab with the words, “This is my home and you can't scare me” overlaying the image. Indeed, My Home III captures a woman strikingly commanding while holding the viewer’s gaze, as looking to the text becomes somewhat secondary. Her inclusiveness of such targeted populations garners a discussion of who exactly would be left behind if others chose to leave the country, or alternatively who would be forced out of their home.
Freshman Fine Arts student, Josephine Dougan, brought her work illustrating female gender identity into the discussion. Her piece questions exactly what makes a person female. Is it their reproductive organs or perhaps how society defines women? Dougan further explores how some may see women as only offspring-creating machines. “I decided to satirize this concept by crafting the ultimate mothering icon, that essentially renders the wearer sub-human in order to blatantly bring attention to the dissociation of the female identity and mother.” Dougan invites the viewer to look closer and ask what exactly makes a person feminine.
REPRESENT is on display until February 21, 2017 in Raizes Gallery in the Lunder Arts Center at 1801 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA. Join the conversation Friday, February 17, 2017, as nine students join each other for a panel discussion at 7:00 pm in the lower level of the Lunder Arts Center.
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