Art students use NEXT exhibit to address political issues

Kim Jong Un

Oil painting of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, by student Robert Yi.
*Photo courtesy of VOA

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Art students from D.C.’s Corcoran College of Art and Design presented their final art projects at the college museum, on display until May 19, many of which have a politically charged meaning.

The students’ artwork has been compiled into an exhibit called NEXT, the name symbolic of the students who will receive their degrees move on from the undergraduate art program in May.

Robert Yi, a student from South Korea, presented many paintings in the exhibit, including one of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

He explained his intended message to Voice of America:

“My paintings are called Mask paintings. And it’s the idea that, in society today, no matter where you are, people put on a mask,” he said. “That idea is expressed in North Korea because the people of North Korea, the citizens, put on a face…they’re required to act happy.”

Other students targeted different political issues.

Jason Tucker, a fine art photography major, sought to reflect his homosexual identity in his artwork by researching the meaning of derogatory terms for homosexual people.

“I started doing a lot of research into words that have a specific meaning within a gay male context, and so I started with the word ‘faggot,'” he said. “The root of the word comes down to ‘a bundle of sticks.’ So I started with that and wanted to make a self-portrait. So I ended up collecting my exact body weight in sticks…I wanted to take something that I’ve been called before, that was an epithet, and make something beautiful out of it.”

Read more about the D.C. students’ art exhibit here.

The art of destruction: Canadian artist brings provocative gun control piece to the streets of D.C.

Photo by The Washington Post photographer Mike DeBonis.

Photo by The Washington Post photographer Mike DeBonis.

A self-proclaimed walking paradox, artist Viktor Mitic is not afraid to destroy what he creates.

This last week, Mitic hit the streets of D.C., as well as a few local art exhibits, with his piece, entitled “Incident.” The work of art is simple- a small yellow school bus decorated with bullet holes from 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

At first glance, it resembles an unspeakable tragedy, at second glance, a provocative statement that needs to be made.

The “Incident” made its U.S. debut last weekend, as it was placed on the back of a tow truck and driven around downtown Washington, D.C, The Washington Post reported. Many onlookers interviewed by The Post were disturbed by the piece, and some were inquisitive about the artist’s technique.

Regardless of individual reactions, the “Incident” is proof that art is necessary, and is many times the most effective means of grabbing public attention and provoking civic engagement.

Mitic originally created the “Incident” in light of a case of gang violence in his home town of Toronto, but was asked to bring his piece to the U.S. this week to be shown at an art exhibit held at the First Congregational Church of Christ in NW D.C. entitled the “Newton Project: Art Targets Guns.”

The piece made its original debut at the Toronto International Art Fair in September 2012.

The exhibit will last until May 19 and was put together in order to illustrate the need for more restrictive gun laws after the Newtown tragedy, through art. 40 different works of art will be on display at the First Congregational Church of Christ.

Revered Sid Fowler of First Congregational Church of Christ said on the church’s events blog that he believes art can go farther than news reports and legislation.

“Art goes deep into our imaginations and hearts. We can experience what often is difficult to articulate in words.  God can call us, disturb us, and inspire us through the gifts and insights of art. Our hope is that many people will see the images these artists have created and inspire greater public support for effective laws that will restore hope to survivors of violence and to our communities.”

The piece was also on display for three days at George Mason University.  An opening discussion was held Monday and hosted by Helen Frederick, the University’s professor of printmaking in the School of Art. Mitic was invited to lead a discussion with students about the process of “Incident’s” creation, according to GMU’s Newsdesk.

Frederick told GMU’s Newsdeck that she believes Mitic wants to send a vivid message about the issues and dangers of guns in society. She hoped the display of the piece at GMU would not only provoke discussion, but also political awareness for students on campus.

“Mr. Mitic’s artwork provides an important and relevant project for our students, and I am confident that his discussion with our students will spark a dialogue about the gun control bills now in Congress.”

Although Mitic told The Post he refuses to think of himself as an activist, the statement made through this piece is clear, if only because of the intentions of the Newtown art exhibit in which it will be held this next month.

Despite claims of anti-activism, Mitic, at the very least, believes there is power in the usage of a weapon as an artist medium, as he has shot countless bullets through his artwork many times before.

For example, he created a series of pop art pictures this year of notable figures such as John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, and outlined them with bullet holes. The series will be on display this month in Toronto.

At the end of the day, Mitic is a tranquil artist, using a weapon as a medium in order to simply create an uncomfortable paradox. He wrote a book entitled “Art or War” and speaks of his artistic intentions on his website’s biography page.

“The uneasiness with which people perceive weapons, since they were made for one purpose only (to destroy something living) puts me in an unique position—I use weapons to re-create iconic images. I carefully shoot the outline of the subject painted to generate the feeling of tranquility.”

As illustrated in the gun-control movement after the Newtown shootings, discomfort, whether through art or national tragedy, may sadly, be the only way to ignite change today.

One Million Bones installation to speak for over a million stories

*Check out this video of a similar project (50,000 bones) in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2011 

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

An art installation made of one million bones is scheduled to be displayed at the National Mall in June; the goal is to make a minute but powerful representation of the people who have suffered from mass genocides and atrocities across the globe.

Photo courtesy of www.kearneyhub.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.kearneyhub.com

The One Million Bones project demonstrates the strength of art as a social call to action against injustices.

The bones, created by art students and teachers of Kearney High School, Horizon Middle School, Kearney Catholic and Sumner Public School, are ceramic.

Residents of central Nebraska were invited to participate in the project on April 6 at the Museum of Nebraska Art by molding bones themselves.

To learn more about the project, visit the project’s website. Read the full article here.

Local band to be featured at preventative assault and harassment fundraiser

Photo courtesy of Collective Action DC

Photo courtesy of Collective Action DC

By Nicole Lafond
Editor

The local D.C.-based quintet Siné Qua Non will perform live this Thursday at the Lights, Camera, (Collective) Action! Fundraiser at Room & Board on 14th Street.

The fundraiser will celebrate accomplishments made this year in preventing public sexual harassment and assault in the local community. The event will be hosted by Collective Action for Safe Spaces- a grassroots organization founded in 2009 to encourage the DC Metro area to prevent harassment and assault, according to the organization’s website.

Siné Qua Non, which means “an essential element or condition” in French, is an American jazz and Spanish classical guitar group that was named Jazz Artist of the Year in 2012 by Washington City Paper. They released their first CD, “Simple Pleasures,” in January of this year, according to the group’s blog.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $25. The event will feature mixes by DJ vANNIEty Kill and dancing, food and drinks, masseuses giving mini massages and a photobooth.

“Stop Telling Women to Smile” project aims at sexual harassment in D.C.

Photo courtesy of NYU News

Photo courtesy of NYU News

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Female artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh used her artwork, rather than her voice, to speak out against public sexual harassment in large cities including Washington, D.C. In the past few weeks, Fazlalizadeh has hung posters with sketched black and white portraits of women and an anti-harassment message printed near the bottom.

She targeted the areas where the message of her art would be most effective – in the places where she and others have faced harassment or locations with frequent foot traffic. Fazlalizadeh told the Washington Square News (WSN):

” To me, it made the most sense to create art in the street and in public spaces where this type of harassment is happening.’ “

Fazlalizadeh told WSN that her goal is to spur conversation about the harassment issue as well as publicize the thoughts and feelings of women who experience harassment:

” I’m hoping that those people will at least listen to and consider the experiences of women who do support this project, women who feel offended and violated by the treatment they receive on the street, and that a discussion about gender-based street harassment can be had.’ “

Fazlalizadeh is undeniably raising awareness about aggressive gestures toward women. Men and women alike have responded to the artist, both on the Internet and through handwritten notes on the posters.

Responses from viewers have varied from messages of affirmation and encouragement to defensive responses written on her art work, shown in photos of the posters on WSN. One comment read:

” A guy telling you to smile says to show the beauty they see in you.’ “

Another man wrote:

” Relax!!!!’ “

In an interview with Brian Lehrer, Fazlalizadeh responded to the men’s written comments, stating that these reactions confirm the reason she began this project. These responses were attempts to control women, as are the remarks of harassment on the streets: “I think that’s what the problem is – when someone comes in and tells you how to wear your face, or that they feel entitled to tell you how to wear your face.”

One particularly passionate reader, who went by the name “Realist,” claimed that Fazlalizadeh’s work suggests women should be suspicious of all men in a public setting.

He wrote in response to a post on Fast Company: “Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is teaching a whole new generation of young women to hate every man they ever come across because obviously they are all bad. Seems like the incongruous generalizations, stereotypes and sexism is the key to solving all problems. May no human being ever be friendly to another human being ever, unless they are of the same sex.”

Opposition doesn’t seem to affect Fazlalizadeh, though — she’s just glad that people are paying attention and thinking about her message. She wrote that she realizes the general public audience may not share her frustration or opinion about street harassment.

According to a post on her blog:

“A lot of people will not agree with this project. A lot of people, men AND women, will not understand it. And that’s okay. This project is not asking for there to be zero interaction between men and women in public spaces – it’s asking for the interaction to be respectful and safe.”

These reactions and discussions, whether they are positive or negative, may substantially change the nature of interactions on the streets. Men have become more aware of women’s thoughts and feelings, and Fazlalizadeh’s work has received attention from many blogs, talk shows and Internet forums.

One man, who called himself Marlon, left a comment on Fazlalizadeh’s blog and offered this encouragement:

” ‘Hi Tatyana, as a father, uncle [and] brother I respect your project keep up the great streetART work!’ “

One critique I would offer is that Fazlalizadeh’s non-verbal approach to advocate for change is a passive movement. If she truly wanted men to change their actions, wouldn’t she confront them in a more effective, demonstrative manner?

She seems to be aware of this flaw. She confessed that women typically don’t have the courage to speak out against their aggressors on the street, but the written messages on her posters represent oppressed female voices. She said the project conveys her thoughts and feelings of discomfort in an alternative form, speaking up for all women.

“So with this work, I wanted to say what I actually think when being hounded by men (though, they aren’t my exact thoughts because those usually include a lot of expletives),” she said in an interview with Stop Street Harassment.

Fazlalizadeh has opened her own online store featuring her sketches and caption on t-shirts. Her “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project will also be celebrated at a reception in Brooklyn on April 12.

[WC: 790]

“A Survivor’s Journey,” a Brookland mural

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Last Saturday, my peers and I ventured out to Brookland, a Washington, D.C. neighborhood known for its Catholic landmarks including the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, Catholic University and the Franciscan Monastery. Along the way, we couldn’t help but noticing a colorful, intriguing mural.

Photo by Lanie Rivera

Painted on the side of the Brookland Café building at 3740 12th Street N.E., the mural, titled “A Survivor’s Journey,” depicted an image of a controlling man with his hands on his hips, standing behind a blue-hued woman. She was covering her ears while her son looked up at her, seemingly trying to console her.

The focus of the mural, though, is the bright green-eyed woman, gazing into the distance with hope for the future.

Well-known D.C. mural artist Joel Bergner partnered with the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) an organization that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, to create the mural in 2010. The piece was made to honor the women who survived domestic violence.

According to Bergner, he interviewed various DASH employees and clients to infused each person’s story into the mural. The mural’s focus is the hopeful future of the woman and her child who are supported by women of all races and ethnicities.

Photo by Lanie Rivera

“They now look toward a brighter future with the support of family, friends, and a case worker and are joined by women of many backgrounds, showing that this issue is universal across race, ethnicity and nationality,” Bergner wrote on his blog.