The latest exhibition to open at the Alliance for the Arts is an artistic commentary on the state of politics in our nation today. Titled State of Mind: Politics 2012, the paintings, photographs, collages, mixed media works and sculpture that went on view last night provide a glimpse into the political zeitgeist of the local art community. And while the crowd at yesterday’s opening reception was festive, the mood expressed by the artworks was somber, at best.
Largely missing from the 77 works included in the exhibition were positive, upbeat messages about the current state or future outlook of our country. Instead, the show was dominated by works critical of everything from the presidential candidates to Wall Street, a dysfunctional Congress and perceived media bias.
Sherry Lynn Diaz’s mixed media woman’s torso with a circular red “no” symbol stamped on its pubis, My Choice Not Yours, was critical of recent attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights. Kiki Brewsaugh’s No Compromise commented on both parties’ unyielding refusal to reach across the partisan aisle in order to pass critical legislation. And Steve Conley’s four-part cartoon, Mo Money – Mo Money, expressed exasperation with all the taxpayer funds spent on rescues, bail outs and stimulus measures over the past four years.
But the one work that perhaps best summed up what’s on the mind of most of today’s electorate is Daniel Venditti’s mixed media work, The Burden. It depicts a middle class Atlas holding up a bleak and barren world dominated by Wall Street on the one hand and a forbidding manufacturing plant on the other. And at the center of this dark and dreary world are two faceless white executives attired in dark suits.
“People seem to connect with it almost immediately,” Venditti said of The Burden Friday night shortly after Alliance Director Lydia Black announced that the jurors had unanimously awarded The Burden Best of Show.
“Atlas, of course, symbolizes the middle class,” whose lives bear the brunt of a present and future encumbered by decisions made by anonymous financiers and business leaders who have their own, and not necessarily the country’s, best interests at heart.
“It starts at birth and continues until death,” Venditti observed, pointing to metaphorical imagery within the composition, noting that the middle class feels generally powerless to change the outcome. “Everyone’s courting the middle class, but we’re left to wonder if anyone really will help.”
Hence, the allegorical reference to Atlas and the mythological precept that whoever accepts the burden must carry it forever – or at least until someone else takes it away.
Danielle Branchaud received second place for her acrylic Control (Resistance to Bias), and Paul Rodino was awarded third for a rare positive message, Love is Love, a homage to President Obama’s recent assertion of support for same sex marriage and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Carrie DeMay and David Hatchett received juror’s choice awards for their works, Shining a Light on the Darkness of Greed and Filet-O-Maid (Pink & Tasty), respectively.
State of Mind: Politics 2012 will remain on view in the Alliance’s main gallery through November 7, 2012.
The Alliance for the Arts proudly supports artists and arts organizations in our area as the state-designated Local Arts Agency for Lee County. The Alliance’s 10-acre campus and galleries are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The Alliance is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard, just south of Colonial Boulevard. To become a member, please visit http://www.artinlee.org/JoinUs/membership.html or call 239-939-2787.