By Suzanne Sproul, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin 10/12/2016
Female artists have spent their careers tackling societal topics — even taking the present tumultuous presidential race to heart, diving head-first into the discussion of social and political issues.
One of those efforts — “Embedded Messages, Debating the Dream: Truth, Justice and the American Way” — opens Tuesday in timely fashion at the University of Redlands’ Pepper Art Gallery. The show will continue through Nov. 12.
Featuring Sally Edelstein, Karen Gutfreund, Penny Mateer, Sinan Revell, Debra Thompson, Linda Vallejo and Margi Weir, these art activists take on many of the issues being talked today — racism, sexism, poverty, the environment and violence. The collective goal, according to curator/artist Karen Gutfreund, is to press for awareness and ultimately social change.
“We’ve been trying to put this together for years, trying to fine-tune and add voices to the subject matter,” said Gutfreund, who has curated similar shows along with women-only exhibits. She sent out exhibition proposals throughout the country, and the U of R accepted.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. An exhibit like this could take 18 months to two years to develop. This particular idea has taken longer, but the timing before our next election couldn’t be better. It’s a coup d’état,” she said.
With titles such as “Bedtime Stories, Sweet Dreams,” “The Whole World is Blind,” “We Are All Targets” and simply “Justice,” the works deal with timely subject matter, but certainly not new issues. Though the exhibit and the 2016 election come about at the same time, it’s not about the election, she said. “This is work we focused on in our careers that is directed toward social justice issues in the United States and elsewhere and how artists react.”
Thompson agreed. “I think a lot of this art comes from people who have dedicated much of their art career to social-political art, work that is more communication- and message-driven revolving around issues that are pertinent to society over sustainable periods of time.”
The pieces, she said, don’t aim at trying to change opinions. “There are different ways to look at things and that’s important. What we are trying to do is teach people to see the arguments and the outcomes of the choices they’ve made.”
Personally, she hopes the exhibit enlightens and encourages people to adopt other points of view — or to at least be open to them.
Some of the works are direct, others aren’t. “That’s where the title of the exhibit came from. The one thing that runs throughout is that all the artists’ works are layered. We may deliver our messages differently. The viewers can draw their own conclusions,” said Gutfreund.
As for Vallejo, she uses book arts and sculpture. Her “Justice” piece depicts the familiar figure of blind justice but one painted brown. Her “Make ’em All Mexican” series takes bits of Americana and depicts them as Mexican in hopes of drawing attention to a lack of “brown” heroes and role models, according to a synopsis of her work.
Fellow artist Weir works with large-scale installations of vinyl and print while addressing such topics as immigration, inner city life and gun violence. Her work, “We Are All Targets,” resembles just that — a black and white target of images.
Included in the discussion will be journalist and political art activist Charles Krause of Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art of Washington, D.C. He will introduce the show and offer an historical context of political art and its effectiveness in implementing change. Krause will be the guest speaker during a reception 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. His talk will be at 5:15 p.m., and the artists also will attend.
The works seek to ask viewers about the state of this country/world and whether or not the American Dream still exists, according to Thompson.
“Redlands is sort of the start, where we can test drive the process of sending this message and we’ll see where we can go from here,” she said.
Source: Visual Arts