Election season is here again, and when words are just not enough, art is one way for people to express their opinions and ideas about social and political issues.
The Santa Cruz Art League (SCAL) is making this possible once again before it’s time to vote. SCAL celebrates visual and performing artists and makes the arts accessible to the community.
The “Visual Politics: Art and the American Experience” exhibition will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 25. This year, Visual Politics is judged by Maureen Davidson, who said she believes the artists’ pieces will share unique points of views about social and political issues.
“The artists do look at things in a different light,” Davidson said. “So in order to bring something to two-dimensions and have something powerful to say on a canvas is a process of distillation, which means it’s boiled down to its essence.”
Curated by Peter Selz, the “Visual Politics” exhibition began four years ago right before the 2008 presidential election. The exhibition is once again taking place before an election, as it is a time when people are thinking about big political and social issues. Artists sent their applications to Davidson and were chosen among many to be displayed in the exhibition. There will be a $1,000 “Best of Show” award, as well as $1,000 in additional cash rewards.
Applications consisted of several hundred pieces of artwork from all over the country for this year’s exhibition. Many of the artists who are sending in their work usually focus on other topics.
“It’s many artists who do not normally deal with political issues,” Davidson said, “but have in this year come up to something constructive to say about the political and social issues in the U.S.”
One of those artists is David Fleming, who has been a member of SCAL for about 20 years. He is displaying two pieces for the exhibit, titled “Travesty” and “Perdition.”
“Travesty” is a painting of marching protesters holding signs with a police officer in the foreground, snarling dogs in tow. “Perdition” displays four men sitting on a bench in a barren landscape who are meant to portray bankers or hedge fund managers.
“It just doesn’t look like a very pleasant place at all,” Fleming said. “They’re waiting for their just rewards.”
About 10 percent of Fleming’s work surrounds around political and social justice work, but he likes to change it up and work on a little bit of everything. He believes art can communicate ideas to society.
“That’s one of the ways people get inspired for certain causes or certain reasons,” he said. “I get inspired mainly to do work that maybe I see in an exhibit. It’s like a point of departure for me to take off on and try something new.”
Art Hazelwood is another artist also involved with quite a few programs that create art relating to social and political justice. When it comes to working on the topic of political justice, he said there is a lot to go around.
“When you’re working on a political issue, especially when you’re working with organizations and people who are activists, [art] contributes a big part to any kind of movement like that,” Hazelwood said.
In the fall of 2008, Hazelwood organized a nationwide series of exhibitions called “Art of Democracy,” all focusing on the state of the American political scene. He has also worked with many San Francisco and Bay Area groups on issues with the homeless to create his own touring exhibition called “Hobos to Street People”. His screen print, “Move Along” portrays the injustice of the law against sitting on sidewalks in San Francisco Bay Area cities. “Move Along” will be one of his three works displayed in “Visual Politics: Art and the American Experience.”
Hazelwood said he believes art is an important way to stand up for political movements.
“Generally you’re up against big money,” he said. “And we can only really compete on creativity. We can’t compete with the size of the megaphone.”
For more information on events at the Santa Cruz Art League, go to http://www.scal.org.