Art as Protest Advanced Drawing: James Olsen

05/02/17: This semester has flown by so quickly, and what a semester it has been for me, I think I really found a more complete artistic voice than I had previously. I know the faculty might balk at that statement and say otherwise, but it wasn't until the latter part of this semester both in Seminar and this class that I realized where I want to go, and at the same time where I was coming from. So I am going to post some images of my last works first and then talk about them in more detail below.

Final works for the semester group installation "One Voice One Hope"

I started out with almost a sense of rage in me, I was angry with the country and the world, I was incensed that we as a nation could be so divided over politics, race, religion, and so many other things. And that was evident in my first set of works that I did exploring what our nation was becoming. I had started work on the abstract look at the electoral college and I realized that what I really wanted to do was speak about hope, I understood for the first time that I could talk about both the personal despair I felt about the country as well as the hope that I have for it and the world. So my work evolved into that, each of the pieces represents hope in different forms for me, the electoral college, that no matter how we vote we are still linked as one. The faded flags remind that the states are still one, the abstracted sunburst in the center the light that we can see at the end of a dark tunnel. The presidents represent the faded memories of our country and what each has stood for, but at the same time that we have all been united with our leaders, even if we don't always agree with them. Finally the flags on the bottom are international, representing the countries that have come together over the Syrian refugee crisis, while we can see the American flag is barely there, I do believe in the hope that so many countries have come together and helped in a dark time. I realized that my voice could be political and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. I do wish I had come to this realization much sooner so I could have done a much larger body of work, but I intend to keep going with it this summer and see where it takes me for the future. I learned so much about myself, and I couldn't have done it without this class and Matt constantly pushing me to try new things, and never allowing me to rest on what I had done in the past.

02/06/17: So onto todays intro crit session. I felt it actually went pretty good, sorry if I was a bit out of it, its all the medication that I am on currently. I really appreciated all the feedback that I got today, I agree that there is a disconnect on the gate piece, I think its because its so overt, but about the past, I need the overtness to shine more in the present tense and then we can go from there. I am starting on pulling some more resources tonight and will work on getting them published either later tonight or tomorrow.

02/06/17: Ok, so I am going to first post a series of images of what I was prototyping through in these first couple of weeks in class, they are all pretty different but I was trying to find some direction in my plan.

These are the original three ideas that I have been playing with

I really want to focus on social and political art this semester, works that will hopefully get us talking, especially in what is already proving to be a pretty frightening time.

Maus: Art Spiegelman: 1st Graphic Novel to earn a Pulitzer Prize

Ok, lets start this off with inspirations. First off is the graphic novelist/biographer Art Spiegelman, known as an underground comic artist, he rocketed to fame with his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus which was a biographical telling of the Holocaust through interviews with his elderly father who was a survivor. It is told in a post modernist style with use of heavy line and often minimalist expressions on his characters, Jews portrayed as mice and Germans as cats. It is a story that tells not only of a survivors struggles, but also that of a son who sees some less than comfortable similarities between his father and the Germans that at one time tried to eliminate him. Spiegelman's work has always been an inspiration for its in your face graphic style, pulling no punches, yet at the same time evoking wonderful senses of emotions.

John Hartfield

John Hartfield was a German artist associated with the late Dada movement, his seminal works were collages that ended up not only being prophetic but protest in nature. His central theme was about the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and how they were being left unchecked by the rest of the world. He would spend the better part of 10 years on the run from the Nazi regime while at the same time continuing to create subversive art that he hoped would lead to the saving of his beloved homeland. I find Hartfield inspiring because of his extremely dark sense of humor that coupled with his collage work on one level seems to entertain, yet on a deeper one horrifies. I feel that collage can be a form of drawing, instead of making line and structure with a pen one is doing it with image instead. Is that not a form of drawing?

Peter Max

Peter Max may seem to be an odd choice at first as many would argue he doesn't fit the textbook definition of a protest artist, however when you at his work in a historical context one realizes how important his work has been to the fabric of the modern American artistic landscape. Peter Max is most well known for two series, his earliest works distilled the "Summer of Love" and the bright colors and vibrant sounds of the 1960's hippie/peace movements. He is also well known for his series of images of the Statue of Liberty, many of which hang at points of entry for new immigrants to the country (fun fact, I in fact remember now seeing one at my point of entry as an immigrant) there is also a sad undercurrent to his Liberty works in that many of them have now been digitally altered and used as weapons against the very people he sought to welcome to our fair land. I find his work fascinating on a number of levels, he has wide strong brushstrokes that evoke emotion and power, yet the images are still extremely clear and easy to read. His use of color brings me into his pieces, overwhelming the senses, entertaining, yet again informing. There is also something to be said for his commercial success, we do make art for ourselves, to make a point, sometimes to do nothing, but at the same time is success a bad thing? Can one be commercial as well as thoughtful?

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