Columbia art exhibit reflects politics

Thursday, January 22, 2009 | 10:16 p.m. CST; updated 11:20 a.m. CST, Friday, January 23, 2009
Laura Brennan was just one of several people to take a closer look at "Can You See Me," a 3-D piece of art covered in photographs of famous faces that required a closer look to fully see. Brennan called the piece "just cool."

*CORRECTION: Diana Moxon is the executive director of the Columbia Art League. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled her name.

COLUMBIA — Columbia artist Nancy Brown doesn’t shy away from tough issues. "Politics drive my art," Brown said, standing next to her prize-winning sculpture, “Yum Yum Should Never Be for Sale,” a piece that discusses child prostitution. "They are the core of my art.”

Forty-eight artists, including Brown, gathered downtown Thursday evening at the opening reception for “Politically Speaking,” the latest exhibition at Columbia Art League. The exhibition includes 62 pieces of art that focus on a variety of political topics, such as the economic recession, abortion, dictatorship and the effects of war on children. The exhibition features artwork in a variety of mediums, such as oil painting, sculpture and mixed-media. “Politically Speaking” runs through Feb. 22 and is free to the public.

If you go

What: "Politically Speaking" exhibition

When: Jan. 13 through Feb. 22

Where: Columbia Art League, 207 S. Ninth St.

Admission: Free

Gallery hours: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

More information:

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With the opening of its latest exhibition, the Columbia Art League has created a unique opportunity for the community to discuss the political atmosphere of the United States. Diana Moxon,* executive director of the league, explained that the content of “Politically Speaking” aims to focus on “global sociopolitics as opposed to national partisan politics.” Artists choose to discuss topics that have profoundly affected their own views of U.S. politics.

The opening reception gave viewers a look into the political views of Columbia artists in the face of the presidential transition.

“We chose this theme to match the enthusiasm of the country in this time of change," said Kathy Walther, a board member for the Columbia Art League.

Shannon Kelley, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, contributed a piece that she said reflects her personal experiences with religion and politics, hoping that her viewers will “stop and think. Dogma isn’t the only answer.”

“Politically Speaking” brings together a wide range of community artists, including 13 students from Rock Bridge High School. Rock Bridge art teacher Sharyn Hyatt aims to involve her students as much as possible not only in learning and creating art, but also in putting that art in front of the eyes of the community.

“Columbia Art League really opened up their doors for my students. They are very savvy, they think globally, and they really have a lot to say,” Hyatt said.

The addition of student artists to this exhibition creates a wide-ranging array of contributors.

“This is a really interesting show to come see what other people are thinking," Moxon said. "You’ve got very experienced artists making statements about how they see the world as well as students who aren’t yet old enough to vote, creating a cross-section of thought from different ages in the community looking to subjects that move them."

Student artists featured in “Politically Speaking” expressed their concerns about politics not only in the United States, but also abroad. Megan Schaffer, a junior at Rock Bridge, created a plaster piece that shows the faces of three children along with inscriptions that express their stories and emotions in times of conflict.

“I want the people who see my art to gain an understanding of the impact of war on the daily lives of citizens and gain a feeling that they can do something,” Schaffer said.

Other student artists addressed difficult moral issues through their art. Junior Lori Korschgen created a sculpture that reflects her views on the issue of abortion. The sculpture features a woman grasping her pregnant belly, surrounded by various symbols and fragments that deal with abortion. Korschgen emphasized that her piece is partially objective and that she wants her viewers to “consider respect” when discussing sensitive issues such as this one.

“I feel like people get caught up in ideas of black and white or right and wrong," Korschgen said. "This piece is not meant to take sides.”

Aside from student artists, “Politically Speaking” drew a variety of well-known Columbia artists. Bob Hartzell, who is active in community events such as the True/False Film Festival, contributed two pieces that address the topics of patriotism and the separation of church and state. With the changing political atmosphere in the United States, artists are more willing to express their opinions, Hartzell said.

“I think we can talk more openly about these issues now that the previous administration is gone. This new administration is about inclusion,” Hartzell said.

At the end of the evening, the first-place prize was awarded to Jacob Crook for his etching “A Decrease in Demand.” Second place was given to Jane Mudd for her charcoal illustration “Never Ending Story,” and third place was awarded to Nancy Brown for her sculpture “Yum Yum Should Never Be for Sale.”

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Erik Juhl January 24, 2009 | 12:21 p.m.

A fascinating account of this endeavor.

The title of the exhibit interests me. It's "Politically Speaking," and yet it's also a show about capturing the artists' objections, concerns, outrage, or rejection of some aspects of our society and world. It leads me to think about how closely "speaking up for what's right" and "politics" really are, and how our civic duty extends WAY beyond picking a president every once in a while.

Art that reflects on, or holds a lens to, the complications and questions that exist under the surface of our day-to-day lives, has an honorable place in our society -- even when, and especially when, it confronts us with uncomfortable or controversial ideas and revelations.

Kudos to the artists for their courage and for their choice to use their gifts in this manner.

Thanks for writing and posting the article, Missourian.

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