Political Art

By, Jamila O’Hara

Is all art necessarily political? The students of Winsor’s AP Studio Art class have recently been invited to submit work to a multi-school exhibit hosted at Lesley University in collaboration with the Art Association of New England Preparatory Schools (AANEPS). In preparation for the exhibition, AP Studio Art has been asked to reflect upon the politics of art as they craft their own responses to the statement: (All) Art Is Political (!?!). The exhibition, which is to be held at the Lesley University Lunder Arts Center in December, will feature a myriad of political art created by students across New England, and will serve as a valuable opportunity for Winsor’s student artists to exhibit original pieces alongside the work of students from other AANEPS schools in a university setting.

After carefully contemplating the prompt issued by the exhibition, each student proceeded to choose a specific issue pertaining to politics, social justice, or activism to respond to in their work; the AANEPS implored them to “consider the mediated image, the agency of the artist, and the potential of art to be a catalyst for conversation.” Inspired by the flexibility and open-endedness of the project, students are currently tackling numerous important political issues using a variety of mediums and materials.

Many students have chosen to investigate the political nature of art through pieces that make powerful political statements or address real-world issues. Becca L. ’19 aims to depict the inconsistencies and hypocrisies present within modern American society. By juxtaposing the beaming green likeness of the Statue of Liberty against a mock-newspaper spread of hot-topic headlines such as “When Will Black Lives Matter in St. Louis?”, Lin provides subtle commentary on the complicated reality of a nation that seeks to uphold liberty and justice while simultaneously harboring hostility, discrimination, and polarization. “I feel like this problem of hypocrisy is currently very prominent [in the U.S.], especially given recent events that have unfortunately aggravated existing racial tensions,” Lin says of her inspiration for the piece.


Other students have chosen to highlight issues pertaining to the environment. In an ink painting that captures the impressionistic style of Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night,” Abbigale S. ’19 blots out the classic celestial landscape with a foreground of obtrusive smokestacks and smudges of smog and light pollution. Her reimagining of Van Gogh’s renowned painting illustrates a distressing modern reality: “If Van Gogh lived in the 21st century, he wouldn’t be able to paint ‘Starry Night’ at all [due to pollution],” she remarks. “I hope to make viewers more aware of the severity of environmental damage and more mindful of their own responsibilities in promoting global sustainability.”

AP Studio Art teacher Ms. Macaulay believes that this project is just as timely as it is exciting, as it provides students with a creative outlet to navigate their own beliefs and engage positively with the complexities and challenges of contemporary American society. She notes, “we are living in a world that faces huge social and political challenges. It’s important to remember that young people have a voice and can effect change. Art can be a catalyst for change.” AP Art’s students’ thought-provoking works, which will be on display at Lesley University from December 1st to December 17th, will certainly spark conversation, heighten public consciousness, and showcase students’ own artistic brands of activism.