The News: Junior Art Show Looks at Social Justice in Media
All Images Courtesy of Katherine Plunkett
By Katherine Plunkett
The end of March brought with it the close of the Junior Art Exhibition in the Salve Regina Gallery. The exhibition opened on Thursday, March 16th to showcase the work of the students currently in junior seminar for studio art majors. The four students worked together on the theme of the news for the exhibition, filling the gallery with sculpture, painting, and digital art.
The first room of the gallery featured students’ work from the semester focused on the personal themes they chose to explore. The second room, covered floor to ceiling in newspaper, addressed those themes in a collaborative installation commenting on the role of news and media in today’s society. Themes of fast fashion, animal cruelty, the conditions at the border, and climate change were explored through the lens of news.
Junior studio art major Olivia Blondin, who concentrates in digital art, addressed animal cruelty in both the food and poaching industries. Her work features digital prints of human and animal hybrid feet, exploring how we treat animals versus humans. Pigs and chickens represent the food industry, while elephants, jaguars, giraffes, and zebras represent the cruelty of poaching.
In the “news room” so to speak, she covered a wall in newspaper, origami animals placed in paper boxes, and orange animal footprints. In addition, large-print headlines announcing animal cruelty, such as “18 Horrible Things SeaWorld Has Done to Animals,” are dispersed throughout the wall.
Blondin wrote about her artistic choices in an artist statement:
“I tend to gravitate towards light hearted styles of work that have an underlying darker meaning. My work emphasizes the maltreatment of animals by comparing how we treat humans to how we treat animals through pieces that appear to be playful, but in reality are heavy topics. My installation wall shows this by contrasting the news headlines about animal cruelty to the light hearted origami and paper mache animals.”
Another theme explored was rising sea levels, presented in the work of junior art major Olivia Dipalermo. Dipalermo used the idea of a ship in a bottle to bring awareness to rising sea levels in New York, her home state. Her work in this exhibition focuses on this issue, which is of personal importance to her.
For the news installation, Dipalermo created the New York City skyline out of newspaper. In the center of the composition is a repeated image of a girl in front of the sea with the city in the background. Overlaid on the sky of the image is a map of Long Island. Dipalermo’s installation also included sound art.
In her artist statement, Dipalermo wrote the following:
“My work tackles the issue of rising sea levels and flash flooding in my home state of New York. Using digital painting, photoshop, and mixed media I create works of symbolism and exaggeration to spread awareness to an issue, and to a city that means so much to me.”
Junior marketing and studio art double major Liam Jamolod creates sculptures that addresses social injustice and reflects the unknown in human experience. He exhibited three sculptures: a lightbulb painted from the inside with the phrase “the sun rings in Los Angeles,” a flower made of shattered ceramic pieces, and a twisted beetle-like form made from a vinyl record.
Jamolod hand-sewed an outfit from second hand curtains and newspaper for the news installation. The long newspaper train continues onto the wall, painted with icons and phrases related to the fast fashion industry to highlight its negative impacts.
In his artist’s statement, Jamolod discusses how his work is an exploration of the existential inquiries we face in life, guided by the varied experiences he encounters in his own life as a first-generation Filipino-American and double major with a pre-med track.
“By living and witnessing, I come to accept the absurdity of life. This knowledge is a foundational driver for my growth as an individual and thus I imbue passion into my art. From topics such as social injustice to the detrimental impacts of fast fashion, I speak to the idea of societal norms and seek personal development.”
Artist Lilianna Vidal, junior studio art major, explores the beauty of Mexico and addresses the media portrayal of the conditions at the US-Mexico border in her work. Her paintings use vibrant colors, textures, and patterns to reflect the beauty of Mexico, influenced by stories her father told her about his childhood there.
Her contribution to the news installation involved a wall of newspapers with charcoal drawings of mannequin-like female bodies and yellow handprints. The sketches symbolize the dehumanization that many women face at the border, and the handprints represent the families and children that risk their lives. Overall, the piece deals with the conditions at the border and its portrayal in the media.
In her artist’s statement, Vidal writes:
“The inspiration behind my work stems from the side of the border that is rarely seen in newscasts. The media has a very strong and powerful influence on the way certain parts of the world are perceived and my work strives to go against that stereotype and portray the history of Mexico in a way the media could appreciate…The idea behind my work is to give the viewer a sense of the power color can hold along with patterns and textures that have defined Mexican culture for centuries.”
The exhibition also included a collaborative video piece that was a collection of news programs that the students used as reference material for their own work. The video featured stories about fast fashion and its effects on the climate crisis, the sea level rise in NYC, animal cruelty, and the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border. Professor Jenna North, who teaches the junior seminar course, comments on each theme in the video through her alter ego Joan Dare.
North discussed the process of creating the exhibition, which she described as a “whirlwind,” due to the students having less than half a semester.
“When we met in the empty Salve Regina gallery, the ideas came fast, and much of our conversation was dominated by how their various interests are portrayed in the mass media. It wasn’t difficult to settle on having “the news” be the overarching theme for the group, and with only four students I was able to really work with each individual student… I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of teaching-curating-collaborating with these curious, conscientious and creative students, and look forward to seeing how their work evolves next year!”