Monday, March 26, 2007
Provocative Painting Puts Pressure on Politicians
On Wednesday, March 21st, students from first-year Professor Eric Hongisto's second semester painting class took on the task of painting a mural in the space reserved for such artistic projects outside Crossroads Café. The artwork began with classroom brainstorming on the heady topic of political and social unrest in the United States, and what could be represented symbolically on a canvas to convey the students' sense of the current political climate. The mural now displayed on the first floor of the University Center is a first for many of the students involved, and the first time Hongisto, 33, has worked on a mural at USF.
The mural is a collaborative effort to visually arrest onlookers with striking words and images, like the bloodied head of Vice President Dick Cheney under the words, "These Colors Don't Run. But They Bleed." Other students chose to highlight the connection between war and the relentless drive of consumer capitalism represented by hamburgers and Hummers. Students on one side of the hallway painted a young child in a tank running over other children, possibly symbolizing the way young people are taught to glorify the same violence that can ultimately kill them.
One member of the artistic troupe, Fiamma Giger, found the group effort both interesting and challenging. Giger, a 21 year-old Visual Arts major, said she was looking forward to seeing what other students will do with the mural. Professor Sharon Siskin's second semester drawing class will take over the mural and do work in response to the initial painting her class has done. Giger spent her mural time painting an assembly line of t-shirts reminiscent of a sweatshop.
These forms of artistic expression provide students with a chance to exercise their first amendment rights to free speech, however provocative. It will be interesting to see in the current climate of fear and repression whether the students will come under criticism, or even legal pressure, for depicting the Vice President with a gaping, mortal head wound. With the opportunity to speak one's mind fast diminishing, protest murals like this might soon become a thing of the past, unless the idealism of student activism can be met with the full support of those in a position to end the march toward tyranny. That spark of idealistic fervor is at the heart of American culture, ingrained from the founding of a rebellious and free nation, through the abolitionist movement and the horrific war it ignited, on up to the present day, when concerned citizens throughout this nation are banding together against the installation of a police state on our own shores.