The 2018 biannual Mid-America Print Council (MAPC) conference was held from Oct. 3 through Oct. 6 in Laramie, Wyoming. As a Studio Art major emphasizing in printmaking, it was a no-brainer to attend the conference.
The panels entitled ‘Complex Utopias: Dialogues with Community Printshops’ and ‘Art and the Art of Political Subtlety’ peaked my interest. Especially since I’ve wanted to learn more about the intersections of art and politics.
During the ‘Art and the Art of Political Subtlety’ panel, it was touched on how artwork can have political undertones to them.
For printmakers, political undertones that can occur are range from the paper used to using non-toxic processes versus toxic processes used to how or why prints are distributed. Johntimothy Pizzuto, the printmaking professor in the studio art department, often chooses printmaking techniques that aren’t toxic or reduces the amount of exposure to toxic methods.
Pizzuto aims to use non-toxic inks and other non-toxic methods in the classroom to avoid exposing students to toxic chemicals to ensure student’s long-term health care isn’t compromised.
In regards of artwork with political themes, the theme might not be intestinal. The organizer of the panel Tessa Dallarosa stated during her bio, is how she doesn’t intentionally make political work, but it just naturally happens with topics she cares about.
This is a common route to creating a political piece of artwork for artists: choosing subject matter that’s important to them.
This doesn’t apply just to studio art creations. In 2000, the play “The Laramie Project,” was written by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project after interviewing residents of Laramie in regards of Matthew Shepard’s murder.
Shepard, who was a student at the University of Wyoming, was the victim of a brutal attack impart because of his sexual orientation that ultimately lead to his death in Oct. of 1998.
Although Shepard’s murder was highly politicized, a hate crimes law being passed in 2009 that makes it a federal crime to attack someone based on their sexual orientation, the town’s reaction was as politicized.
However, the play gave context to how the town reacted to Shepard’s murder. Yet, since the play predominately focused on Shepard, it would be easy to argue that it took a pro-LGBTQ rights stance.
Or at least that’s how the 2002 HBO film adaption of the play portrayed the play.
Which, the film adaption of “The Laramie Project” is a part of the reason why I wanted to attend the MAPC conference; 2018 marked the 20thanniversary of Shepard’s murder.
The other thing that came out of the ‘Art and the Art of Political Subtlety’ panel was how politics impacts the field of printmaking as an artform. Although every artform is impacted by politics in one way or another – as well as impact politics – printmaking is unique in the sense that it’s an artform that has always been set up for mass production and distribution.
This is why as viewers as artwork, movies, TV shows or anything that falls underneath the umbrella of art and entertainment, we should never look at something at something at face value. Sometimes a political piece of artwork, like Shepard Fairey’s “Obama Hope” poster might be a political piece; but it can also serve a dual purpose of advertising or endorsing a topic.