You walk through the upstairs gallery at the Loudoun House, look back and realize you have just contemplated sustainability and the environment, constitutional rights, religion, immigration, war, gay rights and poverty.
And that’s exactly what the Lexington Art League wants you to do with its current exhibit, Election, on display through Aug. 24. It will be up for the Fourth Friday party Aug. 22. The exhibit is the annual members open, for which people in the art league are asked to submit pieces pertaining to a certain theme.
This year, it is the looming presidential election involving Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
To comment on the race, some people get on TV and sound off or write letters to the editor. These folks make art — and some pretty powerful statements.
There’s little mistaking what Transylvania University art professor Jack Girard thinks of Hillary Clinton’s treatment in the recent Democratic primary elections. His pieces Besieged and Wasp portray women torn and isolated in the midst of symbols of power.
In a similar vein, Ron Davis, working under the pseudonym upfromsomedirt, delivers a pair of digital images that contemplate the difficulties that African-Americans and women face in breaking through political and historical barriers.
Untitled (right) seems to simultaneously affirm Obama’s patriotism while reminding us that many people question it. Broken Stereotypes features images of a white woman and a black man with the words “In the same boat” over their eyes.
University of Kentucky photography student Lee Ann Paynter offers a series of five stark black-and-white images portraying the role of religion in politics in an ominous light. Utter Defeat shows a message of condemnation on a church marquee against a backdrop of dark clouds.
There is fun here, too, including snarky comic strips by Ken Minter and David C. Hufford’s sculpture Under Surveillance, in which a large eye on a serpent’s body looks down on a figure wearing a button that says, “One Nation Under God and Under Surveillance.” In walking-tour notes, Hufford, an Eastern Kentucky University medical microbiologist, says the piece is a comment on his opinion that “Increasingly, American citizen(s) yield their privacy in the name of national security.”
A commonality among the 63 pieces in the exhibit is that there don’t seem to be pieces expressing support for McCain or his ideas. There are a few that express general frustrations with the political system, including Jean Covert’s Campaign Promises — Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave (left) and Eric Trimble’s When Government Speaks, which portrays government as a circus and prominently employs an expletive synonymous with nonsense.
What the exhibit lacks in ideological diversity, it makes up for in a diversity of viewpoints. Even people who rally behind certain candidates arrive at their support through a variety of issues and perspectives. One person’s dominant issue might be a footnote in another’s choice.
Even more important, Election reaffirms the immediacy and vitality of art. Now, these pieces provide pertinent commentary. In another decade, they might remind us what were thinking in 2008.