Create an art exhibition or write a paper – these were the final project choices Professor Paul Von Blum gave his Critical Vision class at the beginning of the quarter.
“Our Grievances: An Artistic Critique of Today’s Society” started as fourth-year communications studies student Sialoren Spaulding’s project for the class, but it has developed into an exhibition that will be on display in Northern Lights and will run from today to Monday. It will feature the art of 10 UCLA students and alumni and will encompasses themes such as gay marriage, women’s rights, the environment and race through sculpture, political cartoon, painting, sketch and dance.
The Honors Collegium 179 class addresses how art acts as social and political commentary. Spaulding said it opened her eyes to issues she had never thought about and she began organizing her exhibition with this concept in mind.
Spaulding said she chose a broad theme for the exhibition because she wanted to give UCLA artists a platform to speak out about issues that impassioned them.
“Rather than limit the field of vision down to one specific thing that I think is important, I wanted to turn it around and let students have the opportunity to discuss what they find important in society,” she said.
Spaulding said she reached out to UCLA students and alumni and asked them to submit politically or socially charged art. She interviewed the artists and chose the 10 whose art best expressed the issues they were passionate about.
Many of the pieces ask viewers to question their preconceptions about marginalized groups, Spaulding said. One such piece is a dance number set to “Ball” by T.I., choreographed by fourth-year anthropology student Lexy Hartford.
“You listen to music all the time and you don’t think about what stereotypes are being implanted in your head,” Spaulding said. “It makes you step outside and realize that there’s a whole lot more going on than you’re conscious of.”
Hartford said the choreography initially mimics the hard-hitting hip-hop style that one might expect to go along with the song, but then it transitions into what she calls sassy hip-hop which has a softer and looser feel.
“It speaks to breaking out of the mold,” Hartford said. “It speaks to doing things your own way and being a strong person in a society that imposes labels on you based on your skin type or where you come from.”
Breaking out of stereotypes is addressed in a different way in second-year economics and political science student Disha Korla’s painting, “Silenced.”
Korla’s painting shows two figures, one black and one white, both androgynous, with their fingers pressed to their lips. She said the piece represents how minorities are silenced by society and the figures’ sexes are ambiguous because they speak to women’s rights and gay marriage.
Korla said she was inspired to do the piece while following the presidential election, during which she felt politicians addressed issues about marginalized communities without listening to what the members of those communities actually wanted.
“People kept talking about minorities and how their vote and issues were so important, except no one was really dealing with the issues as much as they were taking a stance to get votes,” Korla said.
She said “Silenced” was an attempt to give these people a voice and create an emotional impact. This sort of visceral connection is what “Our Grievances” aims to give its viewers and is exemplified in Korla’s second painting, “The Fool.”
The acrylic shows a figure bent over, crying over a dying plant, unaware that the plant’s roots are connected to a huge tree behind him.
Korla said she sees the tree as all the opportunity that the figure doesn’t see because he’s too busy grieving over something trivial. Alternately, Spaulding understands the tree in “The Fool” as representing the more pressing issues which the figure doesn’t notice.
“It’s about not dwelling on issues of insignificance and recognizing that some small issues may be tied back to something greater that we’re not recognizing,” Spaulding said.
Understanding the breadth and depth of issues facing society is the overarching theme and goal of “Our Grievances,” Spaulding said.
“We each see something as wrong in society,” Spaulding said. “I want people to broaden their horizons, to see things they didn’t see as issues and be inspired to act.”