For the Silent. Silence. Silenced exhibit at Atlantic works, I showed a grouping of black & white monoprints of hooded heads that many gallery visitors said were fascinating. At the artist talk, one of the guests thought the row of prints reminded her of Crusaders.
It was a long haul through self-censorship for me to show the monoprints, because more than one of my yoga associates told me they would not come to the exhibit or send any students to the exhibit to see the hooded images because they were too ISIS and too upsetting.
Up until those conversations, with people I admire and am grateful to have in my life, it hadn’t occurred to me that I ought to sequester the images so the public would have a choice of whether or not to look at them. But I began to silence myself. Self-censor. Maybe I shouldn’t show them. Maybe the black hooded heads would upset people. Maybe I would be perceived as politically incorrect or a racist.
Consequently, as a way of working out my artistic dilemma, I made gold hooded heads and called them “Silenced by Capitalism.” For some reason, I was sure the concept and the sculptures of female heads tightly shrouded in gold would not be upsetting to anyone.
More conversations. With Charlene Liska who said “Don’t self-censor.” In conversation with fellow artist Brenda Star who said, “Art is supposed to get people to think about what’s going on, around them. How are people going to become aware if they are protected from images, from art?”
Art is always a process. Often I know what I am thinking about when I work. I know how I started thinking and when I finish I know more about what I am thinking.
This is the story of the monoprints:
In the winter of 2017 I was artist in residence at Mass MoCA in North Adams, working on the printing press at Maker’s Mill. I was doing mono prints of the head of the Greek Goddess Nike, the image being based on the 420 BC bronze head of the goddess (now viewable in Athen’s Agora Museum). I thought I was exploring the imprints of antiquity on modern life and the meaning behind the Goddess: from the Victorious Female who rode in the chariot next to Zeus to a word and a swish on a sneaker. In addition I was exploring the meaning and hallucination that goes along with looking at a ‘head,” particularly the image of the first head we humans see and become visually attached to—the head of the mother who looks over the infant.
On the second or third day, I turned onn the radio. Our U.S. Senate had gathered to discuss Trump’s attorney general pick, Jeff Sessions. As I inked and pressed, Senator Elizabeth Warren read a letter, written by Martin Luther King Jr’s widow Coretta Scott King. The letter detailed Session’s history of racism and civil rights violations. The Speaker of the House shut Warren down; the Senate voted to silence her.
That was truly upsetting new for me. I dropped a black inked hood over the face of Nike; and I kept going. A portion of the monoprints, made when the artist was upset about a silenced woman, are on exhibit at SILENT. SILENCE. SILENCED. at Atlantic Works Gallery .
This is the process. We use our skills, our sensitivity, our history, our bodies. and react to social, political and aesthetic conditions in our environment.
The black, hooded icon consumed my work for several days, initially expressing censorship; female censorship; and then moving on to reference images of racism, terrorism, and public degradation, execution, religion, and war as realized by a simple, stark, isolated hooded black face.
A hood/sack placed over a human head silences; humiliates; deprives a person of soul and individuality, while at the same time identifies that person as a single member of an oppressed group exploited by those more powerful.
I began thinking of a Female Goddess, Victory, who then became Silenced, who then became a an meditative icon. An image is in effect in service to power. No one has ever cut off your head or mine. You are like me: a human being who speaks, an artist.
For the Silent. Silence. Silenced. show at Atlantic Works Gallery, Charlene Liska and I worked together to come up with an attractive and informative post card that would serve multiple purposes:
- A Hand-out to give friends and family.
- An immediate mailer/invitation. There’s no envelope to open.
- A good-looking ‘small flyer’ for us, fellow artist friends, and student volunteers to leave at coffee shops and to pin on announcement boards at museums, cultural organizations, and student centers, etc.
- A calling card for when we visit galleries this month.
- A possible bookmark and legacy stash.
Decisions to make before designing an Art Exhibit Post Card.
- What’s on the Front? Usually an image. Could be words.
- What Goes on the Back? Who-What-When-Where ( more later).
- Size. To qualify for First-Class Mail postcard rate the card has to be rectangular, at least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick and be no more than 4-1/4 inches high x 6 inches long x 0.016 inches thick.
- Print Run. How many to print?
- Budget. How much money you have to spend on this aspect of promotion//marketing?
As far as print run: we decided to print 500 postcards and print two different front images. We shared identical print information on the back of the post card and varied the image on the front 250/250.
Finally, here are the five main points to keep in mind when putting your post card all together:
- Plan ahead. Have the postcards ready 1-2 months before your show opens. This means not only do you need to design the card, but communicate with your printer to find out his/her lead time. So work backwards from your desired date of having the post-card in hand and then line up all the things you need to do to make it happen.
- Who. What. When and Where. Yes, you’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again. Who (your name) What (name of show and definition of show–is it a pop-up, a month-longshow, a one nighter?) When (the run date of the show as well as the date of the Opening Night and any other special events during the run of the show) Where (name of the gallery, or venue, and the address. Include zip code and phone number of the gallery and the gallery/venue website. You may consider putting your own phone number on the card, as Charlene and I did, but realize your phone number may end up on someone’s solicitation list.
- Establish Credibility. Be sure to proofread everything. Use high resolution photos/jpg. A sloppy looking card communicates ‘a don’t care/don’t know/I make mistakes attitude’ — which you probably don’t want to do unless that’s the theme of your exhibit, which has its own set of decisions and contradictions not addressed here.
- Keep It Clean and Easy. Fewer words are better than a lot of words. People appreciate quick-to-eye grab information. (look at image below–left side of the back of postcard) to see how we varied caps and lower case, as well as grey and black inks.)
- Ask Friends and Art Community to Help Spread the Word & Distribute Your Post Cards (drop off, mail, post in their place of work) .
Blue. Red. Black and White.
Not a hint of cowardly yellow bridges the Right with the Left; no grey softens the Yes and No, the Pro with the Con. There are no dips into non-objectivity. The work Walter Kopec is showing at Atlantic Work Gallery is elegant visual symbolism embedded with the tension of theoretical opposites set off against one another.
Kopec’s crisp, spare images–a pencil drawing, black tape on the wall, nail-pierced shoes, a grid of suspended red and blue ribbons–deliver complex messages; their controlled surfaces counter the irrational and compulsive inner workings of our American politics, culture and society.
The work relies on symbol and the openness of symbol interpretation. There are multiple references to the American flag. An impressive, mobile-like soft-sculpture, built from red and blue ribbons and fragments of picture frames, takes stage center. “Is the flag assembling, or disassembling?” Kopec asks. Nearby is a wall-sculpture, echoing the shape and material of the mobile sculpture but not its colors. It is a flag made of black and white stripes, which Kopec titles We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident “And the next part is, …that all men are created equal.” Kopec says, quoting the words of the U.S. Constitution. “And, it’s not just black-white racism that this work references,” he adds. “It’s also the black and white print medium– fact vs. fiction. Truth vs. fake news.”
Kopec’s process is contemplative and never-ending. “I might go to my studio and read the dictionary. I might do word games, puzzles. I sit, think and write down ideas. I ask myself what’s happening in the world. What’s the drumbeat right now? ”
For 15 years Kopec’s been chronicling his ideas, words, stories. “I have boxes and boxes filled with sketches, notes, clippings, even fabric. What is this for? What can this mean? Can I use this? How? Explain it? How? For me, there’s really no start-stop in the conceptual process. My mind is always active. I even wake up at night and write notes.”
“My current conundrum,” Kopec says, “is that I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Experienced stuff that happened in the civil rights movement; during the Viet Nam War. The unfairness of it all.” Today he sees similar opposing forces fighting it out, except that now it is his generation that’s the cause of it. “The people I grew up with are responsible. What prompted this to start?” he wonders.
Two of the pieces in the show have Trump-related themes, though Kopec makes it clear he has not made
Trump art or anti-Trump art, and that has no desire to put any of his brain power into Trump. “The art is about what is happening in society: special interests, politics for self-serving personnel gain. Trump just happened to bring it all to the forefront and pushed the ugliness in our faces.”
In the binary opposition of his show …AND THINGS THAT REMAIN, Kopec points a finger at the system we live in that considers everything either “right or wrong” , “winner or loser” ; “Democratic or Republican” ; “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” Using cultural symbols and coded words he connects with emotions illustrating the continuing interrelated conflicts that he felt earlier in his career. “I certainly don’t have answers nor do I pretend to have answers to what’s happening,” Kopec affirms. “America is happiness. This is where people come to pursue happiness.” He points to a drawing on the wall of a stick figure running after a small American flag, which he titles Pursuit of Happiness. “ I’m not making judgement on any of this stuff. I hope the pieces appeal to a universal sense of things.”
Walter Kopec’s…AND THINGS THAT REMAIN runs in conjunction with Melissa Shook’s LANDSCAPE OF MEMORY. April 1-26, 2017. At Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border Street, East Boston.
“Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory [of the artist] since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.” —Harold Pinter, upon his receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2005