Panel 1: Art x Propaganda
When governments, activists, and companies use art – or the repression thereof – to achieve political motives, it seems natural that their actions could lead to oppression and violation of free speech. But is this always the case? This panel will explore propaganda and censorship by examining historical and contemporary examples of art as political persuasion. In the end we will come away with a nuanced narrative of the intersection of art, free speech, and human rights.
Bai Di holds a One-of-a-Kind Ph.D from The Ohio State University in 1997 with a focus on Women’s Studies. Now Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at Drew University in Madison New Jersey, she teaches Chinese Literature, Cultures and Cinema. Her research interests are Chinese Socialist literature, Women and Chinese Revolution, and Western feminism theories. She co-edited Some of Us; Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era and is the author of Western Feminist Literary Theories (in Chinese) and coauthor of Feminisms and Post-Modern (in Chinese).
Gail Levin is a distinguished professor of art history, fine & performing arts, American studies, and women’s studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, of the City University of New York. The acknowledged authority on the American realist painter Edward Hopper, she is author of many books and articles on this artist, including the catalogue raisonné and Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography. Her subsequent work, which has often focused on the art of women artists, led to biographies of Judy Chicago and of Lee Krasner. Her articles cover a wide range– from the theory of artists’ biographies to feminist art to Jewish art to explorations of the intersection of American and Asian cultures. Among the latest are “Syd Solomon: Concealed and Revealed” and “Threading Jewish Identity: The Sara Stern in Sonia Delaunay.” Also active as a curator, Levin’s recent projects have included a book, a comprehensive website, and a touring exhibition of the art of the supercentenarian Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002). During 2015-16, Levin held a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in India, based in Kerala.
Svetlana Mintcheva is director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of U.S. national organizations committed to protecting freedom of speech. She is the founding director of NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Program, the only U.S. national initiative devoted to the arts and free expression today. Dr. Mintcheva has written on emerging trends in censorship, organized public discussions and mobilized support for individual artists. She is the co-editor of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (New Press, 2006). An academic as well as an activist, Dr. Mintcheva has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and at Duke University, NC from which she received her Ph.D. in critical theory in 1999, as well as New York University. Her current research focuses on ethics and self-censorship within art institutions.
The paintings of acclaimed internationally known artist Michael Ray Charles scathingly address issues of identity that concern postmodern art and society. Charles’s paintings ridicule the “romance” of the Old South and black subservience. By situating viewers in an historical continuum, Charles is able to emphasize the extreme nature of racist stereotypes, producing a sense of dissonance as viewers find themselves both repulsed and fascinated by the imagery. He has had one-person exhibitions in numerous countries including United States, France, Spain, Germany and Belgium. He has served as a panelist and or juror on The National Endowment for the Arts, The Bush Artist Fellowship, St. Paul, MN, among many other creative cultural entities. He is among the first group of artists showcased in the PBS series titled “ART 21” that highlighted top artists of the 21st century and acknowledged as one of the top young African-American scholars in academia by Black Issues In Higher Education. Today as Charles continues to paint, his work remains the subject of books, magazines, and articles. His work is well documented in art history books, amongst far ranging scholarly discipline in journals, magazines, newspapers, and documentaries. Segments on PBS, Canadian, and German television; and collaborations with distinguished director, Spike Lee have highlighted Charles’ work and ideas. In addition to numerous distinguished public and private collections he currently exhibits at Tony Shafrazi Gallery NY, NY. and Cotthem Gallery in Belgium and Spain. Recently, Charles joined the University of Houston, School of Art as the Hugh Roy and Lille Cranz Cullen, Distinguished Professor of Painting.
Panel 2: Art x Power
Our second panel, Art x Power, will explore how systemic power structures in the creative sector influence artists, curators, activists, and patrons. The goal of this panel is to invite a critical discussion of how to justly increase representation and funding of artists from marginalized groups, rethink how we currently categorize art in order to eliminate existing patriarchal and white supremacist underpinnings, and ensure agency in socially engaged and community-based creative projects.
Eleanor Savage is a civic-minded, anti-racist artist and organizer, who has instigated many community-focused, artist-centered events in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Savage is the Program Director at the Jerome Foundation, an independent foundation that supports emerging artists in the creation and development of new work. She focuses much of her work in arts philanthropy on racial equity. Savage is on the leadership team for the Arts + Culture + Social Justice Network. She has curated many exhibitions bringing together communities through the arts, including: Vulva Riot, a monthly performance cabaret for queer women artists and activists; Dyke Night, an annual performance event produced at the Walker Art Center; Naked Stages, a year-long mentorship program for emerging performance artists; and Forbidden Fruit Radio, a weekly queer artist/activist interview-format radio show at KFAI community radio station. Savage has collaborated and produced work by many Minneapolis and New York performers and choreographers, including Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, Lisa D’Amour and Katie Pearl, Barrie Jean Borich, Morgan Thorson, Hijack, Shawn McConneloug, Pauline Oliveros, and Holly Hughes.
Born May 29, 1974 in Santa Fe, NM, Frank Buffalo Hyde is a contemporary POP Artist who uses icons to explore the miscommunication of cultures. Frank is Native American and often turns stereotypical imagery on its ear with his own brand of satire. In the past 10 years, he has had numerous sold-out shows, most recently in 2013. The Smithsonian National Museum of The American Indian purchased “SKNDNS- Native Americans on Film,” a suite of 13 paintings for their permanent collection. Frank’s work is included in many museums and public art collections in the United States, and his paintings are poised to join the International Art Conversation with recent group shows in Russia and Japan. “In the age of the Internet… If I can make the viewer slow down for longer than 5 seconds or create a conversation then I’ve done my job!”
Rasu Jilani is an independent curator, cultural producer and social sculptor, who investigates the intersections between art, culture and civic engagement as a means of raising critical consciousness. The main objective of his work is to catalyze interaction between artists, cultural institutions, the local community and the wider public, in order to promote cultural awareness through exhibitions, public programs, and cultural events. Currently, Rasu serves as the Director of Cultural Diversity and Strategic Partnerships at NEW INC, The New Museum’s creative entrepreneurship incubator for art, tech and technology. From 2013 through 2016, Jilani worked at MAPP International Productions as the Director of Community Programs.
Panel 3: Art x Protest
Our final panel will explore the intersection of art and activism by introducing three young artists who use their work to resist injustice. By examining the successes and limitations of various movements and mediums, this panel will provide insights for young artist-activists to bring back to their own causes and communities.
Shikeith is an MFA candidate (2018) in the sculpture department of Yale School Of Art. As a young man in Philadelphia, Shikeith was ostracized by his peers who challenged the authenticity of his black masculinity. That experience and other life occurrences influence his investigations of the psychic and emotional landscape of blackness and maleness in his work. He holds a B.A (2010) from The Pennsylvania State University, where he studied art and received several awards including The Leslie P. Greenhill scholarship for Photography. In 2014, and 2016 he was awarded grants from The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program — a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. The former supported the creation of his critically acclaimed documentary “#Blackmendream “, which has been listed by the TribeCa Film Institute as one of 10 films that capture the meaning of Black life in America. Shikeith has been invited to share his work nationally, and internationally with the Aperture foundation; Vera List Center; Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre; MIT; Morehouse College; The Seattle Art Museum ;The Wrocław Contemporary Museum, and other venues.
Silvia Gonzalez is an Artist and Educator living in Chicago creating zines and curating workshops to address police violence, labor rights, imagination, play, freedom, and confinement. Collaborative educational and artistic projects include work with local art groups such as the Chicago ACT (Artist Creating Transformation) collective and the 96 Acres Project, led by the Artist Maria Gaspar. Silvia Gonzalez has experience organizing educational workshops that centralize creative work with intergenerational participants interested in critically disrupting current power imbalances. Her writing and performance work is an attempt at translating the process of creating an identity through nostalgia and narrative. It references justice work, trauma, healing, history, Xicanidad, the Nepantla state, and Afro-Futurist inspired ideals.
Not An Alternative is a NY-based collective working at the intersection of art, activism, and critical theory. Its mission is to affect popular understandings of histories, symbols, and institutions through the occupation and redeployment of popular vernacular, semiotics, and memes. Named in The New York Times and ArtNet’s “Best in Art in 2015” round-ups, the group’s work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. Their latest project, The Natural History Museum, is a mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature, yet are excluded from traditional natural history museums. Presenting for the group is Steve Lyons, a core member since 2014.