Art and Politics, Interpretation by Women

By Linda Stein

In this edition of On The Issues Magazine on What is Terror To Women, the artwork of Martha Rosler is featured, as well as selections from several other artists — Siona Benjamin, Anne Sager and Carol Hunt — whose work relates to the theme. These works represent a commitment by On The Issues Magazine to expand thinking about topics of concern by incorporating visual expression.

Martha Rosler’s works consist of six photomontages — Point and Shoot, Trophy, Running Women, Scatter, Balloons, Hooded Captives and Gladiators. Some work is new; other selections date to Rosler’s politically-oriented art over the past forty years. Her works take macro-fears and place them in mundane, everyday settings that strike to the heart of the threats that people feel — and try to ignore — as they go about their daily lives.

A new show of Rosler’s work at the Mitchell Innes & Nash gallery in fall 2008 included Point and Shoot and other recent collages reflecting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They are composites constructed from the incongruous photographs commonly found cheek by jowl in commercial news media: advertising images of idealized American homes conjoined with combat scenes from overseas,” wrote Carol Kino in “Glossy Idealism on the Frontlines” in The New York Times.

Art heightens a reader’s engagement with subject matter. It stimulates, excites and brings home points directly to one’s right-brain core. In its presentation of both abstract and representational art, On The Issues Magazine seeks to create a vivid, visceral reality that adds a visual expansion to essays and other text.

Works by artist Siona Benjamin offer a different visual perspective of “Terror for Women.” Benjamin’s art puts the subject of identity in the forefront as she asks viewers to evaluate the toll and tasks set before women to face known and unknown destructive global forces.

Carol Hunt, whose work accompanies poetry selections, and Anne Sager, whose work brings a visual element to publisher Merle Hoffman’s essay, Sarah Palin and the Apocolypse, use powerful abstractions to recreate the moment of explosion and carnage, making real and undeniable, the worst fears of annihilation.

In the previous edition of the On The Issues Magazine on the theme of prostition and feminism Suzanne Lacy and her Project on Prostitution was featured. Lacy walks viewers through, in diary and map format, the day-to-day experiences she had with “the life” on the streets. In an accompanying audio component prepared for On The Issues Magazine, Lacy describes the scenes in her own words.

Other artists in that edition offer expressions as varied as the differing opinions of feminists who write on the topic of sex work and feminism. Audrey Anastasi explores in a series of paintings her fascination with prostitutes as they dress and groom themselves, while Tiana Markova-Gold’s photographs deepen the understanding of the isolation and risk faced by sex workers.

The first full online edition of On The Issues Magazine on HIV-AIDS and misogyny presented my own sculpture series of female Knights. As I describe in an accompanying audio, I created these iconic larger-than-life torsos as symbols of empowerment and protection that stand in the face of fragility and vulnerability, inviting the reader to strengthen her sense of agency and autonomy.

Through the art, readers are offered an additional layer of comprehension to fully explore and internalize the weighty subjects that confront people today in a sometimes chaotic and confusing world.

October 27, 2008


The Café