Jenna Wilgenburg-Staff Writer
How far is “too far?” It’s an age-old question, applying to pranks, light-hearted insults, even the physical boundaries of young love. And now…billboards?
Paste a huge image of one of the most controversial presidents in U.S. history on a billboard. Pin a Russian flag on the lapel of his coat. Flank him with clown faces morphed into the unmistakable shape of mushroom clouds. Throw in some money signs. And then make them look like Nazi Swastikas just for kicks. Controversial? I mean, come on.
This billboard currently stands on display in downtown Phoenix. Karen Fiorito, a social artist from Santa Monica, California, was commissioned by an art gallery to design this politically-loaded billboard.
Emotional and fiery debates surround countless social issues and politics today. Artists have used various forms of media to express their views to the public throughout history, and their activity in the 21st century carries on the tradition.
Dr. Jeff Taylor, a political science professor at Dordt, expects the use of political art to continue, whether in editorial cartoons, campaign publicity, social media or political blogging. He believes political art provides diversity of thought and promotes the democratization of politics.
Of course, this billboard received mixed reviews. It accurately expressed the feelings of some, and angered others who support our country’s current leadership. Responses from Dordt students included “It’s kind of crazy” and “I feel like it’s a little aggressive.” The majority of students who responded to the image agreed that the artist went too far.
Politically-loaded artwork has also shown its face on Dordt’s campus recently. The Graphic Design II class participated in a collaborative project revolving around the issue of gun violence in America. Students designed the banners now hanging in the art gallery near the art department offices.
The assignment required students to use a photograph of President Trump taken when he spoke on campus during his presidential campaign, as well as the following quote, also from that speech on Jan. 23, 2016: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
The project includes gun violence “zines,” or booklets, containing information and visuals on topics ranging from the stories of innocent children killed by gun violence to statistics on bullets and blood loss.
“Some people are visual learners, so seeing a number can be impactful,” said sophomore graphic design student Sarah Dykstra.
One of her pages in the zine uses dots to help readers visualize the amount of blood lost by gun violence victims.
A series of semi-transparent images, containing 20 different photos of victims combined into one, also hangs on the windows leading into the gallery.
“People always take things differently, so I don’t really think you can determine how far things can go,” Dykstra said. “One person will be offended by it and one person will love it.”
“Art in many ways is meant to generate a reaction,” said art professor David Versluis, the instructor in charge of the gun violence project.
Referring to the billboard of President Trump, he said it goes over the top to convey a message. But he thinks hyperbole, or exaggerated statements not meant to be taken literally, are sometimes needed to grab people’s attention.
“Are we so numb? Do we need that kind of shock?” he asked. “In some cases, we do.”