Bringing in the Women’s Voices

Allison Wordes—Staff Writer
20180129_154117Each poster yells, pouts or insists upon the rights of women. Each one defies expectations of Cuban women—why should they be chained to cooking or cleaning, when they have the rights to be free?
Art professor David Versluis, who’s been at Dordt since 2001, learned of the showcasing art exhibit last year in Chicago from a fellow graphic designer.
Dordt applied the labels to the artwork—the original show did not include them.
“Studies have shown that an artwork’s labels give it legitimacy,” Versluis said. The posters, being posters, are able to communicate a lot on their own. However, adding English subtitles for Spanish posters and vice versa allowed for clarification in viewing.
“The poster is an important vehicle for the public to communicate in Cuba,” Versluis said.
In 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power, thousands of posters were commissioned by the government to communicate his vision of a socialist society. While those such posters were commissioned by the government, these posters are done by women in collaboration from two different institutions—Purdue University and the Instituto Superior de Diseňo in Havana, Cuba.
20180129_154125“It was striking how differently many of the student artists took the theme,” said sophomore Retasya Badudu. She appreciated how the gallery portrayed social issues, such as the woman chained to certain domestic tasks. Not all of the posters imply negative attitudes about women, however. Women are also esteemed, and, being 65 percent of the workforce, immensely valuable in their communities.
As one poster suggested, women wear a variety of shoes in their lifestyles. Still, women have a singularly important role—as one poster depicting the queen chess piece suggested: “Without her, nothing makes sense.”
“The imagery is strong,” Badudu said. “You walk in there, and you walk out with many different thoughts.”
20180129_154145“This exhibit is really out there, for Dordt,” said Emily Wicker, sophomore graphic design major. It’s combination of Spanish and English also added to the depth of the meaning for Wicker, a Spanish minor.
The gallery debuted in 2016 and has since been traveling around the country, visiting large and small institutions from the art metropolis that is Chicago to the small campus of Dordt.
Somehow, having graphic designers tackle these issues allows them to be more acceptable in the community, according to Versluis. Graphic design is such a different medium from painting or sculpture, and it utilizes basic geometry and color to simplify stark ideas.
The students from the Graphic Design III class are adding to the poster craze by creating their own renditions of the women’s posters to hang around campus.
There isn’t any disclaimer posted on the gallery entrance stating that Dordt doesn’t agree with the ideas portrayed in the gallery. However, visitors tend to be aware that there are still controversial topics that even those of the Reformed perspective do not agree on.
“[Even] Within our Reformed institution, there is room for a kind of common grace,” Versluis said.
He said we should not block it off, or refuse to deal with it. It should start a conversation at Dordt that allows understanding and freedom for women, both in Cuba and in the U.S.
A public reception will be held Feb. 7, from 7-8pm in the gallery.

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