Despite the progress made for women's' rights in the past decades, women are still often viewed as objects for men to admire and praise. Whether on television, in movies or print publications, it is nearly impossible not to find half-naked women decorating magazine covers or movie promotion posters. In cultures around the world, sex sells, but it comes with a cost that affects men and women alike.
In an effort to introduce social problems through art to students, the UNC Charlotte Department of Art and Art History recently unveiled the work of their distinguished studio art faculty for the annual Faculty Biennial Exhibition. The exhibit, hosted in the Rowe Art Galleries, highlights a variety of aesthetics and art mediums that explore real human emotions and daily life. Amongst the nearly two dozen art works on display, Shelly Sloan Ellis and John Hairston Jr. stood out the most with their powerful symbolism and vibrant imagery.
Sloan Ellis examines sexual violence against women and questions the idea of sexual protection through her art. According to RAINN, sexual violence against women has fallen by half in the last 20 years. However, perpetrators are less likely to receive punishment. For this reason, many women do not report the sexual assault. In her intriguing, thought-provoking artwork, Flack Skirt, Sloan Ellis creates a perception of fragility yet unwavering courageousness.
The artist applies the idea of aprons and how it acts as a barrier between food stains and your clothes. Instead of cloth, she utilizes clay shaped into a frayed rose then dipped in porcelain slip fiber to symbolize the fragility of a woman's body. The off-pinkish rose color lays atop modeled slabs which represent women's distinctive part in reproduction.
Sloan Ellis is not the only artist exploring women issues. In a funkier manner, Hairston explores the female body, and a mother's love and connection with her child. He captures the human condition by way of depicting the extraordinary and absurd in mundane, everyday situations. Much of Hairston's art is a reflection of his love for music in the hip-hop and soul genres and his admiration for all things spandex-clad and funky.
In his acrylic artwork, Even if she is, so?, Hairston depicts a woman of color in tribal print basking in her happiness while she completes her daily task with her baby boy in a sack on her back. Hairston uses variations of bright green colors and cartoon-like imagery to add to the 'upbeat' tone of the canvas. His painting adds a unique twist by applying elements of street art to create urban surrealism while using light humor techniques.
The faculty exhibition is important because it provides a space for professors to display their work for students, the campus and community to see. It also demonstrates that art can be used as a statement against social problems that may plague our communities.