Complex Connections...Continued

ACAD Summer Residency 2017 Introductory Blog

I currently make art within the comfortable confines of my one bedroom apartment. There isn’t a lot of space, but I make use of what I have. My kitchen table doubles as a work surface and my balcony serves as a fume hood for spraying my art. When I saw that ACAD was taking applications for artists to participate in their Summer Residency, I jumped at the chance to have a studio. The application process required me to write a proposal on the type of work I planned to complete with ACAD’s space and resources.

I thought back to two recent art shows where I exhibited a piece I made in University called “Complex Connections.” This piece is a silk-screen print that juxtaposes two speeches, one by Martin Luther King Jr., and one by Adolf Hitler. The print provoked thoughtful conversations with whoever saw it. Many even commented that it was my best work. With this in mind, I decided I wanted to delve deeper into these concepts and themes with my residency. 

Complex Connections, 30"x20", Silk Screen Print, Kristen Powell, 2012

Complex Connections, 30"x20", Silk Screen Print, Kristen Powell, 2012

The inquiry question I will be working with is, “In what ways do sound through speech affect individuals and world events?” Through exploring this question I plan to complete a series of multi-media artworks that will explore the theme of sound, spread of ideas, politics, protest and influence. In the work, I will question the ways that influential speakers and ideas affect individuals and world events.

I feel that this topic is extremely relevant today. My passion for these themes started in 2011, but was reignited during the recent US Presidential Election. I have some very personal connections to the issues that were brought up during the campaign. I also felt a strong sense of empathy for all people who were directly affected by the rhetoric and proposed policies during the election. The night of the election, I watched the results in horror, and like many others, questioned the future of our world. When I realized that the results pointed toward a Trump presidency, I cried. I went to bed early in the hope that when I awoke, everything would have just been a terrible nightmare. 

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

I woke up and the results had not changed through the night, but everything had changed in the world. So many people faced uncertainty, and anxiety about their basic human rights. Immediately, people who felt their voices were going to be silenced started speaking out and protesting. Many of the radical things that were said by Trump and his administration well before his inauguration shook people to their core. People were unsure if he would follow through with his ideas, but terrified that it could be possible. 

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

Something that has always been clear to me is that words have immense power. Regardless of their validity, words spoke by someone with power -hold power. If people connect with them, these ideas can spread like wildfire.  I am also interested in how marginalized voices are heard and reflected in times of protest. I will explore how people have used the power of their voice to counteract the hate speech that resulted from the attitudes re-ignited by Trump. 

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

January 21, 2017 was a monumental day. A worldwide protest was organized in reaction to Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States.  The Women’s March united people with a common goal of protecting the rights and safety of all people included in diverse communities. As it’s namesake implies, women came out to represent and protest violence against women, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, gender and racial inequities, and many other issues. Inspiring and powerful speeches were made that day. It was evident that if the Trump administration was going to attempt to strip rights away from people, people were going to fight back. This was not the first time in history that communities have come together in protest of their government, discriminatory practices and injustice. I will not attempt to summarize many decades of similar activities. However, I will touch on some similar themes with my art that have been explored in the past. 

Complex Connections, 30"x20", Silk Screen Print, Kristen Powell, 2012 (Detail shot)

Complex Connections, 30"x20", Silk Screen Print, Kristen Powell, 2012 (Detail shot)

I will represent my ideas using the common thread of sound. I am interested in how sound can be an agent for change. My materials and processes will include silk-screen printmaking, painting, and digital media. I am currently in the stage of creating preliminary mind maps and sketches based on my research. The visual depiction of these themes is still unclear to me, as I continue to do more research and soul searching around this topic. Through research, experimentation with new and familiar techniques, and discussion with other artists I will gain clarity in how I want to express these themes. I want my artwork to question the viewers’ experience of sound through speech. My hope is that my artwork engages people in a discussion about the importance of words and their influence on peoples’ perceptions. My artwork should challenge, inspire, question, confront and spark conversation.

I am truly excited about the potential for this project. I feel that “Complex Connections…Continued” will give a voice to ideas that affect us daily basis, as we search for answers in an uncertain world. I believe that this project can reach a large and diverse audience, and will challenge people’s notions of what affects our beliefs and values. I will first create the artwork in the supportive setting that ACAD is providing and then invite the wider community to partake in the discussion around these themes. I feel privileged and grateful to be able to have a dedicated space to make art, the resources to create it and other artists available to help me improve my ideas. At the end of my residency in August, there will be an exhibition where I will share the work that results in this research process. I can’t wait to see where it goes and begin to get my hands dirty! I hope you will check back as I continue to post and update on my progress and process!