Artists show politically inspired work at Hagerstown gallery

October 17, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Three rolls of toilet paper bolted to a wall, a wire elephant stuffed with faux voting ballots marked for Al Gore and a neon-colored canvas featuring a psychotic cartoon figure and the words "Medicate! The American Way" are among the creations displayed for the next few weeks at the Washington County Arts Council gallery downtown.

Local artists submitted their politically inspired work for the exhibit, Shouts from the Wall.

"Artists have been responding visually to issues since the beginning of time," said Lindsay Weaver, manager of the gallery. "We wanted to challenge local artists."

Local artist and art teacher Tom Renner painted the busy, neon canvas with the self-medicating cartoon figure. He described the piece as more of a social commentary than a political one. People are concerned about the world, and a lot of people escape by dropping out and medicating themselves with pills or alcohol, he said.


"Medication isn't the answer. Change is the answer," Renner said.

Renner also submitted an anti-war piece he created a few years ago. "War is the art of politicians painted with the blood of the average man," proclaims his piece, The Art of War.

"The last war we were in that had any real purpose was World War II. The rest were political," said Renner, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War.

Michael Gouker, a local artist and teacher at North Hagerstown High School, submitted to the exhibit a piece he created in 1989. Wrecking Alaska was based on the Exxon Valdez spill but he could have inserted Sarah Palin's picture to update the piece, Gouker said.

Another of Gouker's pieces evolves with the political times. Muddle in the Middle is an oversized dollar bill he uses to "skewer different politicians and greed."

Melissa Smith submitted three collages aimed at promoting women's and gay rights. "With the upcoming election, it's important those issues don't get put to the side," she said.

The exhibit at 14 W. Washington St. runs through Nov. 6.

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