Five Artworks to Rally your Right to Vote

Many have probably already read in news outlets that the United States of America’s midterm election voter turn out is usually 40%. With so many determents like long lines, gerrymandering, job coverage, and “exact match” policies, this post is meant to provide some visual courage to exercise your right to vote. Check out a few pieces that highlight pivotal points in the United States’ young history. The works range from critical contemporary sculpture to a romanticized painting of an epic poem.

Aurora Molina, Candidates and the President, 2016 – 2017

Image: Maria Trujillo
Image: Maria Trujillo

This artwork by fiber-based artist, Aurora Molina, harks back to the 2016 Presidential election. According to the artist the work is, “a mocking representation of the 2016 presidential campaign. It reveals the candidates as circus caricatures, each racing in circles driven by ego and ambition and fueled by the power of Super Pacs.” The candidates dangle precariously from strings representing the special interest groups that support them and, as a result, control their actions. The marionettes threaded portraits and voodoo doll-like bodies move chaotically if a viewer approaches the theater box. This unscripted movement mimics the absurdity of politics and casts politicians as theatrical crowd pleasers. While the voter turnout for Presidential elections is only 10-20% higher than midterms elections, it is no less important to get to the polls.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 1991

Image: Wikiart

Barbara Kruger is best known for the bold declarations she prints across found photographs. Her artwork is often associated with the Feminist movement because of her exploration of gender, identity, politics, and commercialism. This untitled artwork is rendered in the image of the U.S flag but asks the viewer open-ended questions. These questions change based on the viewer and their culture, religion, education, and socioeconomic circumstances. The very answers to these questions can determine a citizen’s political party and partisan opinions. What will your answers be on November 6, and how will they affect what answer bubbles you darken?

Norman Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With, 1964

Image: Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell’s first work for Look magazine depicted the moment Ruby Bridges (the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana) walked to her first day at school escorted by four U.S marshals in 1960. Although this portrayal depicts a triumph for the Civil Rights Movement, it also highlights the fear/hatred existing in America as well as the damage it incurs on innocent children. Ruby’s white dress conjures a dark contrast with the red splash of rotten fruit and words that degrade the background of the historic event. Rockwell meant to depict the conflict of the 1960s, but unfortunately, racism/hate campaigns are a problem we still live with today – nothing can be more apparent from the negative political ads that have bombarded voters leading up to this important elections.

Evelyn Rumsey Cary, Woman’s Suffrage Study, 1905

Image: The Wolfsonian–FIU

“Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her own works praise her in the gates.” This quote anchors this study for a poster endorsing the women’s suffrage movement.  Evelyn Rumsey Cary’s artwork portrays a woman dressed in a classical costume in front of a white building reminiscent of the White House in Washington D.C. The Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibits the U.S government from denying the right to vote based on sex, was ratified in 1920. Prior to this date, women were unable to vote in elections for over a century.  Women’s right to vote in the United States was a slow and steady battle that took almost fifty years of canvassing and activism to bring to fruition. I hope that most of us will not take the is fought-for-right for granted and cast our ballots.

William De Leftwich Dodge, The Death of Minnehaha, 1885

Image: Wikicommons

This painting illustrates a scene from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. De Leftwich Dodge captures the moment that Minnehaha, the lover of Hiawatha, dies in a severe winter. The poet wrote the fictional piece based on Ojibwe folklore/history. Although the poem’s closing scene appears to endorse Christian missionaries, it also romanticizes American Indian culture. The poem was a great success upon its publication but received criticism for its positive approach to Native American culture. For me, this painting serves as a reminder that most of the people in the United States of America are immigrants and that we all stand to benefit from remembering that our ancestors’ efforts to seek a better life was often times at the expense of others.

Interested in learning more? Check out the links below for people, places, and artworks referenced in this article.

Aurora Molina

Barbara Kruger

Norman Rockwell

Ruby Bridges

The Wolfsonian–FIU

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

The Song of Hiawatha


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