We hear a lot from talking heads about the important issues of this election year.
But if you want to know what artists think, visit the digital art gallery on CNN’s website. (To get there, go to cnn.com, click on Opinion and then on the image labeled Illustrating Power.)
The display marks the second time CNN has invited artists to participate in a digital project. Last year, it posted “9/11 Ripple,” a gallery of artists’ ideas about the ripple effect of the 9/11 attacks.
With the 2012 election nearing, CNN invited an international group of artists to comment on the theme of power. The 21 participants include Peregrine Honig of Kansas City, whose “Bed of Roses” appears with six other works in a section headed Power Struggle.
Honig’s watercolor and ink painting depicts a nude young woman lying on her back. Blood flows over her torso as a cloud of multicolored roses, tethered to her navel like a parachute, hovers in the air above her.
Honig’s statement about the piece, which ties the image to abortion rights, appears below it.
In 2011, Honig showed a picture of two beeswax heads, titled “Twins,” in “9/11 Ripple.”
“It had nothing to do with politics,” she said in a recent interview. The words accompanying the piece invoked the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
This time around was different, Honig said. The CNN organizers contacted her and asked her to defend her use of nudity in “Bed of Roses.”
“It was an image I drew a while ago,” she said. “It’s definitely about fertility and dying and all these things that have to do with women’s rights. I didn’t want it to be so blatant, but in order to defend it I had to be more and more specific. Where I was just giving an overall idea of blooming, I ended up having to make it very clear that I didn’t want abortion to be illegal, because I didn’t want women to die from illegal abortions.
“I don’t consider myself to be an artist who’s dealing with political issues,” she added. “I usually avoid it completely, but I felt it was a really good opportunity to talk about women’s rights.”
Honig confessed that initially she was nervous about taking such a public stance. But no more.
“The minute the Todd Akin thing came out I was so happy I had taken the risk,” she said. “This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about once somebody decides that you have to give birth, there’s no gray area any more. It’s not whether or not you have an abortion. Forcing someone into motherhood is not healthy for anyone.”
Other artists address topics ranging from the power of the president’s red telephone, to the influence of corporate donors, to the impact and reliability of public polls, a subject thoughtfully and humorously explored in a video work by New York-based performance artist Liz Magic Laser.
The works are presented under five “power” headings, including Collective Power, Power of Authority, Personal Power and Origins of Power. The latter is entirely devoted to the handwritten illustrated text works of New York artist William Powhida, who explores “the ways in which people exercise, submit to and resist power.”
Powhida, Honig and others don’t mince words. Artist Noah Fischer nails the great American preoccupation of this election year.
“A struggle with money is at the core of most American lives,” he writes in the statement accompanying his video, “The Power of Gold.”
To reach The Star’s Alice Thorson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.