Confrontational Art

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Creative Work by Michelle Davey

When I asked for feedback from my classmates on the G+ community regarding whether they think activism that is being demonstrated live (in-action) or as an art piece, such as a graffiti or sculpture, is more effective in terms of conveying their message the overall consensus was that of a live performance. The more “in your face” the art is, the more impactful it will be. Visual activism through art is a way for the artist to convey their feelings or opinions in a non-confrontational way that allows the audience to see their view and decide for themselves what they want to believe. Art has the ability to create an emotional experience with the viewer. Art is fluid in the way that it connects people who may live in different countries or continents. The topic of animal cruelty is a universal one that many artists are cognizant of.

Throughout this assignment I have been researching many different artists and the mediums they use to showcase their opinion on animal cruelty. I have shown artists who use photography, paintings, books, and art in a more comedic, subtle way to show the consequences of animal cruelty. For my creative work I decided to use a program called Emaze as a way to show what I have learned throughout this project concerning visual activism.

In this final blog post I am going to explore more in-depth some artists whose work I believe to be the most effective. One organization I find to be most influential is PETA. On their website under the category “Why does PETA use controversial tactics?” They replied with “We will do extraordinary things to get the word out about animal cruelty because we have learned from experience that the media, sadly, do not consider the terrible facts about animal suffering alone interesting enough to cover. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and of course, action” (PETA, 1). There is no shortage of activism videos in PETA’s playlist but the one that I will be focusing on is a protest outside of a Louis Vuitton store that exposes the violent skinning of crocodiles in Vietnam who are being killed to create these leather bags. Three women whose bodies were painted to look like bloody, dead crocodiles draped themselves over an oversized crocodile-skin bag. With this grotesque image PETA has no doubt captured the attention of onlookers as well as the media. Their message to urge shoppers to buy vegan alternatives is clear.

Another artist whose work captured my attention is Sue Coe. Sue grew up next to a slaughterhouse that is the inspiration for many of her graphic paintings and drawings. Her art can be described as dark and nightmarish yet very impactful. It reveals the harsh truth behind how we obtain our meat. Anyone who views her art will undoubtedly feel her impassioned fury behind these works and while it may not change your mind, it will show you a powerful new perspective.

PETA and Sue Coe are just two of the amazing artists using their creative works as a tool to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. They challenge our perspectives on an issue that a lot of us just choose to ignore and put to the backside. I am finishing this blog post with a quote from Nicholas Mirzoeff, “Once we have learned how to see the world, we have taken only one of the required steps. The point is to change it” (298).

Works Cited

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

“Why Does PETA Use Controversial Tactics?” PETA. PETA, n.d. Web. 29 May 2017.

Officialpeta. “Body-Painted ‘Crocodiles’ Protest Outside Louis Vuitton Store.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Feb. 2017. Web 29 May 2017.

Yeung, Peter. “The Artists Pushing Animal Rights Further.” Dazed Digital. Dazed Digital, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 May 2017.


Animal Rights Activism

Go Vegan! Campaign

These billboards are featured as part of Jonathan Horowitz’s Go Vegan! Campaign

This image was taken from


This week I focused on finding examples of visual activism pertaining to my topic, animal cruelty. This is a global issue that has an effect on virtually every country. Whether it is a beloved family animal or a creature in the wild all animals are intelligent creatures that should be treated with respect and not cause them any unnecessary suffering or pain. I am researching how artists and designers have represented animal rights through images of art and design in America as well as in other countries. I will also be looking at animal rights laws in these countries and how they might pertain to the activism being done in those countries. One of the animal rights organizations I will be looking at is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which is an American organization that is known for their controversial advertising tactics. The slogan from their website is, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” I will be looking at some of their print media and commercials as well as what activists have done in a public speaking format. I will also be showcasing artists who through their projects show their opposition to animal cruelty. Some of these artists are Jonathon Horowitz, Banksy, and Rubi Roth. I will be analyzing their works and the effect that they might have on the public. I believe an effective format for my creative work would be to do a screencast consisting of all of the artists’ works and a short glimpse of my thoughts on each artist and a general theme if one in fact exists.

Independent Study

This week for independent study we were asked to review videos from Resources for building a visual and contextual analysis. I watched The power to tell the difference: visual literacy in a visual age and John Berger/Ways of Seeing, Episode 1 from the section Making an analysis of a visual work—Visual Literacy—Contextual and Critical Analysis. In the first video I thought that the idea of “the more convincing the imagery, the gap between fact and fiction blurs” was very interesting. That because of all the advanced technology we now have and the way we can make a fabricated reality with visual and auditory experiences seem like actual reality is profound. Visual literacy requires critical thinking and awareness; we need anchors to be able to tie ourselves down to what’s real.

John Berger made some valid points when discussing how the invention of the camera has changed not only what we see, but how we see it. He back this idea up by stating that looking at painting used to be a unique experience, but now they can be seen in a million different places at the same time. I agree with this notion of how seeing an amazing work of art used to be a privilege only experienced by few and now you can just type it in on Google and see it for yourself at home. I think, in a way, this does detract from the experience of going into a museum and witnesses firsthand an artwork. “Paintings now lend themselves to easy manipulation. They can be used to make arguments or points which may be different from their original meaning.” I fully agree with this notion that people can interpret art and spin it’s meaning however they want to benefit their beliefs. In our society today we are taking things that are supposed to be unique, wonderful experiences and making them easily transferable digitally for the masses to see.

From the Visual Analysis Meaning making and “Truth Value” section I viewed A Photographic Truth. Photographic truth is characterized as a myth. This is because everyone has his or her own truth when looking at an image. Also, more often than we think those “candid” shots that photographers are always seemingly able to capture can in fact be purposeful manipulation. I thought this video gave great insight to the process behind pictorial manipulation and why we shouldn’t always take things as factual just because it’s an amazing photo in a popular magazine.

Lastly, I watched World Views vs. Western World Views. I was aware of the different viewpoints from western and indigenous people, but to see the animations and facts in this video that go along with it make these two different views even more obvious. The way of thinking is opposite in almost every element, from how we think about nature, the community and the market economy. In the western market economy 40% of the Earth’s resources are owned by 1% of the population. How does that make any sense? We have a terrible sense of community that is just driven by competition for personal gain. In my opinion, the indigenous people have the right idea about how to view the world.

Looking with fresh eyes: A New Endeavor

Three weeks ago I read in the course guide that we were required to attend the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the City Gallery Wellington. I typically think of exhibits as uninteresting. I pictured myself with a group of my peers standing in front of various art works, not really looking at them, just giving the illusion of analyzing the art.

On the day we were to attend the exhibit I found myself standing outside the gallery with my class, wearing a blue band that granted me all day access to the gallery. I made a decision before entering that I was going to try and let myself really experience an art exhibit for the first time.

I walked straight into the enormous mural showcasing a multitude of different characters being represented by Cindy Sherman. This main room was full of other students and visitors all trying to get intimate with the photographs as well as attempt to digitally capture a sole image of the photograph without any outside interference. I knew with the crowdedness I would not have an adequate amount of time to analyze the mural. In Isaac Kaplan’s blog he writes about how generally as a whole we are not looking at works of art long to fully experience the work and for it all to be consumed thoughtfully (Kaplan).

I was intrigued when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of a ridiculous photograph of what appeared to be a clown, followed by a storm of color from the room to the left of the mural. The explanation of Art the Clowns series revealed to me that Sherman created it after the 9/11 attacks. The clowns’ expressions represent the various emotions felt by everyone. These photographs ignited a memory of me leaving school early that day and my mother anxiously waiting for a phone call from New York, for my father to tell us that he was safe. The exhibit elicited a surprising amount of emotions from me as well as a new connection between the visual art and the outside world.

After the exhibit I thought of the introduction from the Mirzoeff book as well as the reading by Michael Clarke and their discussion of visual culture. Mirzoeff explains that how through social media and technology, we have altered our idea of visual culture (Mirzoeff, 13). Because I was able to personally experience the gallery I know that I would have had a much different reaction to the exhibit if I ‘d looked up the images online. Clarke recognizes that an interpretation is never simple and can never be conclusive (Clarke, 26). Someone will presumably interpret the Clowns series and its representation differently than I do.

Reflecting on these past three weeks since the course began I have a new perspective on how art and design can play an important role in my life, and my connection to the visual world. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the semester holds for this class.

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Photograph taken by Michelle Davey (myself) is part of the Clown series in Cindy Sherman exhibit at the City Gallery Wellington. I thought that this photograph most accurately showcased the many emotions felt by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone reacts to tragedy in his or her own way.


Works Cited:

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

Kaplan, Isaac. “Https://Www.Artsy.Net/Article/Artsy-Editorial-Long-Work-Art-It”. Artsy Editorial. N.p., 2017. Print.

Clarke, Michael. “Language and Meaning.” Verbalising the Visual: Translating Art and Design into Words. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing, 2007. 20-27. Print.

Linking Cindy Sherman


The first image is one from Cindy Sherman’s Clowns series in the City Gallery. I appreciate this photograph in particular because of all the psychedelic, melting colors that are used to create sort of a “down the rabbit hole” type of feeling. The three clown faces, all expressing different emotions immediately reminded me of the film Killer Klowns from Outer Space. This film has over the top creatures and is always thrilling to watch. It coincides with the quote from the Cindy Sherman lecture: “Through her skillful masquerade, she has created an astonishing body of work that amuses, titillates, disturbs and shocks. The background in this photograph is dissipating away just as the World Trade Center did. This photograph to me shows that we as humans feel an infinite array of emotions and that they can shift from one to another in a split second and that in the face of tragedy we all react differently.

The type of art that really interests me and captures my attention is art that isn’t obvious. Art that makes you think and re-think. I love art that is out of the ordinary. Anything that stimulates the mind. Cindy Sherman does a great job of this, especially with her Clowns series. Her art communicates to me that while she is completely aware of what she is doing and what she wants to say, she lets the audience find their own meaning within the madness. She does this by not putting descriptions under a lot of her photographs and simply leaving them Untitled #…

Reflecting Cindy Sherman

The moment that I saw the clown double photograph that I previously described in “Experiencing Cindy Sherman” was the most significant experience that I had throughout the whole exhibit. Before that moment I was mindlessly wandering through the gallery just taking pictures, not really reading the descriptions or looking for a deeper meaning behind the photographs.

After going back and reading the description on the wall about why Sherman created her Clowns series and what it represented, it touched me even more. These were her first creations after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The clowns through their body language and facial expressions convey all of the different emotions that were felt by this tragedy. The photograph resonated with me even more because even though I was young, I remember that day very well because my Father was in New York at the time. I remember being pulled out of school early and my Mom frantically calling my Father until he answered and assured her that he was safe. It took him four days to rent a car and drive back to our home in Texas due to no planes flying in or out.

After my experience with those peculiarly wonderful clowns I walked around a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective. I began to really look at the photographs and compare them to what I thought Cindy Sherman was trying to portray. I wanted to take my time going through the rest of the rooms and even found myself in the upstairs library area listening to a tape of Sherman talk about all of her galleries her process and influence for her creations. This experience showed me that even though my coming there was for a school assignment doesn’t mean that it can’t be an enlightening, enjoyable experience. It gave me more of an appreciation for artwork and how a simple picture can say an endless amount of things and have a much greater influence than I initially thought. I enjoyed the gallery much more than I initially thought I would and look forward to returning soon.

Experiencing Cindy Sherman

I am in the main gallery room when you first walk into the exhibit with the the mural that stretches from floor to ceiling with a multitude of different characters all being portrayed by Cindy Sherman. The first room is the most crowded and I am not able to analyze the mural as closely as I would like as well as take the proper photographs.

I move on to the second room in the exhibit and am immediately intrigued. Every corner of the room is full of dark, fantastic caricatures of clowns. I am halfway through this gallery when one photograph caused me to stop and do a double take. It is a double photograph of a two clowns. They are in two separate frames facing away from each other. The clown on the left appears to be distraught and gazing off into the distance. He is holding a balloon animal and the makeup on its face make it appear as if he is crying. It is not clear if the clown on the right is a man or a woman. It appears to me as if it s a man playing a woman. He is sitting defiantly with its arms crossed and eyes closed. His makeup makes his mouth form into one straight, un-smiling line.

This specific photograph caught my eye because it is one of the only double portraits that I saw throughout the whole gallery. More importantly, this photograph made me want to know the background story of these bizarre characters. It elicited an emotion of empathy for the clown on the left and curiosity as to what the other clown was so resistant to.

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