In such stark political times, some student artists have decided to weaponize their brushes in order to shed light on social issues they’re passionate about.
The latest exhibit at the School of Art Galleries, “Luminance,” highlights the artistic work of three students: Hannah Brimer, Riley Natividad and Sylvan Steightiff. The central theme of the exhibition highlights the importance of the #MeToo movement.
Brimer created three pieces featured in the exhibition which runs until Feb. 14. As part of an ongoing series, Brimer created a still-life portrait of figs, and two large grey and blue canvas paintings. One canvas features an image of a nude woman on her back wearing a blindfold. The alternate canvas features a green lovebird eating a fig.
“All of my work is based on female sexuality, whether that’s confidence or insecurities.” Brimer said. “This piece addresses the #MeToo movement and the piece itself is really symbolic because the woman in the painting is nude, so it’s kind of representing her inner struggles and vulnerability … she’s slowly pulling a blindfold off which represents removing stereotypes that have been enforced upon her by society.”
Brimer went on to explain the symbolism of her piece and how all three works of art are interlinked, referencing each other both in color and theme. Brimer said it was important for her to highlight the stories and struggles of women in her work.
“I typically do green and purple in a lot of my work, so the other piece with the figs and the hands is the beginning stages of what inspired [the larger piece]. Greens and purples represent royalty and prestige in the art world,” Brimer said. “They used to be really expensive to paint with, so I wanted to use those colors to signify that women’s bodies are something to be treasured.”
Brimer elaborated on some of the harmful phrases that are often employed to blame and subjugate victims of sexual assault.
“Often times victims will be told, ‘Oh she was asking for it’ to shame them into submission, so she’s taking off this blindfold in defiance of these stereotypes,” Brimer said.
An extraordinary amount of time went into Brimer’s creative process, including months of research and more than 60 hours worth of painting.
“I started the concept back in October or November; with all of my work I start with a concept. I do a reference photo, then I do a small drawing. From the small drawing I do a color study, from the color study I produce the large painting, so it takes a while,” Brimer said.
Brimer was inspired to create immediately following a summer trip abroad.
“The inspiration for the figs started when I was in Italy, a boyfriend of mine sent me a photograph of him collecting them on his hometown farm and I loved the colors…so I ended up spending a lot of time while I was in Florence over the summer just researching art in Europe…and what fruit represented in artwork at the time” Brimer said.
After extensive research on what fruit was used to represent in art during the Renaissance, Brimer became fascinated with the colors of figs and what they could possibly be used to represent in her work.
“[The bird] is eating a fig and the fig represents female genitalia,” Brimer said. “There’s a couple differences with how a fig decays and how it’s eaten, so a ripened fruit being eaten or partially eaten signifies a loss of virtue so this [male] bird is taking away the virtue of this woman.”
Brimer said the countless hours of hard work she put into the project were ultimately worth it after seeing her work displayed in a gallery setting.
“It’s for sure a labor of love, a lot of emotion and time goes into this and I do a lot of research prior about colors or the symbolism of stuff,” Brimer said. ”I really want storytelling to be prioritized in my work.”