Mariah Tarentino demonstrates how interspersing art and politics can help raise awareness.
Infusing art and politics
My research focuses on understanding and interpreting the responses of artists to political events, and in particular the 2016 presidential election. The research culminated in a paper titled “Artistic Responses to Presidential Elections,” and a pop-up exhibition in the Frederick Douglass Unity House called “The Art of Resistance.” The exhibition focused on political art created since the election by local artists, and included photographs, drawings, paintings, and protest signs.
I became interested in the project as I noticed images playing a larger and larger role in the political consciousness of Americans. Visual culture and political culture influence each other. Therefore, I was interested in studying how they interacted in this specific point in time, using historical information for context and reference.
Working with faculty on this research project has been an extremely positive experience. Even outside of my department, I have had professors show interest and give advice or suggest sources to investigate. Dr. Pamela Karimi, of the Art History Department encouraged me to pursue the research and provided helpful feedback and guidance through every step of the process.
I feel as though my research has allowed me to make greater connections between my major and minor; in researching art, especially art that discusses socio-political issues, the theories taught in women and gender studies become indispensable to thorough analysis of the art itself and its contexts. This research has enabled me to connect my studies to real-world applications and challenged me to conduct research in different, more extensive ways.
Raising awareness on campus
Much of my work on campus has focused on bringing together my political interests and art. For example, in 2015 I organized an art show in the Frederick Douglass Unity House to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual assault.
I felt that art was a healing tool the university has yet to fully utilize; and therefore I was interested in exploring it further. Even more central to my motivations was a desire to give survivors a way of expressing their stories in a different way; not everyone may feel comfortable writing or speaking about it, but maybe visually, survivors can find a way to take control of the narrative. I hoped this would empower the survivors within our community.
Gaining real-world experience
My academic experience at UMass Dartmouth has been enhanced through internship opportunities. I completed internship at UMass Dartmouth’s Visual Resource Center, which involved taking inventory and cataloging the works (from the 1950s-2010) of New Bedford artist John Havens-Thornton.
I also interned at the Visual Resource Center to assist with the CVPA Thesis Digitization Project. I was able to work directly with a collection’s custodian to meet her needs for categorizing and inventorying a collection of thousands of works. Through working in the Visual Resource Center on campus, I learned standards and protocols of cataloging by using LUNA to catalog thesis projects of previous CVPA students.
In the future, I plan to pursue curation as a career and in the next few years, I aspire to earn a master’s degree in contemporary art curation or a similar field. I believe this particular project has better prepared me to do so. I was able to gain valuable curation experience through the pop-up exhibition. It also taught me the process of preparing and producing independently driven research, which will allow me to pursue other projects I am passionate about later in my career.