As a beginning student in the art of photography, I was unable to dodge the bullet of critique. The above photos set fellow art students into a long discussion about intent, which was fairly straight forward.
Humboldt State came recently to know that many community and faculty members were not happy with the mission style entrance gates that had been built one summer. One of my instructors for Native American Studies pointed out that he found the gates offensive. As it was a constant reminder of the California Missions and the injustices committed in the name of god and at the mercy of the Indigenous people of the California region.
I found myself thinking about architecture as a political statement. Not a new idea, in fact a very old one (The Pantheon) which began to be a reminder of the institutionalized nature of college.
On further contemplation, I searched my psyche to find what offends me on a daily basis. The first thing that came to mind was advertising. And not just any advertising, but the way that the human form is sexualized to sell products. It's been going on so long that the practice seems very ordinary. So ordinary to my fellow artist students that although they were not short of words and ideas about these photos, some were simply not even aware that this sort of imagery could be offensive. Nor did they understand the history of the California missions.
My strongest case for argument is by way of my nieces. I look at art and create art with one very solid filter. I ask myself, "Can I show this and explain this to my nieces?" With that in mind, I took it further and presented to the class that I felt the photo of Beck, in his sexy underwear would send a strange message to his children. The only young artist in the group that really took to this was a mother. She realized that she would not want her daughter seeing her father in such an ad.
Others, just didn't see the big deal and at one point I began to feel as if I had to defend myself and explain that I wasn't a prude. But I didn't. I just let them speak, as they all had so much to say.
It is no secret that imagery has a powerful influence on the human psyche. To just sit back and let it roll is fine for some, but not for me. Every visit to Humboldt State reminds me that I am about to embark into an institution with a specific agenda. Each time I open a magazine, I enter the same agreement. How I process this information is up to me and being well informed about who I am dealing with is very important in learning.
Humboldt State has a very active Native American Studies program, but does the school really understand how to be consciously involved with it's own territorial history?