Visual artworks are often produced to carry a meaning far beyond what you see at first glance.

British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist William Morris, most notable for his connection to the Arts and Crafts movement, was able to communicate his personal values, his ideas about objects made by hand and his take on important social issues through his work and writing in such a way that his viewpoints have remained relevant more than 100 years after his death.

Sociopolitical viewpoints in the visual arts are often greeted with a wary eye. While it is in some ways understandable, it is also important to point out how the arts have helped to carry messages to the populace for thousands of years. From objects like money, labels on products, to statues and public parks, the visual arts reference far more than we often realize.

"The Right Profile: Margi Weir and Melissa Haviland" at Troppus Projects in Kent features pieces by two artists whose work discusses sociopolitical issues in meaningful and aesthetically interesting ways.

Melissa Haviland has created a large installation of paper teacups along with music for her part of this exhibit.

“I use fine china as a cultural lens to explore relationships: personal and economic,” says the artist in her statement. The title of the installation is "A Host of Options (music for teacups wallpaper)," and it features paper teacups both whole and broken in a pattern covering one entire wall of the gallery and also along an adjacent shelf.

The teacups are cut out of black paper, and while they are all flat, they have subtle details that make them engaging, such as slight surface textures and cracks and breakage. Also, because they cover an entire wall and cast shadows, they tell a story about time and relationships that makes you wonder what the artist is trying to relate.

In addition to the paper teacups, the artist collaborated with musician David Colagiovanni to compose a piece that plays on a record player adjacent to the installation. The music consists of abstract sounds and the sounds of actual breaking teacups. The visual and sound elements create a moment in which to lose yourself in what is being presented. The vinyl record player creates another connection to home and childhood that furthers the storytelling aspect.

"Worker Bees" is a digital ink print on rag paper by Margi Weir. This digitally manipulated and collaged work features a repetitive pattern of black bees with the shape of a human worker wearing a hard hat floating in the pattern, or perhaps part of the bee pattern, though the worker shape does have a slightly grayed-out tint.

It’s an aesthetically pleasing piece and one that takes a couple of looks to understand what you’re seeing. The message is open to interpretation, but with the endangered status of honeybees and the always relevant subject of the human workforce, there are many ways to engage in this piece.

Weir has several works in the show that follow a similar style. Graphically attractive and repetitive patterns make up the compositions that feature titles like "Liberation Square," "Family Farm" and "We Are All Targets."

Each piece carries a meaning or message that the artists is trying to discuss with the viewer. What’s most intriguing is that they are all done in a way that is so aesthetically pleasing that it’s easy to imagine them in your home or office. In this way, her sociopolitical message acts as a potential gateway to a conversation and perhaps a deeper understanding.

"The Right Profile" is an intimate presentation of artists making work that is topical and important. These objects show thoughtful care in their creation and offer a connection to the visual arts that can have long-lasting relevance.

 

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com.