CONTACT
HAND ME DOWNS
Brenna Pepke
Department of Art & Design, Potter College of Arts & Letters, Western Kentucky University
Through a web-based layout, I propose to exhibit 5-6 paintings with written text. This painted work examines large-scale, societal traumas within the United States that have been repeated throughout history.Connections will be made between historical writings, imagery, and the language of both the oppressed and oppressor. The work is a visual thinking through and questioning of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Research conducted through visual/physical
processes can directly affect humanitarian unity.
Artworks are able to reach the unspoken, conceptual, and emotional through the experience material play can bring. Investing in visual studies is also important because visuals are accessible to all sectors of society, providing a creative critique through which to address the individual with the power to change that society founded upon individuality.

Abstract

My critiques begin as sketches responding to a wide variety of literature and rhetoric, which evolve into specific, symbolic painted language. First-hand
accounts and literature —such as writings of James Baldwin, Stephanie E. Jones-Rodgers, and the rhetoric of the BLM, LGBTQ+, and Feminist movements feed off one another to support the works. We cannot move forward—into unison—without healing the traumas we have created. These painted works use tangibility and accessibility toward that goal.

Background
Painting is a universally approachable medium which allows for understanding among all levels of society. My painted work stems from the history of painting used as a response to crisis and trauma. In order to understand which traumas I am addressing it is necessary to know the history of colonialization, in what is now known as the United States. Much of my imagery is rooted in calling to mind systems of oppressions, which trace their roots to when white people first landed on the shores of what was formally known as Turtle Island. Systems of oppression, such as racism and a patriarchal societal structure, tear deep divides into groups and individuals. Repeated symbols, such as nooses, pie, high-heeled shoes, shadows of figures resembling the KKK, and contorted figures, tie my works to each other and act as symbols representing specific resulting mental traumas. The purpose of my work is to place those divides at the forefront so that they must be discussed. Through discussion, these systems can begin to be dismantled, and healing of the individual and community can be uncovered.
Images have been part of how humans communicate since the dawn of humanity. Historically, we can look to cave paintings, which experts hypothesize led groups of ancient people into places of safety and community. In more recent history, images have been used to influence the general public, as we have seen in the photographic work during the 1990's Sudanese crisis, which exposed the horrors but also rallied mass support from across the globe. Pablo Picasso's painting titled Guernica became an international anti-war symbol, as it not only displays but expresses the emotion of suffering during war. These images and many more like them are etched into viewers' minds acting as evidence that the visual arts as a language and means of expressing an idea is widely successful.
METHODOLOGY
Writings of James Baldwin, accounts of white women as enslavers, lynching records, and current podcasts such as NPR's Code Switch and For Harriet are consumed and studied. Connections are then made to portions of U.S. history, the current sociopolitical climate, and the systems that are in play today, which continue to effect Black women and Women of Color at disproportional rates.
Initial Research
step
Initial sketches often depict the exact visual of the written works leading to further processing of additional sketches and act as as way from the writing to the paintings. Processing the ideas into my own visual language. This is where the visuals are created. They are the literal examples of trauma, as well as healing that can be found through trauma. Through these sketches many of the symbols which are used in my paintings can be found.
Action
step
The paintings are elongated and intensified processing of the individual and societal implications of the images I have previously sketched out. The images are pushed and pulled through paint and other materials, physically processed, in order to enter a psychological space. The images depicted are intended images to be immediately understandable and benefited from longer looking.
Refined Reaction
step
GALLERY
"Gotta Follow The Recipe" Oil on Canvas, 45 x 25inchs, 2021
For the Sake of All Women, Right
Oil on Canvas
20x16inchs
2020
Quit Playin' and Help Your Dad, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 24inches, 2021
A Cut for All You Carry
Oil on Canvas
42in x 42in
2021

"Quit Playin' and Help Your Dad"
Detail
Gotta Follow the Recipe
Detail
"Quit Playin' and Help Your Dad"
Detail
A Cut for All You Carry
Detail
A Cut for All You Carry
Detail
Details
Gotta Follow the Recipe
Detail
"For the Sake of All Women...Right?" Oil on Canvas, 2020, 20in x 16in
The paintings included in this exhibit are meant to add to a larger discourse of societal issues in the United States of America. Therefore, the expected result is too create conversation through the viewing of my work around the various issues, emotions, societal change that arise. As proven among several peer-critique groups, these works can lead to discussions of race, sexuality, and home life. While the paintings are in no way expected to give a single answer to such large topics, they are meant to open the door, introduce how these issues manifest visually as well as in our everyday lives.
Expected Results
To present my results on a wider scale, such as a large public gallery exhibition is ideal. As I am continuing the works in my studio I am also disseminating the paintings by sending them to regional and national exhibitions. As stated in my Background of this research, historical images have power to influence culture and individual ways of thinking. It can then be hypothesized that if these works are analyzed by large groups of people as well as individuals, conversations about systems of oppression can occur. Once these systems of oppression are in the mainstream consciousness, awareness encourages change. On a large scale, these images can allow people to recognize oppressive systems in which they may have been a part of, and once that has begun take the necessary steps to heal from the harm which was inflicted both by the systems of oppression and the person moving from them.
Future Implications
1. Selected Readings
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"Notes of a Native Son" By James Baldwin
"They were Her Property: White Women and Slave Owner in the American South" by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
2. Selected Podcasts
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"Code Switch"
"All my Relations"
"For Harriet"
3. Selected Artists
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Pablo Picasso

CONTACT
email:brenna.pepke965@topper.wku.edu
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