Student art exhibit on propaganda on display

Nader posterOswego State Downtown, corner of West First and Bridge streets in Oswego, recently opened its summer exhibition “Propaganda or Propaganda?” featuring original undergraduate student work.

The exhibition, which continues through Aug. 17, features “Pro” and “Con” portraits of presidential candidates created by beginning, intermediate and advanced undergraduate students studying digital illustration under the direction of Professor Cynthia Clabough.

To prepare work for this exhibition, students from SUNY Oswego’s art department actively researched the political discourse surrounding John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Ralph Nader. As part of their assignment, each student had to create two posters, one that presented the candidate in a positive light, and another that painted the candidate in a negative light. Students were actively encouraged to thoroughly research their candidate in order to prepare visual arguments based on candidate records and accomplishments.

“In keeping with the historical role of the political poster or editorial illustration, the assignment stressed the need to give social and political forms visual shape,” Clabough noted.

Unlike artists in the field, students had to take the role of both the propaganda artist as well the political satirist, she added.

“The range of portraits on exhibition provides opportunity for the viewer to see the presidential race as a spectacle of visual and verbal rhetoric, a flurry of discussion that either criticizes the present, or glorifies the past/future,” Clabough said. The aim of each artist was to create and implement representations (mental, verbal, pictorial, dramatic) of the current national scene with the thinking that this visual depiction can influence, and thereby change, society.

“Each artist also understood that, whether affirmative or challenging, the purpose of his or her work was to visualize the discourse surrounding that person, to characterize and constitute the candidate’s persona while persuading the viewer to feel a certain way,” Clabough explained.

Smith’s talk will address the history of propaganda in the West, right up to the various distinctions made between an honesty-inspired persuasion and an everyday propaganda. Related books on current politics are available at the River’s End Bookstore, located across the street from Oswego State Downtown.

All Oswego State Downtown store events are free and open to the public.  Hours are Wednesday noon to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For additional information about this exhibition and for persons with disabilities needing assistance to visit the exhibition, call the art department at 312-2111 or Oswego State Downtown at 216-4985.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Political views—SUNY Oswego students were asked to examine presidential candidates and create two posters—one pro and one con—with the results appearing in “Propaganda or Propaganda,” currently running in Oswego State Downtown. Shown is one of Ted Casper’s portraits of Ralph Nader from the exhibit.

CONTACT: Cynthia Clabough,, 312-5624

(Posted: Jun 03, 2008)

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