2009 S.O.S. Art Exhibition—

A Reflection by

by Lisa Muething
July 2009

The Art Academy of Cincinnati showcased the seventh annual S.O.S. ART exhibition from May 29 to June 7, 2009. This year’s show was an exhibition of sociopolitical expressions for peace and justice. Over 200 Cincinnati artists created pieces for the exhibit.

While there was the overriding theme of peace and justice, it was interesting to see how each artist interpreted the theme differently and on which level they chose to represent it.

A number of artists chose to represent peace and justice on a local level. There were several artists that focused on the civil unrest experience in Cincinnati in 2001, which resulted when a police officer, at that time from the Cincinnati Police Division, fatally wounded a 19-year old, unarmed African American man. One fascinating painting evoking the civil unrest showed the police officers and throngs of rioters all facing off around Fountain Square. The fountain was filled with blood and “The Lady” of the fountain, also known as “The Genius of Water,” was spraying out blood, instead of water. It was a very symbolic way of addressing the upheaval that faced Cincinnati that year.

The majority of the artists chose to portray peace and justice in their art work on a national level. Several pieces focused on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, while others showed people suffering after the two major hurricanes that hit the southern region of the United States a few years ago.

However, the most common subject in the whole show was President Obama. I was just amazed at how many of the artists chose to focus on him. Several people painted pictures of vast groups of people gathered in support of him. One particular artist painted a picture of the group realistically gathered in Ault Park in Cincinnati for an Obama rally during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Another artist painted his supporters all gathered together in Chicago on the night of the election.

My favorite of the Obama drawings was a lovely portrait of President Obama, the First Lady, and their two daughters together in the garden at the White House. The drawing juxtaposed flowers and vegetables growing around them, and the artist wrote in his summary of the drawing that the vegetable and flowers represented the hope he saw growing in our country as a result of the election of Barack Obama.

Another artist took a very different approach to politics and the presidency, and sculpted several sets of eyes. The explanation said that the very tired, hopeless-looking eyes were those of former president George W. Bush, while the very bright hopeful eyes were those of President Obama.

Many pieces also portrayed peace and justice on a worldwide level. One very powerful piece was a mixed media piece that showed a mannequin wearing what looked like a terrorist bomb vest, but it did not look so dangerous up close. All of the little tubes and vest pockets were filled with candy and there was a little note that said, “What if suicide bombers candy instead?” The artist, Ray Miller, said that his piece is “representative of confronting ‘what’s so’ in the world today. It is a depiction of a transformed view of a tool of terrorism.” I thought it was the most fascinating piece in the exhibition. What a way to sum up the whole exhibit. What if, instead of horrific events and catastrophe, something good was to come out of peace negotiations and collaboration, or unifying actions?

That, to me, is peace.


The S.O.S. ART 09 event, organized by artist and peace and justice advocate, Saad Ghosn, featured the publication of the annual Peace and Justice poetry and art anthology.