Art Activism Update #2

Art Activism Update #2



My research is progressing well. I’ve completely finished all the “research” portions of my research project and am currently working on writing up my findings. It’s been a very interesting journey, so I thought I would explain today why I picked the original topic of art activism and why I later changed the focus into feminist art activism in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I’ve always loved art – since I was young, I’ve always went about appreciating it in museums, creating it in class, watching films and documentaries about art and artists on Netflix, and the like. I’ve also done a lot of research projects in the past. In my senior year of high school, I wrote a 40 page thesis on US-North Korean sanctions. I also completed a freshman Monroe project on Korean American voting patterns in the 2016 election, and just recently finished my original research for the Political Psychology and International Relations lab, which focused on climate refugees and international refugee law. It may be obvious at this point that I’m very interested in government, politics, and international relations. When I first envisioned this project, I pictured a marriage of my two loves, art and government (at this time, I was intending on double majoring in Government and Art/Art History).

As it turns out, protest art is a highly nebulous area of study. In most of the movements I studied, the art itself was incidental to the movement, there and present but not truly integral. This was a fairly substantial setback. I figured there was no point in focusing on the art of a movement if the art wasn’t actually that important to the cause. However, one cause in particular defied this rule – the feminist movement. Although other social movements fulfilled similar criteria (used art activism that was highly publicized and had an impact on the viewers), feminist art activism was different. Feminist art has been central to the feminism’s success over the years, with artworks and artists directly influencing and illuminating the movement’s goals, membership and public perception. Not only does feminist art activism tell the story of the movement (from humble, grassroots origins to the massive groundswell seen today), it also embodies the artistic period it inhabits, changing with the times while remaining true to its feminist goals. As an ardent feminist, art enthusiast, and Government major, this combination of factors revitalized my research and became my main focus.

Unfortunately, though this pivot ended up being great for my paper, it went very poorly for the proposed companion to my project: the original artwork. Even from the very beginning of my proposal, I always knew I wanted to focus on environmental degradation for my own painting. Though some may argue that environmentalism falls under the umbrella of intersectional feminism, I didn’t think that there was enough connection to my paper to warrant an environmentally focused painting. Having discarded this idea, I looked into the possibility of a purely feminist artwork, but I didn’t think I had enough time to start from scratch with a new painting and finish the remainder of my paper. I chose to focus on one thing I was truly proud of (the paper) instead of two things I didn’t feel I put my best effort into. Though it is disappointing, I stand by this decision as the best direction for my research. Hopefully in the future I’ll get around to making my own art activist work, but for now I’m going to focus on my paper.

That’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading, and look for my post next week where I explain more about my research!


  1. Hi, Leilani!

    I’ve read your other two posts in addition to this one, and it’s been interesting to see how your research has morphed in the last few weeks. I’m glad you found a focus that both interests you and is perhaps more manageable for discussion in your final paper!

    Your findings about the integral nature of art to the feminist movement were surprising to me, too. Other movements’ art is often discussed in general courses as an active, central component to those movements (or at least in my general history courses and such growing up). I wonder what it is about the feminist movement that alters its relationship with its accompanying art. Is it the people, the topic, the time, some combination thereof, or something totally different? It’s starting to sound like a new research project in and of itself!

    I’m doing a project with a creative component, too, and have also had to let certain planned aspects fall by the wayside because of time or ability, so I know how frustrating it must feel to have to choose between the art and your paper. As you stated yourself, there’s always time after the Monroe deadline to add more to the project–it doesn’t have to exist solely as a Monroe project!

    Best of luck with the remainder of your project!