College of Fine Arts and Design

UCO Melton Gallery

Upcoming Melton Gallery Events:

Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo

Opening Reception: Thursday, June 1, 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Exhibit Dates: May 15 - June 20, 2017

Consisting of 41 black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo documents the gay rodeo circuit and the lives of many of its participants in those years. The collected body of work not only serves as a stunning example of black-and- white portraiture and rodeo photography, it also explores the diverse and complex natures of individual and community identity in the West.

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Impressions Magazine: Graphic Advocacy

Traveling in from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, “Graphic Advocacy: International Posters for the Digital Age” was on display in the Melton Gallery this past fall.  The collection featured an array of digitally designed posters that offered biting social commentary on events and political turmoil of the new millennium – topics that curator Elizabeth Resnick felt deserved a platform in this generation’s conversation.

Liz Resnick

Liz, can you discuss some of the themes and topics addressed in this 21st century exhibition and how the accompany images further today’s social and political discussions?

With the ‘Graphic Advocacy’ exhibition, I am working within a decade’s time span—from 2000–2012, during which our global community has experienced many economic and political upheavals and many very unfortunate natural (or human-induced) ecological disasters. My focus was to introduce the notion of examining socially, economically and/or politically charged engaged poster work created in direct response to these events (most) created for dissemination through dedicated websites, social media outlets or personal websites. Some of these posters or ‘visual commentaries’ were designed to incite, advocate, inform or advocate a very specific point-of-view of their ‘authors’. Some are designed as vehicles to raise money to support important and humanitarian causes. I wanted to collect posters that fit into these categories from an international group of concerned, committed and passionate artists and designers.

Despite the many technologically advanced ways to create and distribute images today, the poster still functions as a popular form of graphic dissent throughout the world precisely because it is low cost, low tech, and relatively easy to disseminate. The poster provides an economically viable voice of dissent or alternative opinion for those who would have no other means of promoting their cause, even in Western countries. Issues may change over the years and across continents, but the political poster is still the activists’ tool of choice, whether disseminated on paper or on-line.

The title of this exhibition is “Graphic Advocacy.”  Can you discuss how the idea of “advocating” was presented in the designs?

To ‘advocate’ is to publicly give voice to a specific idea, problem or issue. Artists and designers are blessed with the ability to use visual language and its metaphors to craft and create visual messages with the aim to inform, to educate, to inspire or to simply engage in the public arena.

This exhibition and others you’ve curated focus on the power of a graphic medium.  What about this medium, in your personal opinion, provokes such an emotional response and allows for such poignant issues to be captured in an image?

Posters are simply a part of our everyday life—whether they are displayed as decoration in our homes or in our work places—they are reminders of images or messages that enrich our environment by providing both comfort and visual stimulation. They are considered the ‘people’s art’, both affordable and abundant.

In an essay I commissioned titled ‘Ode to Ink Saturated Paper’ for 2005 The Graphic Imperative exhibition website and catalogue (, Steven Heller delivers a very lucid, smart explanation of the power of the poster: “An advocacy poster is the manifestation of a charged social or political idea designed to inform and illuminate, stimulate and inspire, agitate and attack. When finely honed it communicates without ambiguity. When smartly conceived it imparts meaning through complexity and simplification. When on target—when message and image, form and function are one—it shoots a charge into the brain that pierces the conscious and subconscious triggering action, now or later.”

Each person entering the gallery will respond differently to this exhibition based on their own experience and their pathway in life. This is what I love most about the process of curating (researching, analyzing and selecting), and organizing poster exhibitions. The single most important component of that process is in the identification of a singular point-of-view. Exhibitions should not be collections of objects that just ‘might’ have a relationship to one another. Quality exhibitions must have a very focused point of view that elucidates the underlying narrative. Mirroring the design process, you begin with the development of your point-of-view, state it in words, and then stay the course as the project develops. I have been successful with my exhibitions because I have managed to not be swayed by additions that simply do not fit the narrative premise. As a result of these experiences, I understand the role exhibitions can play in both the making of and delivery of messages and narratives, especially for student learning.

Graphic Advocacy