Art As Social Inquiry combines art and advocacy as a way to engage audiences. Theresa BrownGold is the artist behind the project.
In her new art project, How We Die, Theresa uses art to investigate how people actually die, what they fear, and how different cultures around the world view death. She is examining the death rituals of many cultures as a way to understand how we can fully live. The artworks she creates reflect our fears and cultural conditioning, and tacitly ask, “How could we more fully live if we are not afraid to die?”
In the Healthcare in the United States painting series, Theresa asks her subjects about their experiences trying to get healthcare. Behind the large expressionist portraits are individual stories. The project puts a face to the sometimes very difficult and often impossible task of getting access to healthcare. She uncovered tales of medical bankruptcy, insurance claim denials due to preexisting conditions, and even death due to lack of access to healthcare. The visual drama of the large portraits makes the subjects approachable, and their stories personal. The hope is that personal connections are forged between the viewers and the subjects’ stories. Art As Social Inquiry hopes to refocus the healthcare discussion through the lens of compassion. The artist has teamed up with advocacy groups and taken the portraits to senior centers, churches and other venues as a way to explain the healthcare law. She has also used the portraits to demonstrate publicly at the US Supreme Court and Capitol in Washington D.C. to bear witness for her art subjects.
How did Art As Social Inquiry start?
I have often wondered why so many good people have such different and divisive opinions. Art As Social Inquiry asks the questions: Are we our opinions? Or are we something more? Then what? What is beyond the emotional charge of our opinions? And how do we get there?
In Art As Social Inquiry, Theresa paints portraits of real people whose lives embody the social issues of the day, issues like access to healthcare, immigration, how we die.
ASI aims to move opinions out of our heads into the real world. The experience of interacting with the portraits, and the subjects’ stories, invite us to understand how our opinions affect the lives of the people depicted in the portraits.
The portraits offer themselves up as recipients of uneasiness, justifications, political correctness and incorrectness, rationalizing, embarrassment, rage, sadness, compassion, hate, fear, hope, anxiety…whatever. The portraits will not yell back. But we can observe ourselves reacting to the faces and their stories, and perhaps reflect. Behind every social issue is a real person.
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