The day after the election, Sam Messer instructed his drawing class to create portraits of President-elect Barack Obama. When the students finished, they posted their art on an empty wall in Green Hall.
“It was totally spontaneous,” said Messer, who is currently Associate Dean of the School of Art. “I had my class the day after the election, and it seemed like the thing to do. We all made portraits, and continued it from there.”
Just a week later, that wall has become evidence of the power of collaboration: drawings, clippings, printouts and collages have joined the original works to form a more comprehensive portrayal of America’s new president.
“It makes us feel empowered and connected,” Messer said. “With Obama, it’s more about everyone else. It’s not about the candidate as an individual.”
Messer explained that the wall was not a political statement supporting Obama’s victory, but rather an expression of the nation’s potential for progress. He compared the potential of the blank wall to the possibilities that Americans see in their future under Obama. Messer wants the exhibition to touch on the visions and expectations Americans hold for the future.
“A portrait doesn’t have to be a drawing that looks like Obama,” Messer pointed out. “To an extent, it uses Obama as a vehicle to portray just as much of him as of the artist and the artist’s beliefs.”
Messer added that he hopes the “open-ended” exhibition will be ongoing. Anyone will be free — and encouraged — to contribute for the duration of the exhibition.