Political Art in the Female Form

Featured Community Voice: Anahi DeCanioAnahi DeCanio uses collage and the female form to encourage her audience to piece together the political questions of the day. Inspired by her father, the first feminist in her life, who recently passed at age 89, and 20 years witnessing gender discrimination as a stockbroker on Wall Street, she creates art that links women's equality to issues of democracy, peace, security and human rights.
Anahi DeCanio
Hope is an installation art piece exhibited at the Boca Raton Museum of Art Biennial. Elements include vintage wolff mannequin, jewelry, paper doves and tags, bullets and found objects.   View Larger >


Anahi DeCanio
Ode to Rosa Parks. Elements include newspaper clippings and quotes that read, "Well behaved women rarely make history," and, "Now is the time for all good women to come to the aid of the world."
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Aristotle said that "men" (his word, not mine) were political animals. He described a collective rule of many as a democracy. I found out recently that he didn't use the word as a compliment.

Today, we throw around words like "democracy" or phrases like "a government of, for, and by the people," and "all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights." Where's the page that says a woman is only 75 percent equal; and if a woman is black, only 60 percent?

Politics is sometimes defined as the art or science of governing. I went for the "art" part. When "HOPE" was exhibited at the Boca Raton Museum of Art Biennial, I stood nearby and took brief notes. This is what I heard: "What do you think the bullets mean? She must be one of those women who likes guns and the NRA; you know the 'macho' types."

"Nah...look at how 'girly' she is...she's got jewelry and doves all over the place! One price tag says 'Peace' and the other one says 'Security'? I don't get it...She can't be very smart. If she's talking about national security she must be a conservative. Yeah, but look at the other one, it says 'I am the Decider' - she's a liberal!"

Can I use sparkly stuff on my work to make a statement about poverty? Is peace really unpatriotic? Do we need bullets to get there? Through my work, I am asking the questions I think we all want answers to.

I don't care if viewers like my work (well...ok...I do), but it really is more important to know that by putting private pieces of myself on display, I make people think. I make them talk. I make them feel, and maybe I even move them to action. My fragile and intimate exercise in power and politics is changing someone's life -- even if it is only for a moment as brief as a passing glance.

One woman at the Boca museum quietly asked me what the black dove meant. War? Evil forces? Darkness? If my work is about stirring emotions and thoughts, I should not answer and impose my own thoughts. Her question proved too big a temptation for me, however, and I answered her question. The black dove means exactly the same thing as the white dove...peace and understanding.

Black is evil, white is pure, purple is royal, pink is girly...who says? My black dove humbly speaks about our colored lenses. As a young girl I remember being so moved and inspired by Rosa Parks' story I promised myself that someday I would do something to honor her courage, dignity and plain old backbone. My "Ode to Rosa Parks" was an attempt at doing that. I used the headlines describing the challenging times we live in and a picture of Ms. Parks looking out from her bus window. She's pensive. What would she fight for today? What chains would she want to break?

I snuck in the quotes: "Well behaved women rarely make history," and, "Now is the time for all good women to come to the aid of the world" (modified from the original, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country"). I thought Ms. Parks would like those lines. When I allow myself to dream big, I think that maybe I can inspire someone to speak up for a better world, to stand up for the rights of others, or to simply sit down to claim their own. Rosa Parks' actions defied her "colored" seat and in so doing, spoke to millions to change the course of history. Now that's my definition of political POWER! I hope Aristotle is listening.

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