By ANN RICHARDS
- Turkey’s Aydin Doğan Foundation sends cartoon exhibit to U.S.
- Award-winning images by cartoon artists from 35 countries on display
- Cartoon art a building block for international understanding & tolerance
If a picture really is worth 1,000 words, then the images displayed at the Flint Institute of Arts new exhibition, “Drawing Together, International Cartoons,” should ignite a number of lively conversations and discussions.
One of many cartoons in the FIA's "Drawing Together, International Cartoons" exhibit.
Photo courtesy of Flint Institute of Arts
The exhibition, compiled by the Aydin Doğan Foundation
in Istanbul, Turkey, features more than 100 award-winning cartoons by artists from 35 countries. Drawn from an international contest held annually by the Doğan Foundation, the cartoons are without captions, using image alone to challenge viewers to think about issues and events that often are too complicated to articulate.
“Cartoons help us see beyond the literal — they are a form of creative thinking, helping us examine things critically and analytically,” said Elaine K. Miller, a popular lecturer and academic who has studied editorial cartoons over the past several decades. Faculty emerita at State University of New York, College at Brockport, Miller will be at the Flint Institute of Arts on Friday, Nov. 9 to conduct a community dialogue at 6 p.m., followed by an all-day workshop Nov. 10 for area teachers on the use of cartoons in the classroom.
A single, well-executed image not only can convey a complex idea, but also can help viewers absorb large amounts of information quickly, says Miller, who has seen that cartoons can enhance teaching in every subject.
“There’s nothing like a visual to start a discussion,” said Miller, whose workshop challenges individual assumptions about world events, politics and one another through the “gentling influence of irony and humor” used in cartoons.
Miller has produced three instructional videos — two tracing the portrayals of female politicians by cartoonists and another on the work of pioneering female cartoonist, Etta Hulme. Miller says she is drawn to editorial cartoons “for their outspoken, often passionate, engagement with controversial issues, their approach to issues through humor, their artistry, and their use of metaphor as argument.”
The Flint exhibit, which runs through Dec. 30, 2012, was made possible with a $108,950 grant from the Mott Foundation. Flint is the only U.S. stop for the international collection.
Since 1983, the Doğan Foundation has sponsored the International Cartoon Competition in Istanbul, attracting more than 3,000 submissions annually from cartoonists throughout the world. Initiated to promote tolerance and understanding among world cultures, it is the Doğan Foundation’s belief that building a society in which different ideas and opinions are allowed to thrive requires a common language and that cartoons can serve as the building blocks of this language.
Patrons use self-guided audio tours to learn more about the cartoons exhibited.
Photo courtesy of Flint Institute of Arts
The foundation was established to govern and facilitate the philanthropic contributions to the social and cultural development of Turkey by the Doğan family and the Doğan Group, one of Turkey’s largest corporations.
According to John B. Henry, director of the FIA, not only do the cartoons featured in the exhibit address global issues — such as climate change, human rights, overpopulation, and threats to peace and security — they also are aesthetically pleasing and visually arresting in their own right.
“One of the special pleasures of this exhibition is seeing the individual reaction to these cartoons — everyone draws a unique message and that elicits a lot of sharing and conversation. This is a different sort of exhibition for us — one we hope will bring new audiences into the museum as well as our long-time patrons,” Henry said.
While the high degree of artistry is evident in each of the exhibit’s cartoons, the impact of each work is heightened by the use of irony, humor and metaphor, says Miller.
“The collection represents a form of art that also provides social criticism,” she said, noting that much of the “high” art included in more conventional museum exhibits is not intended to challenge political and social conventions.
“As technically exquisite as these cartoons may be — and they clearly are the work of accomplished artists — they also have the mass appeal of what some would call “low” or “popular” art. By offering something that’s not seen as ‘high brow,’ the museum makes art inviting and intriguing to a variety of visitors.”
Definitions of art have long been the subject of discussion and controversy, says Miller, noting that one conclusion stands out: how individuals define art is highly subjective.
“To me, cartoons are among the most powerful forms of artistic expression in the world.”