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Posts tagged Anderson Gallery
What They Say of US

Draw Your Weapons, Anderson Gallery at Drake University 

Tomorrow night: Gallery Talk with Brian Duffy


Civil War Cartoon from Harper’s Weekly (Source: Annelise Tarnowski )

Response by Annelise Tarnowski 

The Anderson Gallery currently hosts a collection of Harper’s Weekly political cartoons. A history class curated the collection, and to my understanding, this class was supposed to find common themes throughout the ages in American history, and tie them all back to the issues from the Civil War era and their respective cartoons.

The environment of the exhibit feels solemn at first; the Civil War isn’t a proud moment for America. Upon approaching the first illustrations, though, it’s obvious that the content of the exhibit will be heavy, but digestible.

The gallery begins on one wall and wraps around the outside with a timeline from start to finish of the Civil War. In the back you can find the most unique part of this collection: an art class was paired with the history class. The students in the art class each had to create their own representations of one of the themes represented in the smaller collections of Harper’s Weekly cartoons.

I spoke with artist Riley Brady about her piece titled “What They Say of Us.” The piece was inspired by a cartoon from one of the collections. It showed one army from the war as they were perceived from the outside, in contrast with how they felt on the inside. On the outside, they seemed calm and collected, but internally, they were a mess. Another piece in that same collection outlined slavery in the north, showing an unhappy white maid in a white family, as compared to slavery in the south, showing a jovial black slave in a white household. The third and final piece of the collection was yet again two representations of one issue. This time, the Holocaust.

When I first approached Brady’s piece, I felt calm. It looked familiar. She cross-stitched the words “What They Say of Us” in calligraphic letters on paper. Instinctively, I wasn’t hit with an understanding of some dichotomy that it may have represented. I felt a kind of familiarity with the stitch-work, though. It reminded me of something that may be hung on the wall or stitched into a pillow that says “Home Sweet Home” and other ordinary phrases. These are the kinds of items that might sit on a couch in a living room for so many years that they eventually go unnoticed.


Riley Brady’s “What They Say of Us” (Source: Annelise Tarnowski )

Brady’s interpretation helped me understand what I couldn’t see (a goal that art often strives to reach). She explained that the collection that inspired her work was all about the contrast between perception and reality. In speaking with the curating (history) class, she found that quite often, women were pigeonholed into being a woman who cooks, cleans, takes care of children, and sews. She reflected on her family, her grandmother, and her mother, realizing that these women didn’t fit into one collective role, and that women as a whole don’t either.

Brady’s piece reflects the way that women were remembered in history—as they say we are. When asked why she didn’t also stitch what women are, she explained that that is an unanswerable question at the moment—and potentially forever. Instead, she left the question open, and allows for women to define themselves. Individually.

Annelise is studying radio and television producing alongside sociology at Drake University. She enjoys a good documentary and a hot cup of tea. Often found attending concerts or shows, she also enjoys the outdoors and biking anywhere her hand-me-down Schwinn will take her. A Minnesota native, she currently lives in Des Moines. Find her at 

Cartoons Interpreting Political Perspective

Draw Your Weapons, Anderson Gallery at Drake University 

Closing Friday, Jan. 24, 2014


Detail from “The coming man’s presidential career, a la blondin” (Source: Devon Page)

Response by Devon Page

Politics is a field in which the correct answer is rarely obvious, particularly when interpreting earlier political documents such as the U.S. constitution under the lens of contemporary issues. Subsequently, conflict arises between two or more opposing sides, each of which claims to have the correct political perspective. This conflict, though inherently political in nature, overflows into the cultural and everyday social aspects of the lived human experience. Socrates said it best, “those that do not take an interests in politics, politics takes an interest in them.”

The Draw Your Weapons exhibit at the Drake University Anderson Gallery addresses topics of political conflict with civil war cartoons from Harper’s Weekly. Each cartoon depicts a major political issue of post revolutionary war & pre-post civil war era United States and is accompanied by comparison cartoon representing a more contemporary political issue: for example, a Harper’s cartoon titled Mistress Columbia  illustrates the early constitutional interpretation debates and is paired with a cartoon on Obamacare.

The satirical and otherwise social commentary expressed in the drawings is undeniable. Even more undeniable is the brilliance in which each cartoon expresses these political ideals. The faces of the cartoon characters show intense emotion and the style of the drawings creates an effect which makes them ‘leap’ from the walls; this arouses the viewer’s imagination by providing both entertainment and ‘food for thought’. Various drawings in the exhibition use cultural caricatures to represent opposing sides of a particular political issue. One drawing uses Greek mythology and the story of baby Hercules and the two headed snake to express opinions on the growing rift between secession and union during the civil war period.

The Draw Your Weapons exhibit gives unique historicity and perspective regarding major political events of the civil war era. The expertise of drawing technique, visual intensity of the works, satirical elements, commentary, and several factors combined create a powerful exhibit with lessons for all ages. I certainly recommend seeing this exhibition. 

Devon Page a student at Drake University majoring in philosophy and politics.

Recalling a Visit to The Material Aspect

Anderson Gallery, Drake University

The Material Aspect: 50 Years of Popular Music Packaging

Curated by John Fender

September 6 - October 18, 2013

Opening Night (Source)

Response by Haley Hicks

December 13, 2013

The Material Aspect was a show that covered fifty years of popular music packaging. I was lucky enough to have parents who raised me with a vast majority of the music that was on display at the show, so it was a slightly surreal experience. I saw albums that I haven’t seen since I was a kid digging through my parents’ record collection.

Cover of the “The Who Sell Out" (Source)

Albums lined the wall in chronological order, ranging from bands like The Beatles all the way to The Antlers.  It was the most logical choice for the setup, but it was still incredibly interesting to look at the progress music made based on the covers.  When lined up against each other, you could see the changes in materials, but it was more interesting to see the reflections of society in the album artwork and how the band interpreted it. For example, The Who Sell Out was one cover on display. The artwork comments on consumerism in the late 60’s, but it rings surprisingly true today as well.

Overall, it was a really great show that evoked a sense of nostalgia, but it also forced you to think about music and its packaging in a new way.

Haley Hicks is a junior at Drake University. She is currently studying Biology and has a concentration in Leadership Education and Development. In her spare time, she plays volleyball and reads a wide variety of books.