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Virtual Panel Discussion: Visual Representations of Russian history

Saturday, November 21, 1:00 pm EST
Members free, Nonmembers $5
Registration required by Friday, November 20. The Zoom link will be sent to participants on the morning of the program.

How do artists convey complex ideas about society through visual means? In a two-part discussion, artist Anne Bobroff-Hajal and professor Elizabeth Wood explore this question by examining Soviet imagery and contemporary representations of Russia’s leaders.

Anne has developed visual techniques to beguile viewers to engage with complex issues of Russian society’s autocratic history from the fourteenth century through today, and its interface with the rest of the world.  Influenced by art animation as well as icons, graphic novels, and political cartoons, Anne designed satirical flying Tsar “godparents” who guide viewers across centuries through singing their advice to the mustached, swaddled Infant Stalin. To illuminate the complexities of societies shaped by particular geographies, Anne paints hundreds of 3 inch high portraits of people—from slaves and serfs to autocrats—in situations of intense struggle to achieve their goals within their particular social system and time. Her complex polyptychs incorporate maps and other visual techniques to illuminate each area’s geography and the dangers and opportunities it presents to its inhabitants.

When the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917, they created posters with rich visual materials as a key form of communication with their almost entirely illiterate population. In posters from the early Soviet period (1917-1924), artists affiliated with the new regime chose to draw on Russian Orthodox iconography in their imagery. The audience will look at these religious holdovers and the meanings that contemporary viewers may have seen in them and will also consider what may have been the long-term effects of showing men in forward-looking, active positions, while women were associated with all that was backward (poor child care, illiteracy, prostitution, and abortion). Elizabeth will examine the question: how did Russian Orthodox images and values continue to infuse a society that was ostensibly rejecting religion and moving toward a secular form of socialism?