“Inauguration” Q: Can Art Change Minds?

Allan Appel PhotoGallery PhotoToni Giammona’s uncle threatened to wear his “Make America Great Again” T-shirt to her art “Inauguration Nation” art opening in Westville this weekend. Until she talked to him.

Artist Giammona — whose dad Vincent was a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11 — has made her first-ever video installation titled “High Anxiety,” about the incoming Trump administration.

Her uncle, Vincent’s brother, is a Trump supporter coming up this weekend to see her piece in “Inauguration Nation,” the blunt and serious yet still fun and frolicsome show of protest art that has just gone up at the Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville.

The low-key but real Giammona family drama — and the question of what protest art aims for and actually accomplishes — will all be part of “Inauguration Nation,” the show that artists Tom Edwards and Tracey Sheer organized after they put the call out subsequent to Election Day.

On Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be an open mic reading beginning at noon, around the time President-Elect Trump is scheduled to take the oath of office. An opening-day Jan. 21 reception from 3 to 5 p.m. will includes a live performance piece called “Society Fuct”  —  trigger warning offered by the gallery —  and an after party at Erector Square, where presumably you can drown your electoral sorrows. “Inauguration Nation” will continue to run at Kehler-Liddell through Feb. 12.

The poster boy for the show is Julie Fraenkel’s papier-mâché Trump doll, disarmingly shaped but with a Nazi-esque “Make America Hate” again armband.

If you buy him, 20 percent of the purchase price will go to a local charity of the artist’s choice, said Giammona, who is the gallery’s new intern and who was minding shop on Thursday as curators and artists put the finishing touches on the installation.

Artist PhotoThe show consists of paintings, photographs, sculpture, and mixed-media works by about three dozen artists. Some are members of the Kehler-Liddell collective gallery, like Frank Bruckman. Others are locals but not members, like Mohammed Hafez, who has constructed a 3-D installation of what looks like a dictator’s golden bathroom fixtures. There are also a number, like Giammona, new to showing in town.

While the exhibition is heavy on various takes on the American flag and often blunt and predictive of certain doom, there are more subtle pieces as well. Many are enigmatic, like Gar Waterman’s all-purpose ray gun and Silas Finch’s book-shaking machine.

Gallery PhotoAs an artist new to New Haven and still in school, 21-year-old Giammona said she was thrilled to be included.  Having taken off a year from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Giammona moved with friends to New Haven in the late fall. In the search for an internship she Googled “art galleries,” reached Kehler-Liddell, and was offered the job at the first interview.

Not only a job, but the opportunity to help organize and hang “Inauguration Nation,” which was then percolating, and learn from that work. She also had the chance to submit work to the show.

Giammona has an interesting perspective on the show, which she termed “beautiful” — and yet which also “in its way is mocking patriotism.”

For ten years she attended America’s Camp, a project run for the kids of first responders who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

The woman who organized that camp, Traci Molloy, introduced art projects one year, Giammona recalled, and Giammona said, “this is it.” She knew then that art would be her career.

Most of the kids did work on themes of patriotism or loss. “I was more into loss,” Giammona recalled, describing one project, a watercolor she created, with thoughts of her dad, entitled “A Man Somewhere He Shouldn’t Be.”

Giammona said her father Vincent, a member of Ladder Five, stationed in Greenwich Village, had just gotten off work that day; he did not have to go.

Her own work has been in painting and drawing, but she thinks artists should stretch themselves. So at the School of Visual Arts in New York City she experimented in video and loved it. On Election Day this year she was so anxious she was doing her usual smoking and nail biting and also eating.

“I filmed everything I put in my mouth that day, including biting my nails. I needed to distract myself. It didn’t work as the election results got worse and worse.”

Eventually she edited the tape down to 30 seconds, showing only the smoking and nail biting. When she was asked to submit something to “Inauguration Nation,” she layered in the broadcasted Trump election results, relentlessly announced on a soundtrack by cable anchors Wolf Blitzer and Brian Williams.

While the show does mock patriotism, at least of the simple flag-waving kind, Giammona said she thinks it accomplishes a real purpose.

“I’m fearful for our country. I’m worried about women’s rights and so much that could wrong,” she said. “I think art shows how people feel. Visually.”

Changing an individual’s mind — say, her uncle’s — is a tough piece of work, she said, and then added that “what I really like about the show is the way it opens eyes.”

Maybe the eye, which takes in so much of the information of the world, is the quickest way to the mind.If that’s so, then protest art, a cousin to agit-prop and propaganda, is more potent than we think.

While she was gallery-sitting the other day, for example, “two guys came in, and looked at everything and told me, ‘What a great show,’” Giammona said. “I don’t know their views but it must have had some impact.”

As to her own family, including her Trump-supporting uncle, who are coming up this weekend, Giammona said that on consultation with her, while the uncle invoked “free speech,” he decided, she said, to wear a different T-shirt.

“He loves me too much to wear it.”

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posted by: Noteworthy on January 20, 2017  10:02am


posted by: Brutus2011 on January 20, 2017  11:26am

I found this to be the opposite of disgusting.

What is disgusting was the racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric of Trumkkkp’s campaign.

Make America Great Again?

More like, the Nazi armband of the pictured pinata ....

Make America Hate Again.

posted by: Bill Saunders on January 20, 2017  1:27pm

Mingling protest and art sales dilutes the message.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on January 20, 2017  2:19pm

If abortion were to made illegal, the same equipment that is used today legally would easily be made available for illegal abortions.  Therefore, I find the abortion piece duplicitous.  Moreover, it derides the millions of actual legal abortion victims.

posted by: Bill Saunders on January 20, 2017  10:12pm

Hey Timmy,

The minute you lumped abortions in the victims category, you showed your bias.

Your posts are no longer salient.

You have a hidden agenda.

F Off.

posted by: Bill Saunders on January 20, 2017  10:53pm

To Timmy Too,

If you are responsible for abortions in your life that you feel are victims because of your lack of choice in the matter, I sympathize with your over-reaching position. I am sure there is guilt and real personal pain if you were hoping to be a good dad and that prospect was taken away from you.  If not….....

Morality and Law are two different things.

If your Doctrine forbids abortion, by all means be a good adherent.
I support you in your personal choices about your body, whether it be abortion, right to die, your diet, or the chemicals you want to ingest and the things you want to stick in it.

Rock And Roll.
Live and Let Live.

The lack of a law against abortion not only fits this ‘vibe’,  it’s part of the First Amendment.
No Law against the practicing of a religion—(Read:Belief System)

The notion of Religion is the big thing that is becoming outdated.
It has been co-opted by shortsighted, willful moralists.

Personal Survival and Responsiblilty are the real social forces at work here.  The Churches are gasping….
Technology has made so much possible even (gasp) birth conrol,  save abortions, and even Plan B.

Parse it how you will, but a law against abortion surely infringes on the ‘belief systems’ of other. 
Pastafarian is a recognized religion for Christ Sakes,

Where is the Church of Body Rights, The Kiosk of Personal Freedom. The Temple of the Womb.

Add Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness into the equation, and, what’s the effen problem?

You live your life, I’ll live mine.
Who knows—we might even share a real human experience on day…...(it will include laughter)

Just don’t prematurely drown the baby in the bath water, and we will be ok.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on January 21, 2017  8:50am

Hello Mr. Saunders,
As your post can esoterically suggest, unfortunately, life and liberty are Natural Rights that are no longer considered valid objective norms in which society locates justice.  Leaving religion out of it, as I don’t believe I made a claim from it, and dispensing with the erroneous notion that writing about objective issues is tantamount to subjective over-reaching, like the over-reaching of your apology, the only remaining Natural Right that you listed to which a pro-abort can claim as a justification of the deed is, as you suggest, the pursuit of happiness based on whatever positive law a particular society deems necessary to support its particular ethos, which such society has no other mooring but the historical epoch in which the positive law is promulgated— as we party on. So, in your vein of waxing lyrically, I guess I will start there.  However, even this reveals the anomaly between the right of the one over the right of the other, with the other sacrificed for the former, not to mentioned the disparity between our particular positions. So even as our current abortion law is not supported by objective morality it is also not supported by reason. But this invariably leads us back to the consideration of what constitutes a person, with one claiming that what is human must be human from the beginning, and the other claiming a right to happiness.  I would contend, however, that just as you would apparently claim that there are so many versions of justice that seem to militate against any idea of an objective justice, such an incidence is actually the incentive to find that objective justice that rests outside of a mere positive law coercion so that we can indeed consent to share that common laugh of humanity.  All else is merely arbitrary…the arbitraries that are created when one claims that there is no truth.  But that proposition is purporting to be a truth that in the end refutes the proposition…as we float into the abyss. Peace, Sir.

posted by: Bill Saunders on January 21, 2017  9:04pm


Let the women decide what is best for their personal health and well-being.  They have my full support.
If you feel that you have a personal say in their private decisions, I would say you need to grow a vagina first.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on January 22, 2017  5:05am

Hello Mr. Saunders,

Yes, I am aware of the objection.  As I wrote to you,

But this invariably leads us back to the consideration of what constitutes a person, with one claiming that what is human must be human from the beginning, and the other claiming a right to happiness.

Again, peace to you Sir.

posted by: 1644 on January 22, 2017  3:01pm

Can art change minds?  Not when it is as proud as this art.  Neither side of the political spectrum seems interested in changing minds, or even making a reasoned case for their positions.  Rather, they both simply postulate positions and insult anyone who disagrees with them.

posted by: wendy1 on January 22, 2017  7:20pm

So good, I went 2 days in a row taking some young Yalies with me.  One of the best ART SHOWS I’ve seen in town along with ones I have seen on Audobon St., especially one about rape camps in Bosnia a few years ago.  The art, not all of it political, is well worth looking at or buying and I will start paying attention to this gallery much more.

Personally I would buy the abortion sculpture if I could only place it in a museum or the lobby of YNHH.  It deserves to be seen by the public on a regular basis.  Before Roe v. Wade, life was hell for girls like me living in constant fear of pregnancy and the consequences of it..