The role of art in politics – VCUarts alumni advocate through artwork

Illustration by Gareth Bentall
Illustration by Gareth Bentall

Between the unparalleled artistic ability and quirky personality of VCU’s student body, many students expressed their disapproval of the 2016 election results through deprecating humor, artwork and clever combinations of the two.

VCUarts alumni and non-profit art workspace Studio Two Three interns Daniel Torraca and Joseph King’s “protest art” poster series perfectly exemplified the latter fusion of satire through artwork to advocate for social activism and progressive ideologies.

The pair’s humorous yet sardonic posters include various collage-like prints accompanied by bold political statements such as: “Try curing me with electro therapy you dumb fucking Nazi; Queer peoples against Mike Pence” and “Let’s wait and see if America’s racist; Fuck white pride.”


VCU students and Richmond inhabitants have responded approvingly to Torraca and King’s poster series, especially those who identify as belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. The posters successfully symbolized solidarity and allowed for a very necessary sense of comedic relief to seep into in an otherwise serious and frightening situation.

Despite containing vulgar language and strong claims, the poster series appears to be widely accepted by the community as a form of peaceful protest.

According to King, the posters were intended to provide the public with a platform for both protest and discussion regarding America’s current political state. Similarly, Torraca said he aimed for his work to serve as symbolism in solidarity with groups threatened by President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence’s oppressive political platforms.

“Art has a history of influencing the public view of politics,” Torraca said. “It’s one of the first places people turn to when they’re unsure of what is going on in a confusing and, frankly, terrifying political climate.”

Although Trump typically hogs the national limelight, Torraca’s work focused predominantly on the individual he considered more threatening — Pence. Torraca used comedic relief to draw attention to Pence’s severely antiquated perspectives toward LGBTQ+ rights by comparing the vice president-elect’s ideologies to the Nazi regime.

Torraca’s popular LGBTQ+ Pence/Nazi poster received significant recognition online from both local and out-of-state communities alike. According to King, multiple organizations have reached out to Torraca requesting permission to flyer their communities with his artwork.

“Art continues to influence people’s opinions about policies and administrations by emphasizing and spotlighting issues,” King said. “In that way politics can’t escape the crosshairs of art or the artworld.”

Torraca and King’s poster show, “MAKE YOUR OWN SHIT (or take ours),” is currently on display at Circle Thrift on West Broad Street until Jan. 5. The artists encourage the community to further spread their message by providing the public with free posters, and the means for viewers to create their own posters.


Ellie Fialk. Photo by Julie TrippEleanor Fialk
Eleanor is a junior print journalism and philosophy double major with a concentration in ethics and public policy. She often writes about issues of social justice and human rights, and her dream career would include traveling the world as a documentary filmmaker. You can usually find Eleanor binge watching an entire television series in one night or planning her next backpacking trip.
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