Malden residents voting on Election Day will also have the opportunity to view formal portraits and caricatures of local, national and international political figures, including some of the current candidates, at Malden High School.
The Art, Politics and Immigration exhibit will be on display in the hallway adjacent to the main office of Malden High School and features approximately 50 pieces by MHS students, produced in the Studio 2 Honors classes taught by art teacher Joseph Luongo. This project is assigned every other year, during midterms and presidential elections. Students selected a photograph of a politician to draw in class, and then, closely observing proportions and values, penciled an accurate sketch. Once the drawings were completed, students then created a caricature, usually of the same person, in the medium of their choice. Commenting on the selection process, Luongo said, “I allowed students to choose leaders from around the world as well as nationally recognized politicians. Some of the individuals are respected; others may have less than admirable qualities. Any editorial content that appears in the caricatures came from what students have seen on TV or have researched on their own.”
The formal portrait is assigned first to familiarize the student with the subject, which will make it easier to work on the caricature. Luongo explained, “Drawing an accurate likeness of someone is difficult and takes extraordinary focus and attention to detail. Caricatures present a challenge as well, determining which features of a person need to be emphasized or minimized.”
Sophomore Asmaa Asousy explained her choice of which politician to draw.
“I wanted someone who I could relate to, which is why I chose Rashia Tliab, the former Michigan House Representative and soon to be the first Muslim woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Speaking about her drawing of Robert Mueller, sophomore Ai Wei Huang remarked, “Putting in the details and rendering the face were really enjoyable. The eyes were my favorite.”
Senior Dexter Farren Haag chose a historical figure. “I decided to take ‘any political figure we want’ as far as I could and drew Queen Mary the first. I thought it would be fun to show someone who maybe isn’t the most relevant to the current world,” Haag said.
This year, because Malden High School is the most diverse high school in the state and many of its students and their parents are recent arrivals to this country, Luongo and his students decided to address the affect politicians’ actions can have on immigration. Students were invited to display photos of their relatives alongside the artwork in the exhibit. The role of politicians on the issue of immigration is a topic Luongo can relate to personally. “My parents were immigrants to this country from Italy in the 1950s. At that time, I believe you needed a sponsor, usually a relative and a citizen, to stay in the U.S. My mother’s sponsor was her aunt, but my father had no relatives here and was denied entry. My mother’s aunt contacted then Senator John F. Kennedy who intervened on my father’s behalf and allowed my father to enter this country,” Luongo said. “Thanks to Senator Kennedy’s support, my parents were able to live here, and become citizens. It’s unfortunate that in today’s climate there is so much hostility toward people who only want to make a better life for themselves and their children.”
Luongo expressed satisfaction with his students’ efforts: “I’m always very impressed with the quality of work they produce,” he said. “I could have easily hung more pieces if I had the space.”
In assigning his projects, Luongo encourages innovative solutions, stating that, “My hope is that working on this lesson will help the students appreciate the importance of voting and being involved in the political process.” Luongo also praised his colleagues in the art department at MHS, Mary Ann Seager and Julie Mullane.
“MHS students enjoy the benefits of having a variety of art classes from which to choose. In addition to traditional studio classes, we offer ceramics, calligraphy and digital art courses that engage and challenge,” he said. “We are fortunate to have a supportive administration and mayor who acknowledge the importance of a strong arts program in the curriculum. ”
The Art, Politics and Immigration exhibit will be on view at Malden High School from Nov. 1 through Nov. 15.