This month, we introduce you to the newest member of the GAPA Executive Committee: Kelly Soderstrom! Currently traversing several time zones as she trots the globe, Kelly is originally from Boulder, Colorado and has worked on a variety of fascinating socio-political projects in Australia, Germany and the UK over the past decade. We’re thrilled to have her expertise on board – you can read more about her in her bio on the GAPA website.
We caught up with Kelly to talk Salvador Dalí, her big plans for GAPA and why art is so important when it comes to conveying a universal message.
GAPA: What does (political) art represent to you?
Kelly: To me, art (be it written, spoken, played, painted, or danced) represents the incredible depth and breadth of human expression and communication. We as a species have the power to communicate incredibly complex ideas and emotions through a wide variety of mediums, not just verbally. Not only that, we are able to do so in a very egalitarian fashion.
All humans have some emotional reaction to all art, thereby breaking down political and socio-economic boundaries. When two humans look at a painting, see a dance, or listen to a piece of music, they will have a reaction to that piece of art regardless of who they are or where they came from. For me, this is where the power in political art lies.
Political art has the ability to communicate political messages and elicit strong emotional responses in a very non-elitist way. In this sense, political art represents to me a place where everyone can participate in politics, whether they are the ones creating the art or not.
GAPA: What is/are your favorite artists and/or artwork?
Kelly: My favorite visual artist is Salvador Dalí. I like surrealism in general, but I think the creativity and sheer technical mastery present in Dalí’s works are genius. His pieces and subject matter may be a little…eccentric, but I love how he was never afraid to be himself and produced the art that he wanted regardless of the grumblings of critics.
I have many favorite musical artists that shift depending on my mood and life events. The Cat Empire, Andy McKee, John Butler, Tony Haven, The Hush Sound, and Mine are the artists currently being played on repeat. My favorite art activist is Banksy. His tongue-in-cheek political commentary is beautiful and always spot-on. I also love how he has been able to toe the line between mainstream art and underground artist in a very effective way.
GAPA: What motivated you to join GAPA?
Kelly: I joined GAPA because it gave me the chance to combine two of my passions – art and politics – in an innovative and supportive environment. My background is in academia and research, so helping to lead the GAPA think tank seemed like the perfect place to apply my skills to my passions.
Political art and art activism are a growing field for political science research, and I wanted to be part of an organization that worked on the cutting edge of such research. I also appreciate GAPA’s mission to bring artists, politicians, and academics together and wanted to help build that network.
GAPA: Describe what GAPA represents to you in three words.
Kelly: Art + Politics = Community (that is still technically three words, right?)
GAPA: What are your plans for GAPA and more specifically, for the Think Tank?
Kelly: I plan to help GAPA grow into a wide and deep community filled with students, academics, professionals, and the general public. I see GAPA as a forum for exchanging ideas, connecting artists and activists to facilitate creative and meaningful collaboration, providing resources to academics and professionals interested in the area, and summarizing current ideas, trends, research, and opportunities for everyone in-between.
In this context, the Think Tank will function as a formal body for organizing and promoting research in the area of art and politics. Those involved in the Think Tank will benefit from a wide network of professionals and scholars, as well as gain access to publishing in our journal and presenting at our conference. In short, the Think Tank will be at the front lines of our academic investigations into the relationship between art and politics.