Stories Through Stickers

Three students, three different perspectives. That is the power of art. 

Below are three student reflections on the sticker art exhibit titled Rewriting the Streets: The International Language of Stickers and Paper Bullets: 100 Years of Political Stickers from Around the World.

This exhibit will remain on display through March 10 in CWU’s Museum of Culture and Environment. Learn more at http://www.cwu.edu/museum.

sticker art.jpg

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Walking in, I didn’t know what to expect. Before me were columns and columns of stickers in frames, all competing for my attention. The mood of the exhibit was warm and inviting, with each section welcoming me into their world.

I paused for long periods of time in front of each frame, letting the artist’s creativity seep in as I stood in awe at their work. I wondered what each artist was feeling when they were designing their sticker, or what event or period of time was occurring when this little masterpiece was made. The fact that an artist could wrap up years of nostalgia and emotions into something only a couple inches in dimension fascinated me beyond belief.

My mood began to shift to a heaviness after seeing more and more political themes. One sticker painted the scene of a man rowing his car like a boat in a flood, while others around him had signs about climate change. In the story, he was telling them to just “shut up” while he continued to row along. It reminded me of a truth that some people are permanently close-minded, and that is sobering to think about, especially in the world we live in today.

Witnessing the mass quantity of messages wrapped up in these “paper bullets” all in one place, I then wondered how many times I had passed by a street light, or a wall of a building, and missed these outcries. Each sticker had a story to tell and represented a person behind their creation. That individual had a story to tell, and how often do we just blindly walk through life worrying about our own stories while ignoring others?

I encourage you to visit the museum, but also in your day, pause and think about what story you could be missing. Look around yourself and pay attention to the people and things that are hiding in not so obvious places. Maybe you’ll find something new in a familiar place.

Reflection by Mikayla Kimery, Psychology Major

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When we think of “art” as a physical and tangible concept, rarely do we think of stickers as being within that category. We might often think of graffiti or spray painting as more artistically expressive than stickers, but that doesn’t mean that stickers lack artistic integrity.

At the “Rewriting the Streets: The International Language of Stickers” exhibit in Dean Hall, you can explore the social aspect of the many decades and generations of stickers that have been manufactured, from the big corporations that manufacture on the global and international scale to the modern, to the more ambiguous designer who whose homebase is located in their small New York flat.

Stickers have taken many different roles throughout the years, but the core concept of expression and cultural criticism has always been a primary role, even if not intentional.

“Today, new forms of visual communication are created in public spaces, often attracting viewers in more contemplative and/or interactive ways,” the exhibit stated.

To artists, the sticker is only as important as the time/place/manner. But we can also recognize the importance of viewing these adhesive slips of paper as “works of art” within modern and historical contexts.

Within the gallery lies a public space populated by grey rectangular frames, colored by the reflection of the assorted sizes and colors of stickers separated only by the concepts of the ever changing political and social spheres in which they lived.

It seems as if all the bases are covered; Russian anti-Putin, Obama-era “Hope” stickers, a variety of stickers from cold war-era Berlin, modern U.S. political statements plastered in color and rusty shades of red. There were also stickers that showed commentary of U.S. intelligence – almost Big Brother esque. Nixon stickers were aplenty, a reminder of the events of Watergate that expanded the minds of the American people and drafted questions of governmental intentions.

Upon examination of the Nixon stickers, one student clenched his jaws and stared intently into the grey case the encapsulated the red, white and blue colored stickers.

“Interesting,” the student mused. He proceeded to examine more of the social justice stickers before exiting the exhibit.

Reflection by Eric Rosane, Journalism Major

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I never expected to see so much irony from just looking at stickers. Straight up, when you walk in the exhibit, a small podium warns spectators that they might be offended. The stickers you see could all either be graffiti in an alleyway, or a meme you find scrolling through social media.

It was only supposed to be art to me. The faded and bright colors interacting with each other, the shapes mutating into words one would want to say to society, and the use of friendly cartoons character posing as rebels all caught me by surprise. I feel like we all take stickers for granted when we just place them on our shirts or jackets, just so we peel them off later.

Those stickers stand for something meaningful.

From saying a dumb thing like “Got Milk?” to fighting for people’s lives, stickers have been telling their stories even if they were made to make people smile. Remembering that these stickers in their times were meant to get people agitated and wanting more in life. The gay rights movement, depicting illegal immigrants, and past presidents were all there. The stickers were reminiscing what we all went through to get to where we are now.

To me, it was shocking that I hadn’t seen these stickers before. Even though we have already gone through those major life events, it didn’t mean I needed to stop supporting these incidents.

If anything, going through that museum made me want to go out and buy some of those stickers.

Jeez, I had no idea that these stickers even existed. No doubt that they were out there making subtle announcements to get us to make the right moves in life. Now, I am double checking every laptop, table, notebook, skateboard, and every inch in-between for any new stickers that are being placed out there. I want to know what people are fighting for because I’m down to support a good cause that will benefit the future.

Reflection by Jason Morales, English Major

 

One thought on “Stories Through Stickers

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