ART X ACTIVISM
Begun 2018 (Ongoing)

Art as social practice has the power to alter our political landscape beginning with individual. Drawing on conceptual tools used by Dadaists, this work encourages new ways of thinking by recontextualizing the issues that affect our communities most. 

Stripping controversial topics of their severity creates space that promotes education and discourse. 

A desire to understand alternate view points informs Somma's art practice.  Through conversation and curiosity common ground is constructed. This connection, and a willingness to lean into compassionate empathy, allows us to cultivate an understanding of one another.

Color Me Insurrected Cover.jpg

Color Me Insurrected, interactive zine, 2021

Someone born in the summer of 2001 began their life with 9/11. The Iraq War started when they were 2 and ended just before their 10th birthday. When they turned 11, Sandy Hook Elementary was attacked. Two months later Trayvon Martin was stalked and murdered. While they finished up middle school the Earth had already warmed 1 degree celsius above preindustrial times. They witnessed devastating storms like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy all before Donald Trump was elected and they became freshman in high school. And when it came time for them to graduate high school, CoVID-19 forced the ceremony online. 

Those events, spread over 18 years, are only a sampling of what has happend in one country. 

It's hard to believe anyone would be surprised by the events of January 6th, 2021. It's time to recognize the world we're raising children in and the role we have in the disappearance of 'childhood.'

Color Me Insurrected asks what is acceptable to show children, and brings to light the impact world events have in their lives.

Let's Get Informed, zine, 2020

Let’s Get Informed is a pocket sized guide to the candidates, their platforms, and other miscellaneous topics relating to the 2020 U.S. Election season. Each week a new chapter, or series of topics was added.

 

You can still find the a free downloadable PDF of the original project here.

 

This project was designed to provide a way of informing those around you by presenting thoroughly researched, unbiased information and one-to-one comparisons of the candidates. It was in no way aiming to persuade voters to one side or the other.

Please download, print, and assemble this zine and keep it handy in your backpack or pocketbook as a tool for spreading information and encouraging political action through education.

Chapters include: (1) Meet the Politicians, (2) Courtroom Drama, (3) Conspiracies, (4) Cop Talk, (5) What type of Socialism are we okay with?, and (6) How is our election being undermined?

lets get informed page 1_edited.jpg
Hindsight-is-2020-book-Essie-Somma.jpg

Hindsight is 2020, pop up book, 2020

Let’s Get Informed became Hindsight is 2020. The final form of this project is a coptic bound pop-up book.

The book was not designed with the intent to make multiple copies or be sold. Instead, the whimsical nature of pop-up books places a playful lens over the information inside. Combining collage, popular culture references, and political rhetoric, the absurdity of the 2020 presidential election is recreated.

The election infiltrated all of our lives. It broke voter turnout records and took over our social media feeds. Once Joe Biden was declared the winner, the turmoil of the past four years suddenly disappeared. The tweets that kept us up at night became funny. The press conferences and crooked lawyers no longer induced anxiety now that they had an expiration date.

In a year that had been condemned, a little light has shown through. In hindsight, 2020 was a year for radical change.

All American (the Good ol' Boys), installation, 2018

Trigger the Conversation was a year-long grant funded research project created between 2017 and 2018.

The project was self guided, with a chosen topic of gun legislation and culture in the United States. The funding was awarded shortly after the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas in 2017. In response to this news, I began looking into the backgrounds of multiple mass shooters as well as interviewing non-violent gun owners.

From this research, I put together a set of 20 baseball cards with the ‘stats’ of each subject on the back. The cards featured a photo of the subject and a description of their personality and relationship with gun culture.

10 cards featured violent offenders, such as George Zimmerman, Nikolas Cruz, and Stephen Paddock. The remaining 10 took a look at 10 non-violent gun owners.

In an attempt to gain perspective, I befriended an avid hunter who took me to a shooting range where I learned how to shoot a gun. We shot pump action shot guns, rifles, and handguns, including a Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. I kept all of the remnants of the excursion, including casings and clay disks.

The project was originally presented as an installation at the Glass Box Gallery in Santa Barbara. The baseball cards were scattered among shotgun shells, bullet casings, and empty ammunition boxes spilling off of a pedestal.

All-American-Installation-Essie-Somma_edited.jpg
All-American-Installation-Essie-Somma_edited.jpg
All-American-Installation-Essie-Somma_edited.jpg
Trigger-the-Conversation-Playing-Cards-Essie-Somma.jpg

Trigger the Conversation, playing cards, 2018

After the works first showing, it quickly morphed into a bipartisan, interactive piece aimed at ‘triggering’ a conversation.

Rather than manifesting as a gallery-style installation piece, it became a deck of 52 playing cards. Each one of the numbered cards has a statistic on it or poses a question, some of which are shocking and uncomfortable to read. The face cards feature Emma Gonzalez, survivor of the parkland shooting and activist, and a still from Donald Glover’s video for This Is America, a work highlighting America’s use of black celebrities as a distraction from the violence it forces on its black citizens. Ultimately it’s up to the player if they want to engage in a conversation or keep playing without.

With the remaining grant funding, I manufactured 100 decks. I began giving the cards out to local bars and coffee shops, left them in bookstores, on restaurant tables, and other public locations. The idea was to take something inherently harmless and interactive and use it as a vehicle for political discourse.