Pellissippi State plans ‘Art of Propaganda’ lecture

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Are shopping bags and iconic posters turned Internet pop memes simply entertainment … or are they methods of propaganda?

That’s the question Knoxville-based sculptor and performance artist Caroline Covington will seek to answer during her free, Gnosis-sponsored lecture, “The Art of Propaganda,” at 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 10, in the Goins Building Auditorium.

“It’s an exciting genre because we love it. We love the bright colors and being able to look at an image and know immediately what it is,” said Covington, a 3D studio technician for The University of Tennessee’s School of Art.

According to Covington, popular art and entertainment of today often finds its roots in political propaganda, even in early 20th century Russian and Italian Fascist and Communist art. Take, for example, the “Hope” posters, designed by Shepard Fairey, which became nearly synonymous with President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“The iconography is very similar to what you would see in Russian poster art: cut and paste design, bold washes of color and simple, concise text. Even if you’re not politically savvy, it doesn’t matter. You can look at the image and immediately get what it’s trying to convey,” said Covington.

Covington said a 2009 advertising campaign by Saks Fifth Avenue used colors and symbols – such as raised fists – to mimic Russian and Italian political propaganda showing women “empowered to shop,” and art by Barbara Kruger is similar, proclaiming slogans such as “I shop therefore I am.”

“Art, at its core, presents the viewer with an image or object to interpret. What may seem simple often reveals several layers of meaning. We may think we’re just looking at a well-designed poster, but after picking apart the references, you see it’s doing another job: it’s selling you on something … it’s an interesting parallel,” Covington said.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Gnosis student club.

Caroline Covington is a sculptor and performance artist living and working in Knoxville. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2012, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from the University of Georgia in 2007.

For information about other Gnosis lectures, contact faculty sponsor Annie Gray at or call the College at 865-694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at 865-694-6607 or