History Nebraska and Nebraska Arts Council invite artists to re-imagine historic posters
Nebraska has a long history of circulating posters encouraging social action, particularly during years of intense change. Recognizing that 2020 is also a year of change, History Nebraska (HN), in partnership with the Nebraska Arts Council (NAC), invited ten Nebraska artists to continue this tradition.
Using historic posters from History Nebraska’s collection as inspiration, artists created their own posters to address today’s themes, including (but not limited to) COVID-19, economic hardship, equality, racial injustice, and voter participation. Below, you will find their posters and descriptions of their work.
Each poster is available for sale at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln for $35.
Jacob Candia is a graphic designer based in Omaha, Nebraska focusing on branding, print and art direction. He graduated with a BASA in Studio Art (Graphic Design Concentration) in 2020. His practice centers on producing expressive, focused and distinct work for cultural sectors.
This work serves as a call of attention to minorities in the United States of America to vote in the 2020 presidential election. The short phrase “The minority vote counts’’ makes the message clear. I feel today more than ever, it is vital that whoever is elected to assume leadership, nationally and locally, accurately reflects what the people want. I do not believe that is what has been happening. Voter turnout matters. Minority votes matter.
Nick Clark is a post-digital pop genre painter living and working in Omaha, Nebraska. He has exhibited around the US, operated an art commission business, worked for Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts, Joslyn Art Museum, Kent Bellows Studio, League of Human Dignity, and as a CAD technician. Clark’s 2020 exhibitions are Two Trick Pony at Project Project and Above/Below at Amplify Arts’ Generator Space. These experiences, in addition to a BFA from University of Nebraska at Omaha, have solidified his place as an artist and familiar member of the Omaha community.
The Covid-19 pandemic has defined 2020 and years to come, so I have designed a poster which immortalizes the daily activities that recently became our new normal. The images depict four scenes: a friendly person wearing a mask, hand-washing, e-learning from home, and virtual visits with at-risk family and friends. I wanted to emphasize the greater community’s health because a pandemic is not solved with a handful of individual efforts. Rather, an overwhelming amount of people must sacrifice, stay vigilant, and come together. We need to remind ourselves to be conscientious to one another, especially the vulnerable, and practice compassion daily.
I'm a country girl from Gering, Nebraska. I graduated from Concordia University of Nebraska with a degree BA in English and a minor in Art in 2016. I’ve been a teacher, janitor, data technician and more. I am a well-rounded individual with a firm work ethic. Challenges are aspects where I seek self-development. In college, I was a 13-time All-American scholar athlete while maintaining a 3.7 GPA. At the time, I also held three part-time jobs. People describe me as flexible and easy-going. I am not a stranger to grueling tasks which will help me become a self- published author someday. I am already a published poet appearing in the National Creativity Series of 2009 and Mango The Magazine Edition III.
Art is not just about art. It is a steppingstone for shaping intellect. Art is an evolutionary process that can be channeled into daily life. By exploring that avenue of thought you are exploring your potential & growth. This exploration also challenges people around you because they see what you are doing and what you are becoming. This also brings me to believe that art is my responsibility to share and interpret. The people who choose to be a part of the movement that art induces chose to live forward.
This life is not for everyone. Living forward is not bountiful in comfort. In fact, it thrives in the discomfort because change and truth do not come with comfort. Comfortable is the happiness we strive to achieve. However, one cannot stay there or know the difference without the intermittent inevitabilities. And to do so is to risk ecstasy. I believe this because even my contentment now will not be my contentment in years to come just because I cannot relive a moment. I can only use what I have presently and the most valuable of these tools being my knowledge. Art is thinking, knowing and pushing bounds of what we see. The people that are up to this life are using bending and molding the fabrics around them to be adventurous; as an artist must be to succeed. This success is not measured only in worldly outwards appearance. It is being in tune with truth in the self. This comprehension is most likely the most essential and the reasoning of why we began the search in the first place.
Art can be easily everything that we are and hope to be. For me it has never been just about paint or drawing. Those are the skills and tools I use to express. Art is metaphysical in its comprehension. It is like a feeling or a touch, and for me, loaded with meaning. I hope it sparks ideas to a better life. Art will never give me enough. Most likely because I want to believe, I know a little bit more than I actually do.
Ben Darling is active/lives in Nebraska. He is known for Plein air painting. Longtime Sidney, Nebraska resident, he captures the essence of the central Great Plains from its subtleties to its drama in his small- to large-scale oil paintings. Darling primarily paints in plein air, a method that allows him to retain a sense of immediacy while evoking a feeling of quiet contemplation throughout his realistic works.
In 2019 I became aware that the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment was approaching. By Spring of 2020 I decided I would do some posters/block prints to not only celebrate the occasion but encourage younger potential voters I know to register and vote. The image used for this poster is one that recalls the spirit of graphic design from 100 odd years ago.
When creating posters, the main intent should be to cause a change of state of equilibrium in the viewer. Whether to encourage a sense of peace or sound a call to action. I strove for clarity of message, but am happy with the artistic content, the drawing and layout that I achieved in the original block prints. The images are from 11 x 17 blocks of linoleum.
With the visual overload of life today, the black and white linear form draws attention to itself by its simplicity and ease of accessibility. The introduction of a single color serves as a means of drawing the viewer into the content of this image. More colors would, I feel, detract from the message.
Originally from Manchester, England, Sophie Newell attended Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland and graduated with a BFA in Visual Communication. She has exhibited both in the US and UK, including at MERZ (Sanquhar, Scotland), Michael Phipps Gallery (Omaha, NE), Foothills Art Center (Golden, CO), and Salina Art Center (Salina, KS). Newell has created illustrations for clients such as the Washington Post, Nebraska Quarterly, and Marriott Hotels. She has lived in Omaha since 2014 and is the studio coordinator for Joslyn Art Museum’s Kent Bellows Mentoring Program.
One of the recurring themes that I think a lot about is community. I believe people are stronger, happier, and more resilient when we come together and work to support each other rather than focusing solely on our individual needs. Events in 2020 have made me acutely aware of the need for strong community in regards to public health and social justice. It angers me to see resources such as libraries, parks, and arts organizations undervalued and underfunded so that money can instead be diverted to luxury condos or an armored police vehicle. This year we’ve seen more of a focus on this issue, specifically the scrutiny over police expenditure and our inefficient reliance on law enforcement to fix problems that are complex and deeply rooted in poverty, mental health, and social injustice.
With this poster I hope to remind people of the importance of supporting our community organizations, institutions, and resources that help and provide for us all. Taking inspiration from a poster in History Nebraska’s collection titled United We Win, I chose to depict three people surrounded by imagery representing education, healthcare, food access, and libraries. The layer of flowers represents growth, nurture, and coexistence.
I replicated some of the design elements common to posters from the 1930s and 40s including halftone photographs and a limited color palette, similar to designs produced by screen printing. When sketching ideas for this project I initially wanted to also include a bold typeface like those from the past, but found that when paired with my design it felt too forceful and impersonal. Instead I settled on handwritten text to emphasize the human element and literal hands-on nature of organizing and growing our communities.
I am a Latina artist, immigrated from Guatemala to Omaha NE. I create art that is colorful, warm and happy just like my heritage.
I’m a visual artist and work mainly with acrylic paint, graphite and digital media.
My pieces overlap themes and touch emotions by using common elements like animals, food, people and everyday objects. Geometric shapes and contrasting colors are reoccurring elements in my pieces.
My pieces often refer to pop and mass culture and are a celebration of the beauty of daily things and aesthetic as a whole.
My art has graphic aspects due to my background in graphic design and illustration.
This piece was inspired by a poster originally created during World War II entitled “United We Win.” This modern retake, created during the 100th year of women’s suffrage, is designed to honor the fact that our Flag waves over all ethnicities, despite our differences.
Danny Reneau grew up in Kansas fascinated with newspaper comic strips as well as comic book art. His love of Bill Watterson, Jim Lee, and the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements influence his work still today. His art attempts to capture the same energy as those beautiful Sunday strips on a much bigger canvas, highlighting the beautiful aspects of nature and pop culture that surround him.
Danny received his degree in Video Production from the Art Institute of Seattle, and moved to Lincoln Nebraska in 2011. After years working in the non-profit sector, Danny rekindled his love for art in Nebraska. He began creating promotional material and gig posters for local bands out of Omaha and Lincoln, eventually branching out into work with The Girl Scouts of Nebraska, teaching and collaborating on art projects for fundraisers. He also began creating play bills and posters for local theater productions. In 2019, Danny illustrated his first children’s book, “The Magic of Winter” with an Iowa based author. His work has since been shown in galleries around Lincoln. His passion for charitable and non-profit work has led him to raise money through his art for multiple organizations including the Lincoln Arts Council, Spirit of Nebraska, The Lincoln Children’s Zoo, and The International Association of Suicide prevention. Danny enjoys spending time in nature with his wife and three sons, walking the trails at Pioneers Park or strolling around town on First Fridays, looking for inspiration among other artists, galleries and live music.
Danny also enjoys sharing his love of football and 90’s rock music with his sons, whether they are in the mood for it or not.
When reflecting on 2020 as a whole, the word “essential” keeps coming to mind. What is essential? It’s a big question that asks us to think beyond the base human needs of food, shelter and water. When confronted with a global pandemic and the need to shelter in place, the question, “what is essential?” takes center stage. My piece focuses on us, right here in Nebraska.
Corn and wheat represent the essential workers right within our communities. The farmers working in the fields to feed us, the doctors and nurses risking their lives to save us. The cashiers and retail employee’s risking their safety to supply access to needed items.
The school teachers juggling the challenges of safety during a global pandemic while also educating those that hold our future. These people are essential to a functioning society. The economic disparity on display regarding jobs deemed “essential” and those that are not is an issue we are forced to confront.
Within the outline of our state we see a raised fist, the longtime symbol of the oppressed. I chose the color gray to represent the idea that both black and white people within our community must stand together to address these inequalities. The color also indicates age. The fist can be seen in photos from our history, grainy black and white images dot our past, reminding us that this fight is not new and it continues to this day. Within the wrinkles of the knuckles the year 2020 can be seen. The need to address both systemic racism, as well as personal underlying bias, is essential to growth as a human striving to be better, as well as a community striving to bring opportunity and stability to ourselves and our neighbors. The flowers represent the spiritual and personal growth each person must work towards. This growth is delicate but beautiful.
The red fields against a blue and white sunburst horizon should lend a feeling of Americana. Growth, compassion, equality and change should be at the heart of the American experience. These ideas, along with the struggles of the oppressed, are not new and are woven within the fabric of our country. To deny one but not the other is a disservice to what we stand for as we continue this great experiment we call “The United States of America”.
Growth leads to compassion. Compassion yearns for equality. Equality requires change. For me, these are the ideas that define the word “essential.”
I was born and raised in Omaha and have lived in Nebraska my entire life except for some punk rock years in Seattle in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I earned a MFA degree from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln in 2004 and worked as an Adjunct Professor there for fourteen years. Prior to this I was a graphic designer and illustrator in advertising and newspaper publications, including the Lincoln Journal Star. When I’m not making art for shows, I have been working on a series of posters for many years, highlighting several of Nebraska’s most unique spots. For more information on these, visit my Facebook page, “Nebraska Posters.”
For this work, I gave some thought to the deeply personal work of our healthcare workers. For most of us this pandemic has meant staying home more and taking some precautions, but we rarely see the souls that are suffering its most dire effects. For the workers that voluntarily put themselves on the front lines of this fight every single day, they deserve every bit of praise, respect, empathy, and love we can show them. They are, in every sense of the word, truly heroes.
Bart Vargas is a multi-disciplinary Artist and Educator from Bellevue, Nebraska. Vargas earned his Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and his Master of Fine Art at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He creates playful, and thought-provoking objects and images that strive to act as artifacts and evidence of the early 21st century. Vargas has exhibited nationally and internationally, and his work can be found in many collections throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. His works have also been featured in many publications including Sculpture Magazine, New American Paintings, and HGTV Magazine.
For my History Nebraska Poster submissions, I wanted my artwork to be playful and approachable, while seriously addressing the global pandemic we are collectively facing. That is why I chose to make an image of the pronghorn which have symbolized Western Nebraska to me ever since I was a child. I also chose to have them wear a common face mask, encouraging the simple, everyday practice that we can all use to protect one another from the transmission and spread of Covid-19. Masking for ourselves, our families, and “MASKING FOR A FRIEND”.
Katharen Wiese (b. 1995, Lincoln, Nebraska) is an artist, curator and a community arts organizer living and working in the historic Everett Neighborhood of Lincoln, NE. She holds a B.F.A. in Studio Art from The University of Nebraska at Lincoln (2018). Her work has been featured in group exhibitions across the state including Kiechel Fine Art (2020), Lux Center for the Arts (2020), Tugboat Gallery (2019), the Prairie Arts Center (2017), and many more. Her work is a part of Nebraska History Museum collection as well as the Thomas P. Coleman print collection at the Sheldon Museum of Art. She was a 2018 nominee for the University of Nebraska Vreeland Howard Award and a four time award winner of the Kimmel Harding Scholarship for Emerging Arts (2014-2018). Wiese has curated art shows across the state for the past four years with emphasis on sharing the work of artists of color.
2020 is a year that feels like it is embodied by questions: when will it end, how many more lives lost, what does the future hold? It feels like whatever illusion of control we had has been dissolved by smoke filled skies, senseless deaths, and uncertainty. So often when I think of posters I think of propaganda and not empathy. Propaganda assumes the best thing the artist could do is give advice. The truth is, like many of you, I am not sure the best course of action. The reality is we are grieving on a global scale, and perhaps in the unity of our shared mourning we might find hope.