Avant Bard’s Inception Circle for The Good Devil (in spite of himself) was populated by a diverse group of members from both our theatrical family and local artistic community. The conversation–essentially a community brainstorm gathering that examines our upcoming production and supplementary engagement possibilities–inspired a myriad of dramaturgical and community-oriented ideas, from program notes and lobby displays to blog posts and special AfterChats.
One of the most resonant ideas was to contact local non-theatre artists and ask them to respond to the themes of censorship and free expression. I delved into this by first researching artists who have already created work surrounding these ideas, namely those who have partnered with the District’s annual Banned Book Festival. One of the most immediately captivating of these participants was Megan McNitt, who is not only a local visual artist, but also a librarian with a direct interest in access to literature and the arts.
Megan was generous enough to not only provide insight into her experiences as a visual artist, but to actually create works of art specific to our production. Below you will find photographs of these pieces (which look even better in our lobby) as well as her bio and artist statement.
Note: For information on how to purchase one of Megan’s paintings, or a portfolio of her other work, please contact her via her website, http://www.meganmcnittsurfaces.com/.
I am a Washington, D.C.-based visual artist. I use 2-D media to explore the intersections between mass media and the internal world and to celebrate the District’s beautiful neighborhoods and gardens. There is no standard course of professional certification for artists and my life presents no exception to this rule. After studying art history and training to work in libraries the Recession of 2009 left me under-employed yet with an abundance of free time and nervous energy that I channeled into painting & drawing. Two of my grandparents were artists: an illustrator in New York and a potter in Michigan. Forty hours of my week are devoted to the District of Columbia Public Library where I work as a librarian at the Tenleytown branch.
The pieces I made for the WSC Avant Bard’s production of The Good Devil (In Spite of Himself) are mixed-media: acrylics, print media image transfer, and fiber. I juxtaposed images of democracy such as the American flag and language from the Bill of Rights with contradictory information such as photographs of the Vietnam War and the parental warning for explicit lyrics. The compositions allude to the challenges posed to free speech in today’s society. Many schools, universities, libraries and similar institutions face criticism for airing fact and opinion about science, politics, and human behavior.
As the world becomes mutually intelligible with the proliferation of internet technology, it seems as though world powers rush to control if not censure the public and the press. Even though personal securities and identifying data are extremely important to protect, do governments abuse their reach in the name of protecting citizens? How is it that what begins with a wrist-slap for discussions of sex, of experience, and of belief are misconstrued, used as evidence, and stored as material for profiles? The mind needs to exercise itself in order to know what it can and cannot tolerate. How threatening is that?