Political art and aesthetics are undoubtedly intertwined. An artist's stylistic choices will affect the final outcome of the artwork, and in turn how its political symbolism is perceived. May Stevens, an activist, feminist, and artist was conscious of the aesthetics of her intensely political artwork. This is especially evident in her Big Daddy series, which is anchored by a grotesque male figure that Stevens treats as a vessel representing the blasé American attitude towards culture and politics. The series was completed between 1967 to 1976 and follows major political events, including the Vietnam War. Initial inspiration, however, was found in her father’s own mindset towards culture and politics. Throughout the series, we see the development of both symbolism and stylistic choice, which presents itself in the form of changing medium, technique, and exaggerated political imagery. Despite this temporal development, the collection of paintings remains identifiable and unified. Her lesser-known painting titled Living Room (1967) also features the “Big Daddy” male figure, but it differs in symbolism and stylistic choice. Here, the male figure is uncharacteristically accompanied by a female figure and features a less stylized and more traditional impasto painting technique. My research probes the relationship between the Big Daddy series and Living Room (1967). It explores how political art is intertwined with aesthetics. My examination of May Stevens’ Living Room (1967) and its relationship to the Big Daddy series addresses the way in which the political symbolism of painting can be animated by an artist’s stylistic choices.
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Sakmar, Juliette, "The Aesthetics of May Stevens’ Big Daddy Series: How an Artist’s Stylistic Choice Influences Political Symbolism" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 73.