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Exploring Art at WFS: One Student’s Journey towards Educating Others

Morton's artwork was on display at Friends School.

Morton's artwork was on display at Friends School.

Hareena Houston, News Editor

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Recently at Wilmington Friends there has been controversy over one IB art student’s final project. For her project Marley Morton ‘18 decided that she would explore and express her beliefs, by desecrating three American flags. Flag desecration is the act of violating ‘flag protocol’, which includes painting slogans, ripping up, and burning. Morton decided to desecrate three American flags because, “I believe that the flag only has the ability to represent what this country was built on and continues to thrive on: the backs of the oppressed.”  Throughout the past year Morton has been studying and interpreting different forms of social activism through art.

According to the Wilmington Friends School website “Education must include elements of choice and risk with accountability, and help students to develop self-discipline, resilience and motivation to sustain their joy as lifelong learners.” Wilmington Friends school encourages students to explore outside of their comfort zones, make hard decisions, and understand that there will be reactions and consequences to their actions. Wilmington Friends provides an outlet for students to safely express their beliefs and to educate their peers at the same time.

Upper School Visual Arts teacher, Cynthia Mellow, commented, “The course is the IB higher level course, and in this course the curriculum requires students to concentrate on intent and message, based on a concentrated thematic topic area. Particularly as they are going into their second year. Because they have to curate an exhibition of their work for the third part of the exam.”

The IB Art class requires that students focus on one message and Marley decided to focus on protest. “I believe that art has the ability to communicate messages in a way words cannot. This is why the artistic expression of social activism and justice is ultimately what I’ve dedicated my year in art too. In terms of protest as my theme, I think that all of my previous artworks only hit the first layer, of a complicated and controversial topic. For my final artwork, “America?” I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and see if I could push myself further while still staying true to my theme. I decided to desecrate three American flags because I knew that it would provoke discussion in our community. ” Consequently, this artwork has definitely sparked a lot of debate in the WFS community.

The American flag has long been a symbol of the USA, as it represents the patriotic ideals and spiritual qualities of the American people. Many people see it as the embodiment of American freedom, while others might see it as a symbol of death and oppression. Morton argues that, “All the American flag represents is the freedoms applied to a small set of privileged people  — a group that I am  personally not apart of as an African-American woman. The flag is a symbol for a country where hundreds upon hundreds of unarmed black and brown people are killed by the police for no reason other than the color of their skin. A country where members of the LGBTQ+ community are still fighting for equal rights in a country that claims to believe in equality of all. A country that mocks and harbors immense hatred for immigrants. a country that elected a racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic, sorry excuse of a human being as President.”

Because Morton’s artwork is so controversial, her statement of purpose is important in that it lets viewers understand her intentions for the project. The statement of purpose provides a brief overview of what her project means, and why she chose to complete it the way she did. Mellow added, “I do want to state that the conversation that took place before the artwork was even up seemed to be focused on the flag and the action of what you are doing to the flag. Again she had research on that, but what really should be looked at was the processes that were needed for her to image her artwork. And I think that the discussion happen around it because obviously she met her intention of making people think. But her process was not the action in of itself, as people rip, or burn a flag in protest. There is a big difference there. It was meant to be about the message not the process. And I think that Marley really met a high standard in what she created based on the IB curriculum as well as presenting an image to the community to make us think.”

Rebecca Zug, Head of Upper School, commented on Morton’s Statement of Purpose, “Marley’s artistic statement reflects her truth and her experience. Works of art even on controversial deeply sensitive topics, if based on thoughtful academic research, can be discussed in this community. I am proud of the way from what I know students have been respectfully engaging in discussion about her project.”

The desecration of the American Flag has long been a controversial topic, and will continue to be one. Wilmington Friends School will continue to encourage students to explore their beliefs and views in a safe environment. The artwork is currently on display at WFS for all who want to view it and its message.

 

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Exploring Art at WFS: One Student’s Journey towards Educating Others