In the politically charged environment of a presidential campaign, many use social media to voice their opinions and make statements. Others, however, choose more creative means of expression. For Danielle Herman, a junior majoring in art and design, this means painting.
Amidst the recent campaign stops within the Binghamton area, Herman took to painting caricatures of the presidential hopefuls in order to capture her thoughts on the current state of American politics. She was prompted by her painting II class syllabus, which called for a piece that was big, bold and relevant. Her first piece was a large-format painting of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump alongside his now-infamous declaration: “I would date my daughter.”
“I thought to myself, ‘who’s bold?’ and ‘what’s going on in the world’; Donald Trump is it,” Herman said.
Critical of Trump’s political beliefs, Herman saw an opportunity to make a statement with her paintings. She has since made large-scale caricatures of three other presidential hopefuls and wants to sell the works after she completes her course, even exhibiting her pieces at political events.
“I went to each of the three rallies in Binghamton,” Herman said. “The first one I went to was the Bernie [Sanders] rally and that’s when I realized I was getting some publicity.”
Herman’s goal in painting these works wasn’t to push a message, but to capture a moment.
“My theme is pop culture,” Herman said, “I mainly did this because politics are trending.”
It’s easy to get swept up into the loud and dynamic vortex of political media. What Herman’s paintings accomplish is giving the viewer a silent moment to reflect about the people vying to run the country. As a result, the reception for her art has been mixed.
“I think, for the area, the pieces resemble how people feel about the candidates,” Herman said. “But I’ve noticed that other people will retweet my stuff and, for some reason, take it negatively.”
And while people are currently retweeting her material and giving it worldwide attention, Herman never thought art would be her main focus.
“I never thought art would take me anywhere, so I decided that I wanted to be an engineer because I liked learning how things are made,” Herman said.
A native of Owego, New York, Herman started her engineering education at Broome Community College (BCC) in the fall 2012 semester. However, she soon realized that this was not the field for her.
In a fortunate turn of events, Herman was eventually set back on the artist track when her father sent her an email about BCC’s visual communications program, through which she received a two-year degree. While there, she was acquainted with mural painting. Ever since, she’s preferred painting large-format works. She transferred to Binghamton University this semester and lives with her grandmother, who provides her the space to paint these larger works.
“I prefer working with larger sizes because it’s easier to play with the paint,” Herman said. “I usually paint with my fingers and it’s easier to work with the paint on a larger scale.”
Loving the artistic marriage between design and technical detail, Herman eventually came to embrace and declare a minor in graphic design. Because of this, she often maps out most of her work on the computer before putting paint to canvas.
As it turns out, Herman’s true passion isn’t politics, but cocktail dresses. After BU, Herman is looking to expand on her artwork and is working toward eventually attending the Fashion Institute of Technology to study fashion design. Until then, she’ll continue working on her art and exploring the world around her.