Dress is centerpiece of art show portraying skewed societal perceptions of news media

Kelvin Hawkins


Artist Rachael Strain showcased her work Monday at the Troy campus library as a presentation for Women’s History Month. She presented her piece along with a video explaining her inspiration.

Strain, an art studies major from Newton at Wallace Community College, brought a single work titled “Miss Represented,” a collage of tabloid, newspaper and magazine clippings arranged to form a dress. The clippings themselves are sections of news featuring serious and thought-provoking articles about worldly matters like sex trafficking and hard labor conditions.

“I thought if I put something on a dress, maybe people would pay attention to it,” Strain said in her presentation.

She was inspired to do the piece after seeing that a dress that actress Jennifer Lawrence wore was trending more on social media than world crises in news media.

The piece is part of her “Second Gilded Age” collection, inspired by the book “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today” by Mark Twain. The work shows the current era through Strain’s lens.

She showed her rationale for her work by presenting a video that switches between Hollywood talk shows and graphic, hard-hitting news reports. It draws a stark contrast between the glamorous life of the Jenner sisters, who are arguing over a dress, and the poor quality of life of a sweatshop worker, who is shown describing her terrible working conditions.

The dress is meant to represent the drama in entertainment that the general public tends to flock toward in media versus the more morose drama facing war refugees and victims of human trafficking. Her intent for the dress is to show how people pay attention to less important parts of the news, but she also wants to leave her piece and video open to interpretation.

“I drew from the time I was 2, and it was always a passion of mine,” Strain said. “After taking art appreciation at Wallace, I was able to take the risk.”

She said she was encouraged to attend college, pursue her work and pay attention to social conditions by her missionary, social activist mother.

“No matter what the budget, you should make things happen and not be afraid to take risks,” Strain said. “As long as inspiration and motivation are there, you can accomplish your work.”

The presentation seemed to resonate with students, who asked questions and made comments about media and its social implications.

“I thought the event was enlightening and eye opening, and that people need to see it,” said Anna-Marie Manning, a senior secondary language arts education major from Monroeville.

Dozens of Troy University students were in attendance for the show presented by Strain, who plans to continue her art studies at the University of Montevallo.

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