Professor Chris Cutri shares “The Wrestle: Taking Art Beyond Enjoyment”
Last fall, communications professor Chris Cutri was working in his backyard when he started to think about the deep complexities going on in the world. With problems ranging from politics to poverty and everything in between, Cutri wondered if his art was made in vain and frivolous in the context of the world problems
At the April Faith and Works Lecture series, Cutri shared art that addresses global issues and discussed with students and faculty whether or not they should create art with similar effects.
“Today I want to explore with you my personal wrestle,” Cutri said, “with what I should be doing with the talents and opportunities I have in relation to the kind of world we’re living in right now.”
Cutri started by sharing a clip from “O.J.: Made in America” that showed interviews and speeches of people being caught up in their own perceptions, oblivious to other world issues going on, such as the civil rights movement. After seeing the clip, Cutri shared that he didn’t want to get stuck on the wrong side of history.
Through discussing artists and their works like Theaster Gates’ “Rebuild Foundation”, John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit” and Kristen Visbal’s “Fearless Girl,” Cutri highlighted works that addressed current political and social issues. As he discussed the various works, Cutri asked, “Who are the artists making these artworks?”
“What I discovered was the vast majority of the people making this stuff are the people who are directly feeling the effects of whatever oppression they’re dealing with,” Cutri said. “Those who are being marginalized in some way, it seems their creative work falls into this realm and they have to grapple with these things.”
As a Latino who grew up in privileged circumstances, Cutri expressed his thoughts about making impactful art even though he may not be directly affected by the issue. “Am I basking in my own privilege?” Cutri asked. But then, he said, he puts on his “spiritual lens” and asks, “What responsibilities do I have as a disciple, to be thinking about others, even though it may not directly affect me at the time?”
These questions led Cutri to create his own artistic works to address societal issues. One work that he shared is his “Museum Project.” As Cutri toured museums throughout the United States, he found the guards were mainly African American, Latino or other minorities, so he created a series of pictures to portray the phenomenon. He also noticed a similar trend in Europe with women guards. Then, while managing a study abroad in Spain, Cutri filmed a mini-documentary of a Women’s March that took place. Additionally, through a photography class at BYU, Cutri worked with other students on a refugee project.
“I’m making these photo pieces, but what am I really doing to help?” Cutri said. “My photos may create some dialogue, may help someone to think about the issues, but what I am doing? And that’s hard. It’s one thing to make a creative work that talks about it, and then there’s another part where you really need to get in there and do something.”
To conclude his remarks, Cutri reminded the audience that no matter the issue, it is always dealing with people that are Heavenly Father’s children. His final encouragement to the audience was to look at the work they were doing and see how it could become a form of ministering to others.
“I don’t think anyone should tell you what kind of creative work you should make,” Cutri said. “It’s a very personal decision. But I’d like you to think and maybe reconsider what you do based on your discipleship, the talents you have and the privileged situations you’ve been in — how can you level your privilege for someone else?”