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'Seasonal Patriotism' Exhibit Ponders the Meaning of American Pride

Peekskill resident Julie Overskei debuts her newest collection at the Hendrick Hudson Library.

Everyone celebrates Independence Day differently- some honor war veterans, others head to the beach, or to all-day BBQs to watch a fireworks show with friends, and some spend a quiet day in their pools. On this fourth of July, Peekskill resident Julie Overskei's latest exhibit will ask visitors to reflect on the meaning of American pride, political division and patriotism in consumerism. Her latest exhibit, "Seasonal Patriotism" is on display at the until July 28. 

The exhibit explores how Americans are consciously and subconsciously "convinced" that patriotism is good and asks people to reflect on what patriotism means when tied to consumerism and what patriotism means in a country with political division. Overskei writes in her artist's statement:

" We, the people, are consciously and subconsciously convinced that one idea of “patriotism,” is good and necessary and right. But patriots are also those who “fight” for a true justice, the idea of freedom, in America and beyond, even in opposition to government policy. And what does patriotism mean when corporations and sales mottos echo the flag in form or color to instill faith, fortitude, and trust in their products or service? Buy American. Be an American. America is good. But what if you aren’t American? What if you don’t agree with your government? "

For the past year and a half, Overskei has been developing “Seasonal Patriotism,” which was originally inspired by a quote from Helen Keller: “It is a terrible thing to see and not have vision.”

"(This quote) echoes the law of cause and effect, politically, environmentally and socially...This concept of seasonal patriotism has allowed for me to react as an artist, and re-evaluate my thoughts, interpretations and feelings as a political being,” Overskei said.

The artist expresses herself through paintings, drawings, fabrics, and digital graphics using different mediums like canvas, plastic stars, glass, and even wooden shoetrees. Overskei hopes that people who visit her exhibit will think about what the United States of America and the American flag truly mean – and how it represents our country as a whole.

“Don't limit yourself to your own understanding of something. Life like art is in the making every single moment of our existence, so be willing to take a chance and experience the unknown for it then to become known,” said Overskei.

Ever since Overskei was a young girl she admired art, especially her grandmother’s oil landscapes, and copying words and text from newspapers. After studying at California State University in Fullerton, a summer school in Boulder, Colorado, and an arts program at UCLA, Overskei worked in performance art.

Today, she owns her own company, JO Productions Inc., is a senior graphic/web designer for The City University of New York, and teaches digital arts through graphic programs at Westchester Community College. Between her busy schedules, Overskei takes time to continue her artistic passion by participating in exhibits and gallery shows in the area. 

Join Julie Overskei at a reception at the Hen Hud Library on Saturday, July 7 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Julie Overskei's Full Artist Statement:

Seasonal Patriotism

 The title of the show was chosen for its multiple meanings. 1) Seasonal implies changing and temporal periods of time and weather. 2) Patriotism implies a shared or common belief/support in your government or body politic. The American flag has often been co-opted to support one idea or belief system, when in actuality the flag is a blanket meant to cover all ideas and beliefs. We, the people, are consciously and subconsciously convinced that one idea of “patriotism,” is good and necessary and right. But patriots are also those who “fight” for a true justice, the idea of freedom, in America and beyond, even in opposition to government policy. And what does patriotism mean when corporations and sales mottos echo the flag in form or color to instill faith, fortitude, and trust in their products or service?  Buy American. Be an American. America is good. But what if you aren’t American? What if you don’t agree with your government?

 The show was initially inspired after hearing a quote, by Helen Keller, read by a 10 year old of the Children’s Theater Company of Peekskill. “It is a terrible thing to see and not have vision.” This quote is all encompassing. It echoes the law of cause and effect, politically, environmentally and socially. A single action can lead to many reactions and vice versa. This concept of “Seasonal Patriotism,” has allowed for me to react as an artist, and re-evaluate my thoughts, interpretations and feelings as a political being. As I was gathering material for the show, I was introduced to many people and socio political discussions concerning issues in history and today’s America. There appears to be so much discontent, or so many issues upon which we are divided. While being a part of this dynamic ever changing and developing discourse, I worried about how my manipulations of the flag would be interpreted by others. Several times, I dismantled my work to rebuild it as my shared and personal commentaries unfolded. The paint may have stained the surface, but that surface is ever changing as history determines. In other words, what might be wrong for one is right for another – and this seesaw continues to teeter.

 Art is subjective, and often single sided/two-dimensional. It is neither my intention to provoke nor promote negativity or discontent. It is however, my intention to provoke and promote thought and discourse. I am not an historian, nor a political scientist. I am however, a citizen, a voter, and a person with rights often unknown to myself.  I often feel as a pawn in a chess game that I do not play alone. These works are simply commentaries that may create more questions than answers or solutions.  I only ask that you open your vision to ponder the concept of  the “United States of America and Patriotism” – if not now, then maybe later.

I have my family to thank for allowing me the time to collect, discuss, and create these works. Thanks to my best friend and husband Sam, my daughter Sage – 8 years old, and my son Theo now 5 years old. 

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