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The Power of We

A collage by Elise Zukowski for ENGL-782, WVU (Spring 2023)

Collage of positive and negative images with magazine letters cut into phrases such as Dream, Creativity, We, Future, Community, American's Shame, etc.

This collage and the following Artist's Note are included in "The Art of Abolition", a zine created by Elise Zukowski and Peter Krch for ENGL-782, WVU (Spring 2023).

Artist's Note

I knew when we started working on this project that, given the nature of it, I wanted to include my own visual artwork. Art —both visual and written — has always been important in my life andI've experienced firsthand its transformative power.

I made this collage with clippings from old issues of Morgantown Magazine, Rolling Stones, Time, and others. I had no idea what the collage would consist of until I began finding images and text within the magazines that seemed to be telling me a story. When I came across an article titled, "America's Shame," I knew exactly what I wanted to say with the piece. 

Initially, I gave my collage the same name, but I soon realized I didn't want the focus to be on America's shameful, dark, and violent history. Rather, I wanted those who saw the piece to be reminded that, in spite of that history, things don't have to continue this way. We can dream new futures and work to create a new history.

The bottom half of the piece depicts our nation's dark history, including images of cages, hands in shackles, the words,"prisoner," "grief," "justice?". The background is paper printed with numbers to represent the millions of human beings in cages across the country.

In the center is a written piece from a 2016 issue of Rolling Stones titled, "All LockedUp." The author, Mark Sievers, writes, "Our country has a rich failed history of using criminal justice to address social issues...We think that for every social problem, we can create a criminal class of 'bad people' and arrest away the problem...You'd think we'd learn from this history, but I guess not."

I wish I'd had more time and diverse materials to work with as I was creating this collage, but I did my best with what I had on hand. If I'd had a broader range of magazines to look through, I would have searched more deliberately for images and text directly related to activism and human rights. I would have loved to include better visual representation of people coming together for a common cause and depicting the powerful feeling of solidarity.

Elise Zukowski

A Special Thank You

We are most appreciative to Elise for allowing us to use portions of her collage as image elements throughout this website.