'Don't Drag Me Down': Artists expound on 'Today's Battle for Liberation' in Oakton College exhibit

This year's Oakton College Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program Art Exhibit features a record number of artists who address various topics across 15 mediums.

The exhibit - entitled "Don't 'Drag' Me Down: Today's Battle for Liberation" - is free and open to the public and runs from Oct. 5 to Nov. 3 at Oakton's Koehnline Museum of Art, 1600 E. Golf Road, Des Plaines.

A public reception for the artists will be held at the museum from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5. The reception will feature a performance by Glenna Sprague, Oakton Six Piano Ensemble conductor and Oakton professor of music.

"This year, we not only received over 100 submissions, a record number for this exhibit, but we heard from artists as far as Germany, Italy, Poland and Puerto Rico," said Lindsey Hewitt, distinguished professor of Anthropology and Humanities and coordinator of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. "The artists we invited represent different backgrounds and different perspectives, but all address the 'Don't "Drag" Me Down: Today's Battle for Liberation' theme."

Artists provided social commentary and inspiration about how marginalized communities create courageous spaces, empower each other and change the world. Over 100 artists responded, and works by 74 artists were selected for the exhibition. These works address various topics from the attacks on bodily autonomy, sexuality, gender identity, and the rights of transgender youth, to book bans and censorship, racialized violence, colonialism, the war in Ukraine and many more. Below are five artists whose work will be featured at the exhibit.

• Ali Beyer, a visual artist and adjunct instructor in the Cinema & Television Arts Department at Columbia College Chicago, utilizes their own nonbinary appearance in the self-portrait "King Queen (Can't Beat Me Down with this Golden Crown)." In their piece, Beyer alludes to the transient nature of gender and hits upon ideas of who has historically been deemed worthy of portraiture - and who has been excluded - while raising questions such as who may be a king and/or a queen in this society.

• Granite Palombo-Amit's "The Overturning of Roe v. Wade" is composed of statistical data that is intentionally presented upside down. The piece forces the audience to bend in an uncomfortable position to read the text. Palombo-Amit is an interdisciplinary artist who integrates the different facets of her life as a therapist, progressive rabbi and activist. She has exhibited nationally and internationally.

• A Ukraine-born and Evanston-based artist, Olena M. Marshall studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Evanston Art Center and the Art Center Highland Park. Her "The Pilgrimage: Russia's Imperialist Death Cult Marches on" draws attention to the "unfreedoms" of the colonial and imperialist ideologies exemplified by Russia. The viewer is invited to consider the agency, victimhood and culpability of those in the processional - and how this illiberal movement will be stopped.

•Exhibit visitors can take a closer look at "Inkwell of Change: Women's Journeys to Liberation" by Berlin-based Aziza Magsudlu. Magsudlu empowers women through her art, giving voice to those stifled by silence and inequality. Through the vivid language of color and symbolism, she aims to ignite conversations, provoke introspection and mold a future where the resounding voices of women can never be ignored. Berlin's vibrant energy intertwines with Magsudlu's Azerbaijani heritage, infusing her work with a diverse array of influences.

• Nora Moore Lloyd, a Chicago-based artist and enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Nation in Wisconsin, has had her work exhibited at the Chicago History Museum, Field Museum, Illinois State Museum and internationally. Moore Lloyd will show a portrait of her friend Susan Power, who, after leaving the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation at a young age, became a founding member of the American Indian Center and other important Native American institutions in Chicago and nationally.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For information, visit

For information about women, gender and sexuality studies at Oakton, visit

"Self Portrait - King Queen (Can't Beat Me Down with this Golden Crown)" by Ali Beyer will be on display through Nov. 3, in Oakton College's Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program Art Exhibit. Courtesy of Oakton College
"Inkwell of Change: Women's Journeys to Liberation" by Aziza Magsudlu. Magsudlu is one of the 74 artists who will display their work at Oakton College's Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program Art Exhibit. Courtesy of Oakton College
"Susan, Lakota" by Nora Moore Lloyd is one of the many artworks on display through Nov. 3 at Oakton's Koehnline Museum of Art in the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program Art Exhibit. This year's, exhibit includes 74 artists that address various topics across 15 mediums. Courtesy of Oakton College
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