Tobacco companies have long used beauty and art to sell cigarettes. In the early Twentieth Century, finely detailed illustrations depicted a Scherazade fantasy world for “Murad, The Turkish Cigarette.” During World War Two, portraits of handsome military men promoted Chesterfields. More recently, Camel has used paintings of sultry blonde women in its ads, with the tag “Pleasure to Burn.”
An exhibit at Broward College provides a different perspective. Called “Smoke Out,” it uses art to depict tobacco’s ugliness. Tobacco often leads to diseases that disfigure before causing an early, and often painful, death. Unlike the tobacco ads of yore, the exhibit uses art to impart a powerful public health message.
Not that the artwork itself is ugly. Several pieces demonstrate how smoking can cause destruction beneath a beautiful facade. In Sandi Levy’s mixed media painting “It’s Your Choice, Choose Life,” a stylized female visage masks a void-filled skull. In Judith Schwab’s mixed media sculptures “Tear Drop/Eyes Open” and “Eyes Close in Death,” monstrous tumors burst forth from flawless faces. In JoAnne Allison’s painting “Life Cut Short,” a red-lipped woman’s profile rests on a cracking heart; above her, wispy grey ghosts gasp for air.
Several of the pieces cleverly incorporate cigarette butts that were collected from South Florida beaches. In “Ceci n’est pas un fil,” Alvaro deJesus draws inspiration from Magritte as he uses butts to create a thread-like outline of a pipe. Renee Sanders’ mixed media collage “Is your time up?” combines butts, cigarette warnings, and smeared out faces. In Anabel Rub Peicher’s “Hombre ... Quitting is tough,” a sculptedof a man’s head, bearing an expression of misgiving, sits on a seemingly conventional base on which 5 butts have been extinguished.
The exhibit is located in the entrance of Bailey Hall, which hosts children’s plays and other events. Prior to a recent performance of Mary Poppins, a mother and young girl studied one of the exhibit’s works. “It shows you what happens when you make a bad choice,” the mother told her daughter. Quite a change from the message tobacco art once sought to convey.