Hutch High School junior’s work in KU protest art show

Posted 2 years ago

By Fred Gough

Cassie Zook is her own person.

So, when a teacher made a joke about her choice of lipstick color, the young woman turned her feelings into art.

Protest art.

Zook’s piece, “Hooker Red Lips,” is on display at the Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus through July 22 in an art show titled “Prepared: Strategies for Activists.”

Earlier this school year, Zook wore bright red lipstick to school. One teacher made a joking comment on two occasions that she had “hooker red lips” in front of her peers. The junior was offended. She then decided to wear red lipstick every day to class.

In March, Zook was invited to attend a seminar on art activism at the Spencer Museum of Art. Among other artists, she met Chen Shaoxiong, the William T. Kemper Foundation International Artist in Residence.

The curator of the museum approached Zook about having a piece in the show that began April 11. She had just 10 days to get the 30- by 40-inch artwork done prior to leaving for an overseas trip on spring break. She is the only high school student with art in the show.

That piece, “Hooker Red Lips,” is part of the “Prepared: Strategies for Activists” show that opened April 11.

When she first saw how the artwork was displayed, she initially was taken aback. It was hung by itself about 20 feet in the air – above the smaller poster-sized artwork of other artists. She then came to realize her artwork stands out in the exhibit and she has her own individual plaque.

Zook is in the International Baccalaureate art program that HHS instructor Deb Ringler teaches. The instructor is excited about how the young artist has developed.

“This (“Hooker Red Lips”) will be part of her IB show along with other artwork,” Ringler said. “IB is about making that personal connection with art. The growth between her first piece and this one is just awesome.”

Zook’s experience with an off-handed comment last fall was not her first. At a previous school district, she heard some comments that presumably were meant to be fun but ended up being hurtful. The difference now is that she has been able to do something about it.

It is exciting for me to have this opportunity,” the young artist said. “To be able to do something and stand up is really cool. It’s empowering.”