Written and Photos by Julia Clements
Imagine making plans to visit a hip, art exhibition space for a free pool party and a performance by an experimental rock band called Poison. Now imagine arriving to this contemporary venue and seeing your professor decked out in an eccentric costume, dominating the stage with a mic in hand.
This “teacher in a rock band” scenario is not exclusively a cliché in teenage sitcoms. In fact, this surreal incident can be a reality for students taking professor Lisi Raskin’s advanced painting course.
As a Tyler School of Art Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing and part- time rocker, Raskin, formed a band with some of her former students to bring artistic expression to the next level.
“It was such a good group,” Raskin said. “There was so much love and support and so much brilliance.I really felt like there was potential to do something beautiful and I invited the whole class to participate.”
Poison uses a myriad of instruments that range from keytars to plastic water bottles to generate music that conveys parody as well as activism.
“I think it fits into intersectional queer genre,” Raskin said. “If it were a genre of music it would be queer, feminist, intersectional and playful.”
This playful activist genre was conveyed through the juxtapositions between aspects of their performance. The humor and quirk that was communicated through their sparkly, over the top costumes and unconventional instruments provided a stark contrast with the seriousness of their messages. Poison percussionist and singer Joanna Bellettiere also identified this contrast.
“The use of toys that are near playthings for some people, we interweave it into something that’s a little more serious but playful at the same time,” she said. “We take something and put it into a different context and that’s the fun about it.”
Despite the significance of the topics they covered, Poison managed to maintain a light and humorous tone. They also have the ability to make songs familiar to the average college student, about food trucks or undergraduate paintings. Still, Poison’s mission, without question, centered on social and political commentary.
“A lot of the songs are about making a world we want to live in,” Raskin said.
Those in the audience that night seemed to get that exact impression, including Tyler School of Art alumnus Anthony Campuzan. “The music was so playful and the messages behind them were so heavy,” he said. “There was a lot of joy and excitement and warmth. That was very exciting on a Thursday night.”
You can look out for Poison and get a taste of that environment of playfulness and warmth or you can check them out to see a Temple professor in her natural habitat. Raskin’s unique personal life may cause students to question their professor’s’ lives outside the classroom.