“Art is the bridge when walls of fear keep us insulated and reactive. A society loses meaning, purpose and direction without it” – performance artist Karen Finlay
It is a very complicated time. The predominant emotions I encounter around me are grief, anger, hopelessness and bewilderment. I often experience uncertainty in regards to supporting people in response to the politics we are facing. There isn’t a rulebook, it is one of those moments that challenges us because we are in new territory here in America. It is a waking up process as many people understand more clearly the tensions and biases that exist with race, gender, class and sexual orientation. There is resistance to the current administration, people are speaking up, taking action and exercising their freedom of speech. It is exciting and terrifying depending on the day and to whom you speak.
As for me, I get overstimulated and bogged down by it all. I feel torn in many directions and still am trying to figure out exactly how to act according to my beliefs, and be a part of the solution. I am especially concerned about the stress on the environment, and the ways we are divided and in conflict with one another. Yet, I have hope that there is possibility for change. This is because I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, but also because I am an artist. These days, one thing that gets me fired up is knowing that there will be (and already are) new and exciting art movements emerging. Art reflects culture, art influences culture and in my opinion art often helps to define the next stage of growth for society.
Before the age of film and television, books, plays and visual art would provide platforms for artists to share their views and challenge authority, societal norms and speak out against atrocities. Let’s take Picasso’s Guernica for example (shown above). Picasso pioneered the Cubist movement which was radically innovative at the turn of the century. Guernica was one of Picasso’s most significant political statements painted as a reaction to the Nazi’s bombing practice on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. His painting depicts the horror of war, the human and animal casualty as well as strikingly illustrates the emotions of terror. This painting helped to bring more awareness to the global community in regards to the devastation that war was causing, and continues to be a very important art statement today.
In my generation the movement of punk rock was remarkably anti-establishment. Punk exploded onto the scene back in the 1970’s in response to mainstream culture. Punk rock gave many the license to be different and rebel against injustice and imposed norms. The Russian female punk group Pussy Riot brought their music and politics to another level of activism in 2012. They were outspoken and bold in their music response to President Putin and the threats to freedom in their country. When threatened due to their political lyrics, Pussy Riot’s protests and time in jail gained worldwide attention by not only bringing awareness the level of injustice in Russia, but also reinforcing the voice of the artist as activist.
On a personal level, art has influenced me in more ways that I could describe. One memory that stands out began in a women’s art history class where I was introduced to an artist/painter (whom I am unable to find and identify) who gained access to slaughterhouses. She took pictures which became vivid paintings depicting the reality of treatment and abuse to animals. These paintings haunted me and soon after I became a vegetarian. This is the power of art.
Today I am inspired by so many folks who are making bold statements and putting themselves out there through their creative expression including Lin Manual Miranda, the creator of the musical Hamilton, documentary film makers such as Orlando von Einsiedel who made the film, White Helmets, about first responders that rescue people from bombings in Syria, New York Times journalists and photographers, comedians who make us laugh about it all, and my students who are dedicated to using art and dance to heal and affect social change. I would love to hear what art is inspiring you these days. Email me or find me on Facebook and share. Let’s keep connected and find way to express emotion, experience and story during these times of change.
Self Published, March 1, 2017