Political Art

FUCK 800“Fuck Your Morals” (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) July 2017. SOLD

FUCK #2 800

“Fuck Your Morals #2″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) July 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

I often feel like I should be doing more overtly political art like my Standing Rock Water Protectors series, that painting faces – women’s faces – isn’t enough. Yet, this concern reflects how a lot of people feel right now, historically. What can I do? What can any of us do to set things on a better course? Maybe it hasn’t been necessary to describe the better course for a long time. Better than what? Better than 1% self-interest. How about the greatest good to the greatest number of people? A utilitarian premise that doesn’t take us too far, but I think that’s what people have in mind as opposed to being fine with the wealthy doing whatever they want to make money at the expense of everyone else.

When I start to question my motivation for not making more overtly political art, I accept that fear is involved. Would people buy political art? Do I paint protestors or faces? I go back to the amount of very direct political content I have created. Must I always sing political songs? Paint political art? Write political novels?

“Fuck Your Morals” was a two painting series. I admit: when the second one didn’t sell, I stopped. If it had sold, I would have continued. I make a distinction between making multiple paintings of political subjects and replicating primarily aesthetic work. It’s very different. If I had a strong sense of political work selling, I’d paint more of it. Painting faces is a way for me to support myself and protect myself from retail-related damage (wrists, back, etc.) so that I can continue to make more overtly political work in the future. There! I’ve justified it! Yet, if painting women from photos whose primary intention was to exploit women in the name of capitalism, if painting those faces with a completely different intention, to populate the world with women’s emotions that they themselves (allegedly) felt – anger included – this is political. It’s also utterly idiosyncratic and it requires some thought. It’s also the work of a cultural activist who has been creating work across a handful of disciplines without ever making it big, but yet, keeps going rather than giving up or selling out.

I sometimes feel that the prettier faces sell fastest, that there’s a demand for youth and beauty, that I don’t want to play into. I’m not searching for something that will sell well and then continue to paint a bunch of those. That isn’t what I’m doing. Even though I get immediate feedback in terms of ‘likes’ and sales on FaceBook, I return to paint whatever I want. Most recently, I’ve been placing more importance on areas other than the face like the hair, neck and shoulders – where I’m doing more abstract work. It’s a way of broadening the work beyond the face.

I think more money-driven artists might go towards what sells, but that’s too much like capitalism – as is raising the price for no particular reason other than it’s the conventional thing to do when something becomes popular. All the years of making music that isn’t about fame and fortune fortifies this approach. I know first hand what else can be accomplished by making something that isn’t essentially profit-driven. Friendship, community, measurable social change. Don’t get me wrong – I want to have money to reduce worry and increase security, but it isn’t what propels this project. Yet again, if the paintings weren’t selling, I’d have to get a job in retail. Grappling with the balance between creativity and commerce is nothing new to me. It’s part of what I’d include in an artist statement, but I think that’s something that will come later.

 

 

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