It's impossible to not be political and be an artist. This is something I believe now after years of studying artists and the context of their work in history.
Take a peek at a seemingly benign painting by Claude Monet and you are bound to find a link to a political statement. His poplar series is embedded with statements on resilience and war. And the connection between WW2 and his lilies, turned in one themselves and scanning the sky, is palpable. There's a reason so many of his color effects appear like explosions after a while.
His world, his culture, was reeling from the internal and external struggles of politics, family, and war.
Or, as one of my contemporary heroes, Ai WeiWei has said, "“If my art has nothing to do with people’s pain and sorrow, what is ‘art’ for?“"
This week after the announcement by Trump that he would ban transgender soldiers from serving in the US military I felt rocked by the threat to civil liberty on an institutional scale.
It led me to do something without words, which often happens when I have a visceral response to the world. Except even I was surprised at the response to my version of resist art.
Resist Art and Collage
Think of Jackson Pollock visiting the showing of Picasso's Guernica every day when it was on display in Manhattan all those years ago. He's turn with tears in his eyes, commenting something like "That guy didn't miss anything."
Strange words in response to a painting of a bombing that didn't miss anything. Then again, Pollock was a strange bird. Then again, art is a bomb.
My version of a visual resist hashtag built on the visual approach I've been using for over 10 years-- creating a layered image line drawing that is influenced by both Picasso and Pollock with twists and turns and undulating shapes.
However, in using pop art mixed media subject matter to create the image I hope to include collective ideas and set them on their end. Here there are photos I have taken, collected material from propaganda, and antique imagery calling gender roles into question and their role in the military.
A Resistant Response
For those of you who don't know I have a Facebook page for my art and news titled EidsvigArt. Please feel free to follow along now. It seems like art can use all the friends it can get.
The response to my piece pictured above titled "Camouflage in Blue" was remarkably warm. People all over Zuckerbergland shared and liked and loved the piece.
It also prompted comments of hate speech by those opposed to transgender culture and transgender participation in the military. After responding to some of these comments I finally erased them after consulting some trusted advisers.
On one hand I thought it might be helpful for people to see how persistent and troublesome the level of ignorance and hate can be in American culture in our moment. On the other hand I didn't want to provide the forum for people to spew ignorance.
More Camouflage in Blue
The title and imagery of Camouflage in Blue came from many things. But at its core is the idea of a sadness included in hiding in plain site. While it is very possible Trump is using this threat to civil liberty and equality as a smokescreen for other political agendas, any threat to human equality deserves public outcry.
My favorite artist examples of camouflage include Andy Warhol. Not to mention Arshile Gorky who wrote letters volunteering to be a camouflage painter for the US military to avoid war service or deportation.
Camouflage in Blue is headed for entry into an exhibition. In the meantime the flowers growing through cracks in oppressive cement continue. Past and current transgender soldiers are sharing their stories and providing hope for thousands of other active duty members and millions of people dedicated to a world of equal rights for all.
Resist. Resist. Resist. Make your voice known. And you can see more of the Camouflage in Blue series here.