Art, Culture, and Politics

Pamela Dorris DeJong, Diversity Quilt: Bumpy Transition

It has always been my belief that an artist tells the story of their time and culture. We are messengers of our interpretation of the truth. In it’s many forms, the arts depict events, culture, land and seascapes, people, and man made objects from still-life to edifice. Even if you just paint what you see, it is what you see at your particular moment in time. According to Wikipedia, “The arts represent an outlet of expression that is usually influenced by culture and which in turn helps to change culture. As such, the arts are a physical manifestation of the internal creative impulse.”

Over the past couple of years, the political landscape has evolved in a dramatic way. I have felt this evolution keenly, and at times have been consumed by it, glued to the constant flow of events on television. It has been difficult to express my emotion about events without fear of creating bitter changes in relationships that I care about. The rift in political beliefs and agendas is widening and regional areas of the country stick together. If friends and family fall into different regions, political differences occur and abound. This can divide families and friends and this is the part that gets in the way of my self-expression. The consequences of speaking out take courage when someone you love is going to disagree with you with all their heart and soul. I am reminded of the Civil War and families divided by Union and Confederate allegiances. Mine is not the fear of rejection from the art critic or concern over being found trite. This is fear of becoming un-loved by aggravating delicate human relationships. It has gotten to the point where I don’t talk about anything potentially inflammatory with my friends and family for fear of starting an argument.

Shepard Fairey has created three new posters that have become a voice of American protest. A woman wearing an American flag as a headdress with “We The People” inscribed at the bottom of the poster graphic; a native American man with the inscription “We The Resilient Have Been Here Before,” and an African American woman with the inscription “We The People.” Fairey’s  images concentrate on the ethnic groups feared to be excluded from our new president’s America. .

Shepard Fairey: We Are The People

I am impressed with Fairey’s indirect approach in that he doesn’t attack the man or the office, but instead focuses his concern on the vulnerable people in our culture.

My affirmation to myself: Keep painting my feelings. Find and use my voice. And this: Lilly Workneh, editor of HuffPost’s Black Voices, recently wrote “Today I must declare, I refuse to let fear stop me from speaking out against the people and policies who create it…art is, in part, how civilizations heal, provoke and change minds.”

Pamela Dorris DeJong
Art Culture Commentary

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