Pay Attention to Your Relationship with Art
America 1787. A mere eleven years after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of thirteen states as a separate, independent entity from Britain, the Constitutional Convention was underway. In the same series of meetings that would put into place a national governing law, driven by the previously instated and fundamental idea of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” the Three Fifths Compromise would be passed in the same exact breath. Many of us, including myself, are now hearing the echoes of this event. The death of George Floyd is a tragic whitecap amidst an ocean occupied by a systemic racial caste system that has existed covertly on the privileged side of American culture for over 400 years, taking different shapes and modifying itself to fit as a seamless piece in the ever evolving puzzle of American civil rights. It is, and certainly always has been, a conspiracy. However, it is no theory. The evidence is there, and it is our responsibility as individuals to seek it out for ourselves. It’s damn near impossible to completely wrap my head around these ideas and even harder to attempt to hold the grief, shame, outrage, and soul-sickness that has been birthed alongside the oppression of those who have been systematically targeted for centuries.
I’m not even sure what to write. I’m not sure how to help. I’m not sure what to do. So for the last week I’ve found myself sitting at home, listening, watching, feeling, learning, and gestating about what actions I can take as an individual (voting and donating if you can seems to be a good start). This is a confusing and vulnerable time for so many, a critically important movement is underway and after centuries of false-starts and broken promises, the intensity, urgency, and drive required to push forward is essential to prevent a wavering in steadfastness of the importance of fighting for equity for the underprivileged. If one is to “bootstrap” themselves out of a situation the same way as their fellow American, both pairs of boots must have laces, or else the back of one’s heel will wear down to the bone.
During the civil rights movement of the mid 50’s and 60’s we saw the birth of the Black Arts movement – one of the most impassioned, explosive and driven artistic movements in modern history. Without such a movement, we would not have Maya Angelou’s wisdom to reference, nor would we have been able to see the value, beauty and voice behind Basquiat’s paintings. So I implore everyone to do what they feel moved to do as artists in reaction to current events. Art is power, it is a voice separate from our spoken one and if the English language is any indication of the power of words, imagine what we’re capable of as creatives and how we can support one another, especially those who have been marginalized and placed in the shadow of systemic racism. If you consider yourself an artist, you have already entered into a relationship with with art. Now it is time to negotiate with that relationship.
Featured Image: Detail from Jean-Michel Basquait’s Untitled, 1982