Pandemic Phase II: Welcoming 2021 | New Year | Same Pain
Recently, I had a very gratifying conversation with a few fellow artists and creative professionals. The conversation was centered on how visual arts are being created in the shadow of a global pandemic alongside the social ills of police brutality against black and brown bodies. The conversation quickly turned to issues around poverty, class, and the socio-economic status of black and brown people in 2020. We discussed how many people of color suffer from conditions that are colossal and have difficulty reversing their circumstances. What does this have to do with art, artists, and art-making? Short answer, everything. Visual arts is reflective of the soul of humanity and demonstrates countless ways people/artists express themselves openly and freely throughout human history. From the pre-historic cave art discovered in France to the photography of James Van Der Zee during the Harlem Renaissance and the contemporary works of Vanessa German addressing transformation, violence, and healing, visual arts have always been responsive to man's environment, social, cultural, and political movements that shape history and have provided an outlet for self-discovery and expression. Without the cave art in Lascaux, history would have overlooked man's relationship with bison over 30,000 years ago. Without the design of the pyramid complex in Giza, architecture students would miss the fundamentals of construction and the mysteries of ancient tombs. If the bronze sculptures created during the classical age never existed the Greeks would not have left any visual record
of the accomplishments and heroic feats of their great athletes and warriors. Art is responsive. During painful and difficult times, art can help soothe the hurt. If you google 'George Floyd murals' you'll get 649,000 results in 0.48 seconds. That's over half of a million images, portraits of a black man murdered under the knee of a police officer. Each mural created out of a tragic situation. The death of a black man who was not wealthy or did not live in an affluent neighborhood, perhaps, because of his class or socio-economic status he was considered less than. The beauty of art and art-making spans wealth, gender, race, or class. It is a universal language that lends itself to human expression in times of joy, celebration, pain, uncertainty, or helplessness. Certainly, as we usher in a new year artists will continue to produce works that are reflective of the global pandemic as well as social, cultural, and political issues that grip our country. May we be thankful for art, artists, and art-making that helps us heal.