Signs of the Times
by Ann Landi
December 26, 2017
Vasari21 members weigh in on a depressing political climate
Artists have always responded to the temper of their times. War and catastrophe, social inequities and racial injustice, corrupt politicians and noble heroes often bring out the best in artists—think of Goya’s Third of May, David’s Death of Marat, or Picasso’s Guernica. Social satirists like Daumier and Hogarth had a field day lampooning despots and tyrants. Closer to our own dismal era of greed and rabid right-wing agendas, Vasari21 member Deborah Kass made the cover of New York magazine with her Warhol-style portrait of a snarling, orange-haired Donald Trump.
So when I asked about 15 artists on the site how the tumultuous year in politics affected their practice, I wasn’t surprised that almost everyone had something to say. “Artists are the antennae of the race,” said Ezra Pound (a great poet whose own beliefs were sadly and offensively on the wrong side of history). And here’s where those antennae are pointing.
Working as a woman of color in a complex and sometimes prejudiced art world makes it impossible to avoid the inevitable. For many years I painted fantastic realist landscapes as a way to discuss Native beliefs. These works were inherently political but often relegated to a feminist context. I began my new series “Make ‘Em All Mexican” and “The Brown Dot Project” during the Obama years to begin a conversation about the politics of color and class. Now, because of the present climate, these works have found new interest, venues, and sales. It’s impossible to be a brown artist and not be a socio-political radical because you always looking from the bottom-up, inventing new ways to succeed. I find it interesting and amusing that the art world is coming around, now that we’re all feeling a little like the underdog these days!