A short article about my visual art practice and the People’s Art History of the US book from a University of Michigan online publication. Thank you to Nick Tobier – one of the more interesting artists working today – for arranging the interview/article. Being featured in this publication was a great thrill for me for I received my BFA degree from UM in 1992 and have fond memories of my time spent in Ann Arbor and the art education that I received that set the stage for much of what I do today.
Here is the link:
Here is another link to an excerpt from A People’s Art History of the United States. This excerpt is on Betsy Damon – an environmental and feminist artist best known for Living Water Gardens – a collaborative form of sculpture and community engagement that aims to restore the damage that industrialism and misplaced priorities has had on fresh water sources. Damon is an absolute force. An artist/activist who lives in Brooklyn and someone who has been at the forefront of addressing water issues through art since the 1980s. This excerpt is from the first section of the chapter.
A recent essay that I wrote for the Justseeds blog about Chip Thomas who curates the Painted Desert Project and works as a doctor and a street artist on the Navajo Reservation. Thomas is known for his large-scale photographs that he wheat pastes on empty billboards, roadside stands, and other structures throughout the Navajo Nation. In my essay I frame his work as extending beyond street artist: Thomas is a community artist who engages in a collaborative form of visual story telling – one in which celebrates the Navajo people and their culture and history. Here is a link to the essay.
Here is an excerpt from the book that I posted on the Justseeds blog that details the woman’s suffrage movement in the late 1910s and their use of banners. More over, the writing details the National Woman’s Party’s (NWP) use of civil disobedience and banners to escalate the conflict and force the federal government to act – often in repressive ways that created more press for the movement.
On December 3rd I was fortunate to be a guest on the Kathleen Dunn show on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR). Here is a link to the one-hour conversation.
Here is a recent radio interview/conversation with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalist Mary Louise Schumacher about some the themes discussed in A People’s Art History of the US.
Recently the blog – Largehearted Boy – invited me to post for their series “Book Notes” where authors create a song list that inspired or relates in some way to their book. My list included:
Bob Dylan “Masters of War”
Neil Young “Peaceful Valley”
Public Enemy “By the Time I Get to Arizona”
Dead Moon “Johnny Got a Gun”
Black Sabbath “War Pigs”
The Minutemen Double Nickels on the Dime
Ai Weiwei “Dumbass”
Johnny Cash “Apache Tears”
Joe Hill “There is Power in the Union”
Paul Robeson “Joe Hill”
Woody Guthrie “Ludlow Massacre”
Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy “California Über Alles”
Nina Simone “Mississippi Goddamn”
Rodriguez “I Wonder”
Bruce Springsteen “Youngstown”
Sam Cooke “A Change is Going to Come”
Check out their blog for my text on why I chose each song.
Eight years of research and writing has led to my first book -A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements – being released today. The book is part of the People’s History series that was initiated by Howard Zinn through The New Press – a non-profit press in New York City that has a long-standing reputation of publishing books on contemporary social issues.
My study on a people’s history looks at US art history and specifically activist art. Not social practices. Not the “political art” found in galleries and museums. Rather, it focuses on movement culture and the activist art that emerges out of social justice and economic justice movements. My aim was to research the past from the conquest of the Americas to the present, and to look at the role of activist art in various movements, be it the early labor struggles, the women’s suffrage movement, the IWW, the artist’s unions during the 1930s, the art created inside the Japanese American internment camps, the photography of the Civil Rights movement, the street art employed in anti-nuclear movements, and numerous other examples.
My approach was not to write an all-inclusive survey. Rather it was present a series of twenty-nine critical essays – essays that allowed me the space needed to examine each history in depth and to critique what worked and what fell short. My goal for the book was to make this history accessible to a general audience (while still being useful to scholars.) Another goal was to write a text that would help challenge the overall culture of amnesia and the lack of awareness about the role of radical art in the decades and centuries that preceded our time. In short, I hope that the book serves as a critical tool kit – one that informs and inspires more artists to become activist-artists and for more activist organizations to prioritize art and artists in their ranks. The movements of today will not succeed without creative resistance and talented artists in their ranks, and studying the radical past is essential for moving forward in the present.