The Revolution will be Illustrated

I went to Exit Art tonight to see an artists' talk with Susan Simensky Bietila, Fly and Peter Kuper who've all done work with WW3 Illustrated.  If you haven't had a chance to see the Graphic Radicals show yet, you better get your ass over there before February 5th.  It's an amazing, inspiring retrospective of 30 years worth of incredible comics and illustration from WW3.  I first picked up an old copy of WW3 when I was in high school and it was a huge influence on me artistically and politically.  Then, while taking an illustration class at Parsons, my teacher, R. Sikoryak, reintroduced me to the magazine by bringing in a bunch of copies.   It was like meeting a lost lover after years of separation.

I've had the pleasure of knowing some really phenomenal artists that have in some way been involved with the magazine -  Ben Katchor (another influential teacher), Nicole Schulman, Edwin Vazquez (Happy Birthday!) - and it is such an incredible motivation to me to see artists who take their work as activists, educators and organizers so seriously - who see these callings as interconnected.  This is particularly important for me as my experience as an illustration student in college was really not supportive of thinking critically or analytically, let alone being committed to social and economic justice.

The presentation this evening was exactly what I needed to see right now.  Susan Simensky Bietila chronicled her 40 years working with a number of social movements (such as SDS and WITCH) and community organizing while documenting her experiences in paintings, comics and illustrations.  Friends of Brad Will showed a short video and testified to the life and commitment to Brad Will, who was murdered by Mexican police in Oaxaca while videotaping the resistance in 2006.  FLY showed comics about Time's Up and Critical Mass.

What really moved me the most was Peter Kuper's presentation where he illustrated that today's generation of political artists are part of a long tradition.  This is particularly important to remember in such an atomizing time.  His insight that murals and comics are related, insomuch as they are read in a similar way, spoke to my own motivations as both an artist and lover of both forms.  "The revolution may not be televised," he reminded the audience, "but the revolution will be illustrated."

I left the presentation feeling motivated to come home and work on a political painting with an impending deadline.  But until that's finished, I thought I'd share some political art I've done over the last few years (2008-10).

Illustration for an article by Dr. Harriet Fraad on women and emotional labor.

May Day cover for The Socialist magazine.

From my Black Friday series.

Etching from my Black Friday series.

Republicats and Democrans - etching

The Legacy:  This is an illustration from an ongoing family history project I've been working on.  Here's a selection from the interview with my father:

My Father: This is my grandfatherʼs watch. The gold watch that he got for 20 years of service. I wore it once or twice. Itʼs 18 karat gold. My grandfatherʼs retirement watch. He used to grind parts.  He was a parts grinder. Parts were formed and cast and then you grind the burrs off on a wheel. They didnʼt believe in respirators back then. Mom T had to have it redone because it wasnʼt working and the band was shot from him wearing it. He was in the union. It means a lot to me you know, because hereʼs a guy who worked his whole life to support his family in a hazardous environment and he dies two years after he retires and he gets this gold watch for his years of service but he loses his life because of the job he had to do in order to support his family because there was not proper safety equipment and I gotta tell you right now I donʼt think that you know, well, the company probably turned a blind eye, in my opinion, I canʼt say that for sure, but I feel they know how dangerous that dust would have been back at that time I think, and they just turned a blind eye to it and used people as, um, vehicles in order to achieve profits for their company with no regards to their health. This watch, if thatʼs not important, I donʼt know what is.

Me: You think youʼll get a gold watch?

My Father: No. No they donʼt do that anymore. Nobody does that anymore. Nobody gets pension plans anymore unless you stay in the union. Thatʼs the reason I stay in the union. Thatʼs the only reason I stay in the union otherwise I would go out into the corporate world but I stay in the union because thereʼs a pension. Which means that the future workers that go into my union will be paying for my retirement. I think that thatʼs good, that the younger people that come into the field take care of the people that worked before them.

From a series of trading cards about the 2008 economic crisis called "Markets Collapse!"




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  1. Keep it up Tanya!! And I need to see that exhibit :) are you going again? Hollr!

  2. Beautiful!

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