In Times of Great Conflict, Art Reminds Us of Our Humanity
The year 2020 has proven to be the most eventful, trying, and difficult year yet. I never imagined that my first official newsletter would be during the middle of intense justified conflict.
Honestly, who could imagine any of the wild things that have already happened so far. And we're only halfway through! I might have ulcers by the end of the year, lol. So, let's address the elephant in the room real quick, before I get into artsy stuff.
I've been very vocal on my social media about my general feelings on the obvious matter. But with my subscribers here, I'm going to be a little more personal.
So very angry. And incredibly saddened that yet again, we're back at square one with this conversation. A conversation that keeps circling and repeating, until enough is enough. My own experience with discrimination as an Asian woman will never be like that of a Black person (I'm not playing oppression Olympics here. Racism is racism, it's just applied differently on how you look, apparently). Recently, I listened to a classmate in an illustration class I was taking this spring. She is Black. And she had things to say.
I listened, as we all should. I felt her pain, her anger, her grief, her frustrations. I felt it all in the core of my being, and I wanted so desperately to make it all better. My altruistic side (hello INFPs) was writhing on all fronts. Why, why, why is this still happening, and how many more have to die?
How can I make it better, what can I do more than just donating? Does it even make a difference?
That last question confronts me often, especially since the Covid pandemic hit. What is the point of me painting my feelings away, anyway?
And my Higher Self, (who’s been working overtime nowadays, bless her) will have to interject with “well, how else are we supposed to deal and heal, as flawed people then?”
Hmm. Let’s expand on that.
Artists often respond to the things around them, and the feelings from inside them, by creating. Sometimes, though, the overwhelm of confronting the reality of how much awfulness is out there makes us want to crawl away and despair. Not necessarily the prime mentality to be in to make art.
But we eventually keep trying anyway, right? It’s in our nature, in our soul. Why is art so important for us when things get hard, not just on a global scale, but when individual difficulties arise as well?
Simply, we just need that cathartic release of all the pent up emotions that if stirred within for too long, poisons us and eats away at us. Any kind of art making will give us this release, it doesn't have to be painting. I’ve been writing a lot myself. I find that’s the quickest way to clear up my headspace, which then allows me to be in the right mindset for painting.
And no, you don’t have to be a professional working artist to have permission to make art.
So, what about ordinary non artists who buy art for their walls? Why do they need art?
Well, let’s zoom back to think about why we buy things in general. I know I’m not the only one who impulsively buys something and then tries to rationalize the purchase afterwards. In selling psychology, it’s a thing where people buy on emotion, and then rationalize with logic that purchase decision.
So with art, like anything else, it needs an emotional resonance. If we often make art with our emotions, it makes sense why people buy the art they do, because it’s essentially a physical manifestation of an emotion. It makes them feel better.
Humans have always made art, ever since the caveman days. Our art is usually saying something. It could be trivial, it could be profound. It doesn’t have to be anything more than what it turns out to be.
Art reminds us of our humanity.
The protest art of red paint on the sculpture in front of SLPD during the first week of protests is a very good example of that reminder.
If we’re going to collectively dismantle the unjust systems that continue to oppress PoC and further destroy the lives of Black people, we also need to not forget to rely on art. For healing, for dealing with our emotions, for political activism, for awareness.
At the end of the day, staying connected to our humanity means being able to recognize when a group of humans have been stripped of their humanity.
These humans have been pushed to continue suffering so greatly for so long (400 years!), that their only option left to be heard anymore is to burn.
Validating that anguish is the very least we can do.
Below is a list of Black artists that I know of and follow.
View the hashtag #drawingwhileblack on Twitter to discover more.
Ways to help: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Cover image by Mitchell Luo.