Monthly Archives: May 2019

Leaning In With My Work

Epic 102 (Rickety Isms Failing Us All will be published in the Raven Chronicles Press Anthology, Take A Stand: Art Against Hate. The book will be published in the fall, 2019.

The acceptance contract for publishing the above piece and another drawing came right on the tail of an emotionally challenging week. I feel so grateful that my drawings can contribute to the conversation against hate and divisiveness.

And in the college, there I also lean in, trying to sow unity and peace. Sometimes more successfully than others. This week, it felt like it was a slog, though.

First, a one-on-one sesh with an artist who doesn’t feel safe in a fairly white classroom (this term I only have three African American artists in printmaking). There’s little I can say to this student to assuage her anxiety. Even when classmates don’t mean to microaggress, the many assumptions that come with white privilege almost guarantee that someone with raw feelings will feel hurt.

Following the discussion, I approached the artist whose work most affected the anxious printmaker and broached the subject of representation and choices. Oh, the white tears flowed! I don’t mean this cynically. She felt misunderstood, defensive, and hurt as well.

Navigating identity politics is dicey, any which way you cut it.

In my studio and in my teaching, I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and lean into the hard work. It may get messy, but at least I try to do what I can to encourage empathy, understanding, and open minds with my work on both sides of this creative practice.

Earlier in the day, a rather intense discussion occupied the hallways in the FA building, as an intermediate painting student explained to me the failings of Seattle Office of ARTS & Culture’s Equity and Social Justice Initiatives. Responding to an assignment to search through the Artist Trust and Arts & Culture sites to find useful links, he was deeply disappointed by the vestiges of colonialism and threats of globalism making even the most helpful links unappetizing. I was disappointed that he couldn’t see the good effort both these organizations are making to level the playing field so that all artists can thrive in our cultural ecology. That said, his criticisms were not unfounded. He was loudly skeptical of an initiative that couldn’t even hire a person of color to coordinate the Social Justice workings. He was absolutely right. I agreed with him.

An ardent idealist, I could tell, he was annoyed by my long view and willingness to chip away bit by bit at the glass ceilings keeping us from reaching greater successes. He’s more interested in lobbing Molotov cocktails to burn down the entire system and bring about radical change once and for all. Figuratively speaking, I’m sure.

Happily, one day after our discussion, the ARTS newsletter announced that Rick Reyes, seen below, is the new Racial Equity Coordinator. I feel like a happy cat in the sunshine, warming up after cold water was thrown on her.

Rick Reyes, new Racial Equity Coordinator at Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Rick Reyes doesn’t need a Molotov cocktail to bring down the institutionalized racism that has denied countless artists of color, LGBTQIA artists, differently abled artists, and Indigenous First Peoples entry to the ranks of success in the arts economy and culture class. Neither do I.

It’ enough to lean in and do the hard work, every day. Change does happen, even when all the isms have failed us all.