Last week, the world was dealt a devastating blow. An entire nation was brought to its knees with the stunning realization that racism, fascism, and the general population’s distrust of our government is a perfect storm for a Person Like Him to rise to power. I have a lot to say about that, but for now I’m going to shift focus on how I’ve seen current events affect artists and friends of mine.
Being self-employed, independent, freelance designers and artists means relying on social media and nearly constant self-promotion to remind people that you exist and are interesting and you are making cool things. Make no mistake that I find this work exhausting and would rather be locked in my studio making, making, making.
With mixed feelings last week, I had to keep marching on towards two major art shows that I’ve worked incredibly hard for and arranged my whole life around. This is work that I live for, honestly. But last week, I didn’t feel like selling my work, and I didn’t feel like selling myself.
At the same time, something snapped inside of me. I’ve spent so much of my life being polite and playing it safe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total rule breaker. I just prefer to break the rules quietly.
On election night, that polite part of me broke and I publicly let my feelings be known. Then I made protest art. I didn’t give myself time to let the work rest, or get critiques from friends. I published “PUSSY GRABS BACK” quickly as a rallying cry before I lost my nerve.
At West Coast Craft, I took Polaroids of people holding a giant PUSSY GRABS BACK print that I made. People laughed, and cheered, and stared, and rolled their eyes, and threw their fists in the air in support. This is the proudest moment of my career.
“What’s the point? Making art feels useless. I feel guilty for continuing,” are phrases I’ve heard again and again by my closest artist friends this week. We had to talk each other through it, reminding each other that our work matters and it isn’t pointless. The world still needs art. We need art that informs, art that soothes, art that renews rage so that we maintain momentum and keep fighting. To put your brushes down at this point would be a disservice to everyone.
We all need each other right now.
Self-employed folks are having a hard time justifying putting their work out right now.
Especially women of color.
It doesn’t help when industry voices publicly criticize this choice. I want to be clear about this: there’s a difference between ignoring current events and continuing to make a living. There’s also a difference between artists selling political work for pure profit, and artists selling work for profit that is donated to charities and political organizations.
It’s okay for independent designers to keep plugging along right now. And it’s okay for employed designers to keep going to work and trying to do their jobs. And it’s okay for anyone who has had a hard time getting out of bed. And it’s okay for anyone who keeps getting dressed. And it's okay for anyone who’s afraid of slowing down for a second, because if they do, they might collapse in grief. And it’s okay for everyone who can’t handle the news or social media right now. And it’s definitely alright for people who are mad as hell to organize, protest, and say whatever the fuck they want because we are in dark times, and the time for politeness is over.
Please continue to support independent artists and designers during this time. We rely on you to make a living, and we need our community more than ever right now.
Here’s a list of women and people of color making art that gives back right now:
Who else is giving back? Let me know in the comments. ❤️