Reflecting the Time You Live In is an Artist's Duty

"You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times."

-Nina Simone

 

I'm not a political artist.  I'm just an artist.  I consider myself proficient in the ability to create using many different mediums.  I don't do politics because its messy, and opinionated and sometimes rude.  I make things that I find beautiful.  I make fantasy worlds, people, and things.  Things that reflect the beauty I see in the world.  Maybe you are the same.  In politics there are one too many arguments and it all ends up as noise, and nothing changes.  Might as well not even bother.  What do fairies, mermaids, and unicorns have to to do with modern politics anyway?  I ask myself this many times when I'm confronted with conflict of the real world.  Maybe I can just make something pretty that will distract from the cruel world, and offer an escape.  Escape would be nice.  But that is harder and harder to find in these times.

I have always wanted the escape route.  Its nothing new that when we were in school, we would get bullied, and taunted, or ignored.  I had no real trouble making friends, but for some reason, just being me was enough to anger some.  My art was how I dealt with my world.  It took me away to places that didn't have bullies.  Just villains who were easily defeated.  Just Evil that always lost to Good.  And this continued well into adulthood. 

I keep telling myself that Evil will go away, or at least be defeated this time.  I know it will always come back.  But I'm safe.  All I need to do is keep making the pretty pictures.  But it's not working anymore.  Its not enough.   I could say my art speaks for itself, but what is it saying really?  Because to me, it could say more.  I'm just suddenly not satisfied with the status quo.  And I know others like me can't be either.  So what do we do?

What's crazy is that what's relevant right now, was relevant hundreds of years ago, and even a few decades ago, and even...yesterday!   I'm talking about equality, human rights, and just plain decency.  It's hard to know where to begin with why this is still an issue.  I find it shocking that we still have to talk about this.  And yet, not shocking at all at the same time.  "So what do we do?" keeps echoing in my head.  How do you fight for whats right?  Most of us are lovers not fighters after all. 

the pen is mightier than the sword

I learned early on that the power of a picture was strong.  I wrote about my early experience with diversity before.  An idea alone can survive generations.  So it might be a good idea to take a look at the ideas that you are representing.   Of course I'm talking more about figurative work here, but it can be applied to many things. 

As an artist, a creator of your life, and speaker of your mind, you have every opportunity let others know what you think.  You also have more than enough chance to correct the misconceptions that others spout.  If you're like me, you may not like conflict.  But I'm here to tell you, conflict will come, and knock  on your door, take a seat at your table, and and demand you pay attention.  The truth is we are stronger collectively.  We are the makers of images.  The sharers of culture.  Some of us are looked up to by other artists, by our families, or by our communities.  There are some messages that never go out of style if you're hesitant to choose.  You might have heard them growing up.  Sadly many people around you have not.  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  It's pretty simple. 

 

How do you make it work for your art?  Be inclusive.  Reflect the world you live in.  Research.  You may get angry at the things you see and find.  But that's ok, because you probably should be.  Then you should channel it all onto the page, the canvas, the film, and so on.  Use your voice for change.  Or else nothing will.  One of the biggest art forms we have reflected back at us is the digital screen.  How diverse are the images you've been seeing lately?  Imagine what it feels like to not see yourself in the media.  Imagine what it feels like to see yourself negatively even. 

Gnome by the Water - by Johnny Perez

How much longer can we go with the same issues coming up every generation, every year, every day?  How much longer can we stay silent?  Pretending nothing is wrong?  Acting like everything has been ok? 

I'm tired in THIS life of trying to live normally and seeing the impossibility because of bigotry, hatred, and evil.  I'm still scared of what others think sometimes, but more often of what others will do.  I manage to not care enough to go out into the world and take care of business.  But I'm not without the awareness that I'm on guard.   "Let's just ditch the labels and be truly free of discrimination!"   If only it were that easy.

We should be in that state of mind today, but unfortunately everyone didn't get the memo.  I watched as men were killed for the color of their skin.  I was angry how much power a person with a gun has, and how quickly lives change because of fear.  One less voice that can protest. 

When I decided to become an artist, I daydreamed about the talk and the press, and the fanfare that fame would bring me.  As I grew older I realized that my art served me first, before it reached anyone.  If someone connected with it, then that was special, but I did it for me first.  I'm no longer placated by the escape. I'm no longer satisfied by the silence and standing by.  Hoping things will change leaves the responsibility to anyone else, and without you there is one less voice to protest. 

 

It is hard to not fear the future, but I wonder how much more fear there would be if nothing ever changed.  I wonder how many more people could be spared a life of fear because great people took it upon themselves to be the change.

 

It shouldn't take the death of civilians, of police, of the oppressed for things to change.  But somehow that's how it always works out.  Artists for centuries have been the view on worlds past.  They only knew the world they lived in which was rapidly changing.  What are we leaving behind for future generations to see?  What do we want them to know about us?  What should they know about our world right now that will help them?  What did we suffer through, so HOPEFULLY they don't have to?  For once it would be nice to hear of artists who were responsible for social change.  It was once our job. Now its our choice.

Share with your friends!

Subscribe to The Art of Johnny Perez Newsletter

If you like what you read, or interested in what's to come? Please sign up for my newsletter where I keep you updated on my progress, the latest blog posts, and upcoming projects!!  As well as gifts from me that are exclusive to my subscribers, all conveniently located in one place, your email! To learn more click here.


RELATED ARTICLES

Diversity is Mandatory in New Millennium
Diversity Mandatory in New Millennium
Cosmonaut Painting Drawing Demo Link Blog by Johnny Perez
Cosmonaut Demo
Fantasy Mermaids of Color by JohnnyPerezArt.com
Illustrating Voluptuous Mermaids
Inspired by Beyonce & Lemonade
Inspired by Beyonce & Lemonade
Draw & Paint Colorful Eyes and Lips
Draw & Paint Colorful Eyes and Lips
Soul Siren Erykah Badu Illustration by JohnnyPerezArt.com
Illustrating Soul Siren Erykah Badu


About the Artist

 I would call myself a Jack of all Trades, but mostly because I'm interested in many areas of art if not all!  I graduated with a BFA in Fine Art from the University of North Texas with a focus on Watercolor.   I always had dreams of creative writing, and in 5th grade I wasn't too bad!  Art clearly won out for my attention, but writing will always have a place in my heart!

What better way to write, I say,  than to share a blog, and practice my second love while talking about my first! With that said, I hope you all enjoy my ramblings and please hit me up with any questions.  :D  Contact me!


Write a comment

Comments: 0