The art of protest
Drawing Resistance, a traveling political art show, touches down in Chico
A black-and-white photograph depicts a young soldier, suited for battle, walking away from the camera into the unknown. His flak jacket is adorned with curious mementos—patches marked with the logos of oil companies such as Amoco, Texaco, Chevron, Exxon and Total. Across his back is scrawled a chilling message: “hired gun.”
Welcome to Drawing Resistance, a traveling political art show. If you’re looking for an outlet for your outrage over the present war in Iraq or a host of other contemporary social-justice issues, the exhibit, on display at Moxie’s Café and Gallery, won’t disappoint.
The show features the work of 31 artists from the United States, Mexico and Canada, all of whom have something to say, whether it be support for the anti-globalization movement and the Zapatista struggle in Mexico, or a cry against the injustice of homelessness and environmental degradation.
“We are living in very trying times,” says Moxie’s owner Jan Bielfelt, who brought the show to Chico. “It is important for people to wake up and think about what is going on.”
These artists are more than happy to tell you, and they do so with frank language and powerful images conveyed through drawings, etchings, photography and woodcuts. “The U.S. has more citizens in jail per capita than any other nation in the world,” reads one such poster, bathed in dark red and featuring a police officer in riot gear. “More police and more people in jail will not solve our problems.”
Drawing Resistance was launched in Milwaukee, Wis., just days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Without a budget, its organizers, Sue Simensky Bietila and Nicolas Lampert, relied on the good will and activism of local communities across North America to keep the exhibit moving. Since September 2001, the exhibit has crisscrossed the United States and touched down in British Columbia solely through the support of organizations and individuals who have found venues for the art in cafés, community centers, and university halls and who have moved the exhibit to its next destination. Now in its third year, Drawing Resistance is slated to run until 2006.
The inspiration for the show grew out of the massive anti-globalization protests in places like Seattle and Quebec City from 1999-2001. Among the works on display is an original street poster, “Carnival Contre le Capitalisme,” created by Toronto artist Rocky Tobey for the April 2001 protest of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.
The show also highlights several widely known political comic book artists, such as Winston Smith and John Yates, both of San Francisco, who have designed album covers for the punk band the Dead Kennedys. The works of New York City artists Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper, who collaborate on the radical comic book World War Three Illustrated are also on display. Tobocman’s “You don’t have to fuck people over to survive,” an image of one being devouring another, is particularly disturbing.
Not all of the art is new. Some of the works go back 10 years or more. Among them, one poster stood out. Artist Doug Minkler painted “Stop U.S. Aid to Israel,” showing Israeli soldiers going after a Palestinian youth. Dated 1988, the poster could just as easily be used today.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. Domitila Domínguez of Guadalajara, Mexico, uses warm pastels and gentle shapes to illustrate a storybook written by Subcomandante Marcos himself. Her notes, translated from Spanish on the exhibit’s Web site www.drawingresistance.org, surely capture a common belief: "All people have the capacity not to let themselves be dominated by sadness," Dominguez writes. "We have to paint, dance or do something creative to remedy ourselves."