Political Art

May 24, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Art, Society

At a Fourth of July parade in 2004, an old, close friend, Lee Goodman, was running for U.S. Congress.  Running for office demanded walking several parades that day.  I had joined Lee to hand out stickers to the kids along the parade routes.

Barack Obama, then the Democratic nominee in Illinois for the U.S. Senate, had a similar mandate.  Obama was standing in the Highland Park Metro Train parking lot with the other assembling local groups and candidates, sometimes shuffling around by himself, looking at the ground.  I stood nearby, watching how he related to the occasional voter that approached him.  He was not in pitch mode.  He seemed pensive.  He grew animated when he and a little girl engaged in conversation, Obama crouching down to talk to her eye to eye.

When writing, I seek convergences that suggest relationships that aren’t obvious but that reveal the nature of relationship itself.  I seek to allow the process of creativity to reveal the nature of creativity in the words that are created.  Evolution and transformation are my idea doors.

When creating comic panels and strips, I search for incongruent overlaps with an idea bridge so that hypocrisies can be ridiculed.  I use an image incongruity to reveal a societal hypocrisy.  Creating comics, I linger with feelings such as disappointment, frustration and dismay–ways that I can experience how society let us down–and let the feelings find a metaphor for the ways I feel abandoned.

When writing, I play with how I experience truth.  When cartooning, I experience disappointment as I explore the ways that society makes compromises and creates disillusion.

The life of an activist is not characterized by compromise. The activist can have a comfortable relationship with truth.  Sensitive to hypocrisy, activists usually experience a deep confidence that they are right.  There is little need to negotiate between right and wrong.  Obama was once an activist.

As a politician, Obama crosses a line that I cross when I seek to draw, rather than write, about how I experience the world.  As an activist, Obama need not compromise.  As a politician, he lives, eats and breathes in incongruity.  Obama can support the state of Israel starving 1.5 million Gaza residents because the support of Israel seems necessary to long-term goals.

Creative process is characterized by swings between noting what feels real and noting where real has been abandoned or let down.  The political process walks this same path, though the medium is the relationship that the politician makes and the words that the politician creates to make and keep those ties.  I experience disappointment when I remember my walk a few feet behind Barack Obama down the 4th of July parade route through a community of mostly upper-middle-class and wealthy Jews that passionately supported the policies of the government of Israel.

If politics is an art, it is a dark art.  If that little girl had been Palestinian, would Barack have been able to look her in the eye?


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