Making Art to Change the World

Ever since October 1976, when I landed on the front steps of The Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, to join the Feminist Studio Workshop, I have been committed to bringing social content into my artwork, whether it is writing, performance, or visual art. The feminist art movement in Los Angeles during the late 70s and 80s was electric and not to be denied. Using and developing styles of performance art, public art, graphic design and writing, those artists made a solid mark on the art landscape. I couldn’t imagine a better situation to explore my artistic voice: a community of mostly young and courageous artists to collaborate with and share my work with, in a wide open city where anything could happen.

I love strong content in artwork, which means art that is about more than the medium or the shapes. I love the possibility that art can influence thinking and inspire people to action. I am with art critic and writer Suzi Gablik. In her essay “Beyond the Disciplines: Art without Borders”, she states, “Instead of art-as-commodity, deprived of any useful social role, I believe that art can help us to participate in what geologian Thomas Berry deems the “great work” of our time: moving from a devastating presence on the planet to a more benign presence.”

I now find myself in a much different time and place but still with the desire to use art for good in the world. I know I am not alone in this.  I want to make art that is grounded in personal and global content. I want my artwork to tangle with issues in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable, but mostly are inspiring. I want my paintings to instigate something. Ideally, if I am successful, these paintings will be an elegant combination of power, beauty, and a message that shoots straight into the hearts of my viewers.

If you are an artist, how do you use content in your artwork? If not, what content would you use if you wanted to consider it? If you art an art lover, how does content affect you? How do you want art to affect you and the world?