On Friday evening at 9:30pm EST, I have a radio interview with Lisa Mei of Big Dawg Music Mafia for their new show, Off the Hook. In preparation for the interview, I have been thinking about how I got started on this crazy road to building a conservative art movement. I am posting below the first of a short series of articles explaining how it all started.
How I got started with political art.
In my mid-twenties, I found myself spending more time discussing politics and current events than working in my studio. I was having a hard time focusing on art and finding inspiration for painting. It occurred to me that I was trying to paint what other people wanted and the lack of inspiration was showing through in my work.
When I realized that I was not inspired to create art from my imagination or direct observation, I started to wonder what it was that I should be creating. I have felt very strongly about politics for most of my life and have spent a great deal of time learning about history and philosophy. I decided that it would make sense to find a way to convey those complex ideas through my work, but didn’t want to be an editorial cartoonist – although I would later be accused of being just that in an effort to discredit my work. In short, I realized my art needed to have meaning.
Developing a style, after several years of working full time and ignoring the urge to paint, as well as illustrating the mounds of research I had accumulated, with simple images took some time to develop. Much of my early work was admittedly clumsy and obvious. Trying to create art while simultaneously caring for an infant and keeping a house in order, then moving and establishing a routine around getting him to school, and eventually going back to work for a few years, was a daunting challenge at times. However, I would not change a thing, except my personal shortcomings in regard to patience and taking on more than I can handle.
It was difficult, at first, to go from the mindset of painting what I saw to painting what I thought. Even more difficult was the idea of painting what I felt. The decision to pursue conservative political art came from two pivotal conversations with liberals. In the first, I was asked why I didn’t just paint something pretty and indicative of the human condition. In the second, I was told I would think differently if I were better educated. I realized at the moment of the second comment that there was a desperate need for a conservative movement in the arts. Admittedly, my short temper and impulsive drive to go against the grain were deciding factors as well. Most importantly, though, was a deep passion for America and the founding principles that were getting very little popular discussion at the time and no creative expression that I was aware of.
It took a few years and several conversations with my husband to realize that people need something uplifting and beautiful to inspire action. This coupled with the previous admonishment that my work was too serious and political, inspired me to develop my Liberty iconography. My personal hunger for knowledge and perspective has led me to illustrate current events, particularly acts of government, that effect the individual. More recently, I have been in pursuit of understanding the use of propaganda. Then, of course, there are always politicians and current events to satirize.
Although my work started out entirely as social commentary, it has developed on the advice of my husband, into a dual project. I have learned to embrace his conviction that the work should stand on it’s own as good art first, and learned to develop a more subtle means of conveying the ideas that inspire the work. It is my hope that people can now enjoy my work because it is pretty first, then get into the meaning of it all only if they are interested – rather than being bludgeoned by my opinion. I don’t always succeed of course, but at least I try.
My current projects include further developing my Liberty iconography and creating an icon for progressive ideas. The latter started out with several paintings depicting the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but quickly developed into a broader statement on progressivism and it’s effects on society. You can see the new works on my web page under The American Crow series.
In 2013, I am hoping to take this battle for our culture to the streets in the form of murals. I am currently negotiating patronage for my first project. If all goes well, you’ll be hearing more about that in the weeks to come.
Frances Byrd is the National Director of Liberatchik.com. She is also a conservative political artist and blogger. Her art can be viewed at MachinePolitick.com.