Art and Politics… How Art Tells the Stories of the Times

Image of red and black poppies on a green background with a white overlay underneath the words, "Art & Politics."

Art and politics… But why?

There are those who never shall mix the two; one is one, and the other is the other. But to me?? Art and politics represent two human experiences entangled in the fibers of my purpose that I can’t shake. I’ve tried, I swear… Not that I am seeking to subscribe to the philosophy of “I’m not political” because as much as I despise what politicians tend to do and how they are paid for, to ” not be political” means, to me, to look away from the people who are harmed disproportionately by the hierarchical systems that value certain human bodies over others.

To not be political is not an option for me. To not pay attention to the injustices happening to the most vulnerable among us, is not an option for me. And for this artist, art and politics means telling the stories that need to be told, sharing the truth through creative expression in so many forms.

I’ve been in situations where I have not been heard. Where I’ve existed in the fringes of what was acceptable, and I know just a teeny bit about what it feels like to be unheard, unprotected by those who we expect to care for us and speak up on our behalf. I don’t have the lived experience of living in a body that is automatically less protected, automatically less valued by many, and automatically in more danger. I don’t have that experience.

As an artist with the privilege I do have, I simply can’t live a life where my art doesn’t touch into the tenderness and beauty that is humanity, that is human experience.

Artistic expression helps tell difficult human truths

Image shows a silhouette of a woman wearing a kiffeyeh, whose body is made of stars, and whose heart looks like it is broken, with the cracks filled in with gold. Red and black poppies pattern the background. The image is black and conveys how art and politics tell a story.
Image shows a Palestinian ancestor whose broken heart is filled with gold. Red and black poppies pattern the background as a symbol of hope and life. By Alesha Sevy.

To live a life where I am not aware of the massive numbers of my human siblings who are harmed by systems of dominance and oppression means that I would be out of alignment with my soul purpose, which is to leave this world a kinder, more compassionate place. And to live a life where I didn’t allow my heart to express my joys and sorrows through art, would also lead me out of alignment with what is most important to me.

So, here I am, sort of branching out into new areas of artistic expression, trying to build a new creative path for myself as I wrap my mind around art licensing and surface design, and really wanting to build those dreams. And also, here I am, watching in real-time dismay as tens of thousands of people are being “ethnic*lly cleansed” in a modern day gen*cide, and aware that I cannot stay silent about the flawed reasoning that seems to justify this brutality to so many.

Building a dream while witnessing hundreds of thousands of dreams being destroyed… conquered… It really causes a conflict in my heart.

These conflicts of the heart have made me want to look away too. They don’t seem fair or even able to co-exist. But for me? Both art and politics beckon to me to not look away from the truth. Art can tell a story in so many ways. In times like these, artists have been the ones to tell the stories that connect us to human experiences beyond ourselves.

Art begs us to see and feel raw emotions, the truth of our humanity, experienced by humans who become more human when we realize our hearts and dreams and joys are so similar.

The incredible Nina Simone said it like this:

“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times; that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians…” Check out this video to hear Nina Simone’s full take on what an artist’s duty is. It is inspiring, and rings so true to my soul.

What are the consequences of speaking up for hard truths?

image of red and black poppies

I write this not knowing how much of it will be suppressed. Not sure if the algorithms of blogs are as easy to tamp down as a post on Instagram mourning the loss of the thousands of children who have lost their lives and dreams.

I write this knowing that my heart’s concern and sorrow for the ways we are destroying each other, may snuff out certain career opportunities, may invite some to hurl insults against me declaring me racist for valuing Palestinian lives as much as I value every human life. Not just valuing their bodies either – valuing what their hearts and souls could have brought into this world, had they not been a human sacrifice for a dark cause.

The consequences of speaking out against an accepted level of brutality are yet unknown. And even more so as we inch closer and closer to an election where we may be catapulted into an authoritarian regime, watching even more human rights clipped away by those wishing to stay in their top tier echelon of race and gender privilege.

As an artist, a compassionate human, a believer in a peaceful and equitable way of living together, and someone who has felt pinned down and silenced by where I’ve fallen in certain hierarchies, I’ll find my place in art and politics; I’ll find my way to tell the stories I want to tell through the art I make and the words I weave.

But the consequences to my blog are absolutely zero compared to the reality of people losing their lives. So I’ll remain focused on building my dreams, and speaking up for the dreams of others.


Peeling back the layers of cognitive dissonance

Image shows two faces looking in opposite directions, with the back of their heads open to each other. Both brain spaces are different - one has flying birds, the other has destruction. to show cognitive dissonance.

The truth is, I can’t look away from truth and reality. I’ve been forced to remove my cozy buffer of cognitive dissonance as I have challenged myself to truly learn about my place in this world – in my relationships, my family, my friendships… As I learn, as I explore, I hold hope in one hand, and disappointment in the other.

Cognitive dissonance has been a protective method to compartmentalize experiences too conflicting and too painful for me to truly sit with, to understand and to know in my being. Truth is hard that way. And cognitive dissonance may protects us all in harsh times. But it can also pair up with privilege and shield us from believing other’s experience if it’s different from ours.

If art can tell a story of humanity, a story that speaks heart to heart, maybe in those moments, a few humans who might have never considered that reality will be enlightened to something new; something that inspires them to explore other perspectives, other experiences. Things that make us all human to each other. We need more of that. More reality like that.

I believe art has a very special way of connecting us with each other, and I believe politics simply refers to the ways different humans are treated within the same system, and whether that reality is understood. So art and politics have a very special place together. They both touch on the human experience, and I believe it’s a far more compelling way to communicate important political topics than hearing politicians fighting for what they fight for.

Whether or not you agree that art and politics go together like peanut butter and jelly, artists are going to share the nuances, the humanity and the experiences that political banter really can’t capture in the same way. They’re here to stay. And as we set sail into one of the most unbelievable presidential election cycles in U.S. history, look to the artists. They tell the stories you may not hear from the politicians.

This post was all about art and politics from the perspective of one artist from the heartist. If you were inspired in any way to express more of yourself, more of your truths, and perhaps even weave in some art that gets political, I’m sure glad. We are in the midst of change and challenge – your art matters, and so does your heart. Wishing you much peace and strength.


Other posts you may enjoy:

Activism Art: Changing Hearts and Minds Through Creative Expression

The Power of Art: Healing from Grief Through Creative Expression

The Relationship Between Art and Nature – A Visual Desert Journey