(Originally posted Apr. 7, 2021 to my Artful Buddhist blog on Substack)
The title of my latest drawing it is “F2020,” as in, “F*** 2020.”
I aimed for a piece that felt like a symbolic representation of 2020, a year with unconscionable levels of death, disinformation, misinformation, science-denial, outlandish conspiracy theories, and other mind-boggling absurdities, many emanating from the former administration in D.C.
In a word, it was all about the spin.
My drawing has plenty of spinning in it. (Check on the WIP pics)
[“F2020” @jeffbrackettart — 19x27 unframed; ink on smooth Bristol]
Apart from the overt political message, it seeks to convey a sense of the chaos that was 2020. As such, it is an illustration of tension-filled responses to a year dominated by a global pandemic.
The symbolism is plain: Red for Republicans and Blue for Democrats.
And the thorn-like protuberances show their more entrenched, or rigid, views.
Each color includes segments that appear uniform, projecting an internal agreement, even if never fully realized. Plus, the Red and Blue lines interweave at times, but they don’t blend and form a shade of purple.
The purple is separate, and drawn differently. The color stands for the so-called moderates and/or independents, which functions in the composition of the drawing as a mediator of sorts. It weaves about, yet never “tangles” or “clashes” with another color. In that sense the depiction of the “purple moderates” stands in stark contrast to the red and blue, which seem at times to be in a constant struggle with each other.
[close-up, lower-right portion, @jeffbrackettart]
I aimed to create a piece that was frenetic, intense, troubling, unsettling, filled with tension and chaos, all the while also feeling “under control.” As such, it was intended to allure and repel simultaneously.
Yet the art also points to the promise of hope amidst the backdrop of the chaos: the glimmers of hope are represented via the clearly delineated lines, or stripes, and the appearance of unity they appear capable of producing. Note, I say capable of, rather than suggesting that this is what they actually do (in the drawing).
Plus, symbolically at least, the Red and Blue appear on the American flag, which symbolizes (in part) hope, courage, strength, unity, and more.
[close-up, upper-left; @jeffbrackettart]
I don’t want to go overboard with a forced interpretation of the symbols, though, since many of the color choices had more to do with creating balance in the composition, not politics.
Art is also a mode of inquiry. My work, then, asks questions.
In this instance, I’m asking whether this represents a viable interpretation of our country at this point in time. The asking itself implies other questions, like:
· Does it need to be this way?
· What might we aim to change?
· What are better ways for disparate voices and groups to work together?
· What are the personal and systemic causes of the discord and how might we address them?
· What is my role in all of this?
· How might I change?
Asking questions via art-making is not the same as offering solutions or the sole interpretation.
Viewers may see something completely different. I’d love to hear other interpretations.
Here are the title-suggestions I received when I asked online:
· The Tangled Webs We Weave
· Bearded Iris
· Zebra Fish
· Lion Fish
I could see using any of these names.
Yet I also wonder how others would represent visually the themes I have in “F2020.”
How might you, for example, draw or paint them?
Or, what would you say if you wrote about the same themes in a creative piece?
How would it look if performed on stage?
How might you shape it into sculpture or some other 3D media?
As is patently obvious, “F2020” is overtly political.
Art always is.
So is religion.
If you are new to this blog, it’s a place where I describe how and why I am making my artwork, and how that intersects with my work as a religious studies professor who happens to have Asperger Syndrome.
Hence, I’m posting snippets of what will go into my larger book project, Zen and the Artful Buddhist: Asperger’s, Art, and Academia.