Food, drink, shelter, sleep and oxygen. According to Abraham Maslow these are the five basic needs human beings require to survive. However, I am inclined to add a sixth to the original five.
Art, whether in its physical form (paintings, sculpture, etc.) or its ephemeral form (music, singing, storytelling) is something that has been with the human race from the very beginning. Cave paintings, flutes carved from bone and cautionary tales around the communal fire, some human beings have an insatiable desire to express themselves. But there are also those who reap what the creative ones sow. The consumer. Those who can’t, don’t, or won’t take part in the creative process still crave a decorated cave and are willing to trade valuable items for some of that beauty. It makes one wonder if prostitution truly is the oldest profession. If it is, the job of Artist must run a very close second. Perhaps we should even allow for a little overlap between the two careers, but that’s a conversation to be had elsewhere.
It is an honorable profession, the act of creating, but it can also be subversive. As a matter of fact, almost all the best art is. Art can help usher in much needed change by bringing big ideas to the masses, highlight inequalities and shine its revelatory beam into the dark corners of politics. Politicians have little use for true art, just ask good old government censorship. Luckily we have not reached that point yet in the fall of the American empire and art is allowed to thrive regardless of the current commander in chief, though who knows for how long. These are troubling times we live in and I need not list off all the terrible we’ve endured since the election of the Orange Antichrist. Instead, I’d like to offer up something good. Something positive.
Artists are usually sensitive people who react to the world in such a way that allows others to share in their feelings and emotions, their hopes and fears. Artists want to make the world a better place. No easy task in Trump’s America, but there are still those willing to try. Some of these hopeful creators, in response to the election of Humpty Trumpty, gathered together as NASTY WOMEN for an exhibition of art at the Knockdown Center in Queens back in 2017. It was a resounding success. The art was sold out and over $42,000 was raised for Planned Parenthood. Since then there have been over 30 sister-shows worldwide, raising upwards of $181,000 for women’s rights & social services. A worthy endeavor to be sure, and one that continues most recently in the WAR Paint! exhibition (Oct. 1st to Nov. 6th) put on by Nasty Women Memphis.
With 107 pieces of art by over 63 artists, WAR Paint! was originally set to open at Crosstown Arts in Memphis (the premier art gallery space in Memphis & the location of the first Nasty Women Memphis show) but was changed to a virtual event when the Covid-19 pandemic made social distancing a necessity. While it is their first online exhibition, it is their third overall. Their first exhibition in 2017 was the biggest one the gallery space had seen in more than twenty years with more than 350 people attending and 30% of the works sold on opening night. Co-curators of the show, Chelle Ellis & Danielle Sumler have said that, aside from raising money for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee & North Mississippi (over 50% of all sales!), they hope to influence voters in their area to remove Donald Trump from office come Election Day.
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