Art and Politics—Introduction


For our last quarterly edition, we covered art in the Age of COVID-19. So much has happened since then. Shootings by police, economic decline, peaceful protests being broken up with tear gas and “non-lethal” projectiles, riots and looting, the rise of right-wing and left-wing extremist groups, and the ratcheting up of political turmoil, disinformation, and raw tribalism during an election year are really just the broad strokes that color the state of American culture right now.

Little did we know that in covering art and culture during COVID-19 that we were on the threshold of a new era of upheaval in politics and discourse that would be defined by a such a pronounced degree of upheaval. We learned a lot about what people can do as individual artists and collectives to strengthen their communities and speak out against injustice. We also learned about the different ways people think, feel, and respond to crisis when they have the time and space to think and act.

This time it is different. COVID-19 is still here along with all the other problems we face as a country and as a global community of creatives. Any message of unity is lost in the noise of the profit-driven media space, and quite frankly, it is understandable that many Americans do not have the patience for optimism right now. For this issue we have revisited some of our earlier interviews from the quarantine while also lending our pages to critical thinkers grappling with politics and art. Thomas F. X. Noble takes a deep dive into the nature of iconoclasm to provide some context for the recent destruction of controversial statues, while Kelli Wood opens up on a more personal level to analyze protest art in her home base of Nashville. Stephen Eisenman and Sue Coe do the important work of looking at parallels in history so that we can better understand our current moment—as does Paul Moreno in his brief history of the work of Gran Fury, the ACT UP-affiliated artist collective that fought against political indifference to the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s. These are just a few examples of the work our contributing writers and editorial team have assembled to explore the theme of art and politics.

We are very grateful and proud to share these insights and experiences with our readers and hope you find them as valuable and powerful as we do. In these trying times, it becomes more difficult but even more important that artists continue to produce their work and use their platforms to address these issues, which in many cases are complex, but which in many other instances are really quite simple, particularly when it comes to civil rights and equal protection under the law. We look forward to seeing how this new era in American art and culture unfolds and will be here covering it.


Thank you and stay safe everyone.

The Editors



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