Distributed August 2, 2002
News Service Contact: Mary Jo Curtis
Through October 27
Bell Gallery exhibition of political artist Sue Coe to open September 7
The David Winton Bell Gallery will host a new exhibition, Commitment to the Struggle: The Art of Sue Coe, Sept. 7 to Oct. 27, 2002, in the List Art Center. The show represents two decades of work by the political artist, who will discuss her work during an opening reception set for Friday, Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The David Winton Bell Gallery will present two decades of work by noted political artist Sue Coe in a new exhibition, Commitment to the Struggle: The Art of Sue Coe, Sept. 7 through Oct. 27, 2002, in the List Art Center. The artist will discuss her work during a public opening reception on Friday, Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Born in Britain, Coe moved to the United States in 1972 and began work as an
illustrator for the op-ed page of The New York Times. Her drawings have
since been published in The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Mother
Jones, National Lampoon and Artforum, among others. Commitment to
the Struggle will include drawings and prints depicting such varied topics
as the Ku Klux Klan, apartheid, Malcolm X and skinheads; AIDS; labor and
sweatshop conditions; war and the economic interests of the petrochemical
industry; and vivisection, animal rights and the American meat industry.
Editors: Digital images are available through the News Service at (401) 863-2476.
“Coe has an unerring instinct for anticipating significant issues,” says Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the Bell Gallery. “Her book, How to Commit Suicide in South Africa, (1983) – about the death of Stephen Biko and other student organizers in South African prisons – became an anti-apartheid organizing tool used on college campuses to persuade investors to divest themselves of South African stock. Similarly, her 1986 book, X (The Life and Times of Malcolm X), prefigured the resurgence of popular interest in the black leader.”
Politics were an integral part of everyday life for Coe as she was growing up in the United Kingdom. “I became an illustrator in the first instance to earn a living ... then I saw the possibility of injecting content into the medium,” she says.
Since 1986 Coe has increasingly devoted her energies to the protection of animals in industry, from factory farming to medical research and genetic engineering. Her dedication to animal rights began early; she grew up in a house adjacent to a slaughterhouse, with all its associated sights and smells. From 1986 to 1992 she visited slaughterhouses in the United States, Canada and England, gaining access to stockyard operations through associates who worked in the meat industry. Although the owners didn’t allow cameras or videos, they apparently considered Coe’s sketchbook harmless. Her research resulted in a series she calls Porkopolis – the slang term for Cincinnati, the first centralized meat processing center in the United States. Published in 1996 under the title Dead Meat, the series provides a dark, detailed look at the American meat industry.
“Many of the images are gruesome and difficult to look at, depicting as
they do practices employed in factory farms and slaughterhouses, practices that
in many cases are unthinkable and well hidden in modern society,” notes
Conklin. “Other images – such as Modern Man Followed by the
Ghosts of his Meat and Scientists Find a Cure for Empathy – use
satire, sarcasm or humor to inform.”
Coe links the victimization of animals in Porkopolis to situations of social and political oppression. The meat industry exploits its workers and pollutes the environment, according to the artist; she contends its abuse of animals is a variation on the theme of the exploitation of the weak by the strong.
“Human rights and animal rights or liberation are interconnected,” she says. “When we in the West changed from being serfs to industrial workers, we lost any connection with the land and nature. ... We live lives that are increasingly alienated from any reality, which makes it easier for the meat industry – or any other industry that puts profit before life – to pull the wool over our eyes. The reality is, if we continue to poison, pollute and multiply, we will cease to exist as a species. ... My aim is to use my work to end factory farming in this country in the next decade.”
The Coe exhibition was organized by the David Winton Bell Gallery with assistance from Galerie St. Etienne, New York. The Bell Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (401) 863-2932.