My work is a visual journal of my life experience here as an immigrant, a gay person of color and the ever questioning of “What is it to be an American?” Through self-reflection and struggles of assimilation I started having a keen sense of what it’s like to be the other. Empathy became second nature to other people’s struggles as I reflect upon my own. I started questioning on how to build a better world through art and create a bridge of understanding to make our lives and world better. My work comments on current socio-political situations, racism, systemic oppression of people of color, social justice and tries to engage the audience to create a dialogue which can translate to action for social change.
The series “Of Human Survival” is body of work that juxtaposes different styles of painting and issues from realism to surrealism. It also engages the problem of mass incarceration of black and brown bodies and climate change. Influenced by Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow”, I wanted to approach the mass extinction of people of color caused by the corrupt social justice system designed to propagate the private prison system. I also wanted to unite the issues of climate change, how it destructs and affects all but all bodies and where people in poor communities feel the impact first. The polarizing issue of mass incarceration, police brutality and racism became approachable by using animals and insects as a bridge to approach a difficult and sensitive subject.
Racism and police brutality is rampant in our justice system. When Lacquan McDonald was shot and killed by sixteen bullets. I created a painting to reflect upon our society as a whole and how power abuse is rampant in positions of authority. I had a collaborator lay down on the sidewalk surrounded by16 irises representing the 16 bullets which befell Lacquan. The accessibility of a difficult subject is made easy by the beauty and allure of purple flowers while discussing the corruption within the law enforcement and the judicial system.
The series “AmeriKKKa – Reflection of a Divided Nation” started during the 2015 presidential campaign when the rallying cry was “Make America Great Again”. Racial epitaphs invaded the air and statistics of hate crime began to rise. These paintings came from an unsold body of work called “Celebrating Humanity – a Tea Party.” It was a series celebrating our diversity and inclusion. They found their voice again to speak out loud about the turmoil we are experiencing now as people who danced in the margins. These spray- painted words were actual words heard, documented, and videoed during and after Trump rallies.
I want my work to create a spark to make our world a better place through community making, dialogue and dancing with each other where borders don’t exists and the margin which separates us be the line that connect us.
All images and text © Cesar Conde
By Cesar Conde