I chose this image by the Canadian-Ukrainian artist Oleg Dergachov because it speaks to a constructive attitude that defines my own art practice. I’m a realist painter because I want my art to say something.
Modernism took force in North America under a growing anti-communist and anti-Russia sentiment. The American government sponsored and promoted the movement in opposition to socialist-realism. Clement Greenberg’s seminal text, the Avant-Gard and Kitsch, makes the cold war politics that co-opted the movement explicit.
A side effect, American social realism (like Ashcan school) fell out of favour. If we look back at post-war American art, its focus is aesthetic. There is very little art that comments on America’s involvement in War, issues of civil rights or labour issues.
It’s only recently with a return to realism have artists like Kehinde Wiley or Kent Monkman have brought social politics back to art.
I worry that current rhetoric around war is focused around retaliation and not resolution. We have spent the better half of a century with a retaliation mindset and we are still fighting the same war.
I stand with all those people who have directly suffered from these ongoing wars and I am asking my government and my society to try a new approach. I don’t want tough leaders, I want strong leaders who have the courage to believe and work towards peace.