Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sue Coe ~ Visited Portland in 2007

PORT - Portland art + news + reviews used this image to announce Sue Coe's lecture at PNCA back in 2007. PNCA had mounted an exhibit of her work at its Feldman Gallery and Project Space. This and a number of other pieces in that show dealt with ships of animals that are transported from Australia to the Middle East. They're packed tightly into old freighters without food or water with voyages lasting weeks. Ultimately the ones who survive are slaughtered. Then there are the ones who die when the ship they're on catches fire. The crew abandons the ship, it sinks and the thousands of sheep drown. Another image from that exhibit shows ships passing in the night.

What motivates Sue Coe to create art that is a graphic witness to the treatment of animals, apartheid (she tackled the "suicide" of imprisoned blacks in South Africa), and treatment of prisoners (a series on women in Texas prisons)? It probably comes from her childhood living near bombed out buildings from WW II in England. From a young age she worked in factories and saw her future as limited by both poverty, class and being a woman. She also lived a block away from a slaughterhouse and grew up hearing the screams of the animals that went in alive but came out as meals. She realized once she had gotten herself into art school that she could bear witness to the inequities of life through her work. In 1972, Coe made a decision that would allow her to more readily put her work out to the world. She moved from England with its stricture of class to New York. Immediately hired by the New York Times to create illustrations of the news, she soon found her work in other publications such as the New Yorker and Time magazines. The Los Angeles Times published an interview with her (linked here) where you can read about her working in a Mars candy factory, growing up in England and her mounting activism after entering art college.

Sue Coe's lecture here in Portland ended with her offering the print shown below for sale. As a fund raiser for Farm Sanctuary, she sold the print for twenty dollars cash. That is typical of Coe, raising money for causes that are important to her and providing art to those who want it but might not otherwise be able to afford it.

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