Beyond art for art's sake, some artists believe their purpose is to provoke thought or discussion about a topic and comment on the current state of affairs. For other artists, art can be a tool to give voices to the underrepresented and to create change.
Political art can be defined in many ways, as members of a panel of artists and arts proponents explained on an AZ Illustrated Arts roundtable Thursday.
Political cartoonist and artist Rand Carlson of Random Arts Studio said political art always advocates for something through its perspective on a certain topic.
“When you look at it, it editorializes; it makes a statement,” Carlson said.
For others, political art can be more ambiguous and does not have to be narrowed to any specific form of art.
“If a good piece of strong, political art provokes you into thinking, then it’s done its job,” said Ceci Garcia, founding member of Raices Taller 222 Gallery.
Michael Fenlason, artistic director of Beowulf Alley Theatre Company, said political art does not have to take a point, as long as it lets people respond and starts conversations.
Political art can take many forms, from stage productions, to landscape art, to specific gallery themes.
Garcia said the Raices Taller 222 Gallery once rearranged its schedule to bring in an exhibition on Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's immigration law. The purpose was to show what artists were thinking and expressing about the issue.
“So why do we drop exhibitions to bring you a political one, where we know pieces will not sell?” Garcia said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about the value system of society.”
For Garcia, it is important to bring to the public perspectives that may not be published or making news, but are a trigger to the awareness of artists.
Fenlason shared a similar view.
“Artists in our community and across the country are the voice. We are the people who can speak for those who are underrepresented in other media outlets,” he said.
Fenlason said this applies to all forms of art - visual, narrative, or other media.
As a political cartoonist and artist, Carlson said he likes to use humor to convey a message and raise awareness.
“You can turn people off with the message you can preach. And that’s really not a good way to get a point across,” he said.
Ashley Grove is a journalism student at the University of Arizona and is an intern for Arizona Public Media.