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Visual artists helping us cope with all the craziness in the world

With everything going on right now—buildings collapsing, wildfires, new COVID variants, the Olympics coming up, looming antagonistic figures such as Trump, tropical storms, etc.—we’re basically living through the tropes of literary fiction and film. Visual artists all across the world are using their skills to help themselves, and us, cope with our newfound realities.

There is a sense of irony in one tragedy happening after the other, and it’s exhausting. Sometimes, it feels like we’re in one of those movies where you think things can’t get any worse… and then it starts to rain. It’s a bit of a cliche among writers and producers. 

Society seems to be reflecting art right now rather than the other way around. But visual artists are using these tragedies almost as their own creative playground to shed some optimism on the world. We all need to find a source of hope with everything going on. You can look to these visual artists to help you find some peace in our current reality.

Gianni Lee

Gianni Lee utilizes many artistic mediums to comment on social and civil rights issues. He is a DJ, producer, fashion designer, and painter. He tells Skullcandy“Breaking boundaries is art.” And with his mastery of so many different creative facets to promote equality, he does indeed break boundaries.

In honor and celebration of Juneteenth 2021, Lee released a collection of animated digital paintings. In this piece on his Instagram, the viewer can see the arm of an incarcerated person detached from a body.

The arm is trapped in handcuffs and a wristband with “LA County Jail” printed on it. Dozens of eyes watch this arm as it moves. The animated digital painting is up for interpretation, but displays a powerful image, no doubt. One can appreciate both its artistic beauty and solemnity. 

Evan Schechtman and Warren Adcock

If you haven’t seen Citrovia—the lemon tree garden art installation at a construction shed in Midtown Manhattan—you should definitely take a look. Schechtman and Adcock are the brains behind this project.

Citrovia is Wonka-esque with its landscape of giant fake lemon trees, lemon flowers, lemon bushes, and huge lemon slices littering the ground like stepping stones. The instillation even includes a citrus scent the further liven this construction-site-turned-art.

Schechtman and Adcock are reminding us that art can be found anywhere—even in the uglier, gloomier aspects of our lives. 

Pep Williams

Williams’ success story is truly amazing. Starting out young as a pro skater, he was introduced by his sponsors to shoots and fashion shows.

He soon found that he had a natural talent for photography and has been creating art around the world ever since. On top of shooting for major celebrities and companies such as Adidas, Williams works on his own projects. Some of which have already ended up in museums, such as “Behind Bars.”

Williams has a current project in the works, “I Am Here,” on exposing homelessness as a worldwide issue that is often ignored. Homeless people have been left particularly vulnerable to the dangers we have been exposed to over the last year.

Williams’ art can act as a call to action for us to work toward ending homelessness. He tells KultureHub in an interview, “I just try to let my work open up eyes.”  

Shepard Fairey

Like Pep Williams, started out in skateboarding. He is now a street artist, illustrator, graphic designer, and activist. He is well-known for his Barack Obama “Hope” poster, which served as an icon for Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Fairey has recently collaborated with Amplifier, the nonprofit that focuses on “art and media experiments” to support social movements and change.

You can watch this animated graphic to hear about Amplifiers campaign that emphasizes empathy, love, and recognizing the humanity in others as essential for human progress.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya 

Phingbodhipakkiya studied neuroscience at Columbia University before dedicating to her career as an artist. Through her work, she explores both science and feminist issues.

One of her more recent projects is titled “I Still Believe in Our City.” This public art campaign is dedicated to addressing the rise in AAPI hate since the beginning of COVID as well as celebrating the contributions of Asian Americans to New York City. Phingbodhipakkiya’s simultaneous optimism and awareness are inspiring. 

Visual artists can heal the world

People, and the Earth itself, has undergone countless traumas this past year. As we work toward healing, we can look to artists like these in our world who are shedding light on important issues. They encourage us to find and spread beauty amongst tragedy. 

These visual artists acknowledge our realities, but they do not accept that these realities are set in stone. Art can rebel, art can be a call to action, art can wake people up. And art can heal, and so we thank these talented visual artists for their efforts in searching for a better world for all of us.