“It’s a human responsibility to be an activist, no matter what one’s profession,” says illustrator and author Sue Coe, juror of the 2019 “FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social & Politically Engaged Art” that runs through Dec. 13 at ETSU’s Reece Museum.
Coe will present her Juror’s Talk on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 5 p.m. in Reece Museum, with the 2019 FL3TCH3R awards ceremony and reception to follow at about 6 p.m.
Coe grew up in post-World War II England, living in buildings damaged by German bombing raids and next to a slaughterhouse. “I understood the world was a very bad place quite early,” Coe says. “I saw things that were very wrong and wanted them to stop.”
Since that time, Coe – who had started, at 4, drawing chalk animals on sidewalks, in book covers and on her parents’ wallpaper before graduating to illustrating for The Times of London, Time Magazine and The New York Times – has placed activism first and art second. “My mission in life is to end animal exploitation,” she says.
Her art, however, often reflects her activism. Coe has been a crusader against the use of animals in industry, medical research and genetic engineering and continues to raise the public’s awareness of the abuse of living things through her art and writing. She has written 11 books, including “Dead Meat,” “Sheep of Fools,” “Cruel,” “The Animal’s Vegan Manifesto” and in 2018, “Zooicide.”
In 1994, Coe who has made her home in New York since the 1970s, won the Outstanding National Activist Award from The Culture and Animals Foundation. She also has created artwork and essays on topics including famine in Africa, the Ku Klux Klan, AIDS, terrorism in Northern Ireland, Malcolm X and contemporary politics.
“In light of her lifetime of art and work in the realms of social justice, animal rights and so many kinds of difficult subject matter, Sue is really the perfect juror for the ‘FL3TCH3R Exhibit,’ ” says Anita DeAngelis, ETSU Art & Design faculty member and director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, sponsor of Coe’s ETSU talk and outreach with students.
The political realm often has been featured in Coe’s artwork. Her first professional assignment at The Times of London was an illustration about the Nixon-era Watergate scandal. Her Nov. 7 talk will focus, she says, on both – her recent work on President Trump and her “hard core animal rights work,” and she capitalizes “Animal Rights.”
This summer, Coe turned her attention to 325 works from 116 artists from 27 states and seven countries submitted for consideration for the 2019 “FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Social & Politically Engaged Art.” Eighty-two pieces made this year’s show.
There were some themes among the submissions and Coe’s selections – gun violence, the Women’s March, Trump, structural racism and refugees and immigrants, she says.
Media include 2D and 3D pieces, fiber, painting, photography, digital media, sculpture, found objects and printmaking, as well as mixed media and audio-visual pieces. There are some “incredible backstories” to this year’s selections, combining to make “a great exhibition,” says Reece Museum Exhibition Coordinator Spenser Brenner.
While Coe says, “Social political art of the Left is never given time to breathe or develop in this country and artists are not supported or paid a living wage,” there were a few pieces in this year’s show, that she found “startlingly original.”
“Rarely in any art is there perfect balance of form and content,” she says. “There are few pieces in the show that I consider to be perfectly balanced and one or two that are so close. If there is a choice between form and content, I choose content every time.”
Coe also selected this year’s “FL3TCH3R Exhibit” award recipients. Awards exceed $1,000 total, plus the annual Fletcher H. Dyer Endowed Memorial Scholarship for an ETSU Art & Design student, is provided through exhibit proceeds by ETSU art professor Wayne and attorney Barbara Dyer in memory of their son and graphic designer Carrie Dyer in memory of her brother, Fletcher, an ETSU senior in graphic design who passed away in 2009.
In addition to memorial awards named for former Art & Design Chair Jack Schrader and Dorothy Carson, mother of renowned graphic artist David Carson, new this year is an award in memory of Robert J. Alfonso, former ETSU vice president of Academic Affairs. “From early on in his elementary school years, Bob Alfonso had an avid appreciation of the arts,” Barb Dyer says. “His family says, ‘At every opportunity he found a way to find where the art was and made an effort to see it.’
“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Alfonso, as well this year, as we continue Fletcher’s legacy and goal to create ‘a movement that others will follow.’ ”
Coe finds a kindred spirit in Fletcher and his mission. “It’s absolutely wonderful – unselfish, life-affirming, a continuance of the struggle,” Coe says. “People should go to the show because in all that work, you will find one piece that speaks only to you.”
For more information about the exhibit, visit http://www.FL3TCH3Rexhibit.com and for Reece Museum, visit www.etsu.edu/reece or call 423-439-4392. The talk, reception and awards ceremony are free and open to the public.
For more information on Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587.