I still get confused looks and criticism for labeling myself as a conservative political artist a decade after making the decision to combine my passion for politics with my art.
Most people can’t conceive of such a thing because they have always believed conservatives aren’t particularly creative. Others think having a message ruins the work. I am here to explain why we should be both seeking out and supporting conservative artists.
Like many creative conservatives I know, I spent several years struggling alone to make my way in the liberal-dominated art community. I tried to figure out what people wanted to buy from an artist. I spent hours walking through galleries to see what was selling. However, I am not the least bit interested in painting still-lifes or landscapes. Photo realism and portraiture don’t interest me much beyond their technical aspects. I can’t stand most abstract or modern art.
I realized, one day, that the two things I was most passionate about were art and politics. It seemed logical to combine the two. After all, liberals have been producing propaganda for years, to great success. It was the best decision I ever made. I went from struggling to find something to paint, to having more ideas than I could express through my art. I started to find myself as an artist and my work improved dramatically.
It takes a while, however, to break away from the way things have always been done. Once I had a body of work, I started approaching galleries. For those of you who are not artists, this is a very tedious and frustrating undertaking. Needless to say, most galleries get so many submissions, they often don’t respond at all. When they do respond, it is understandably with a form letter for rejections. However, I started to get more personal responses that revealed an underlying theme.
“Your work is good and we appreciate the technical ability it displays….” “While we strive to represent artists of many styles and social perspectives, we feel that we are unable to represent your point of view.” I am not embellishing, and I think you get the point.
I find it absurd that a curator would feel justified in telling someone that their point of view invalidates the quality of their work; particularly when the art community shouts for all to hear, that they support free speech and diversity. Apparently that is not the case when it comes to ideas they oppose or claim to find offensive.
I quickly gave up on the galleries and focused on less traditional methods. I set up a web page and started blogging. I started reaching out to individuals and approaching underground venues. I had no great success with this either, but a couple of shows came my way. Each little step seems to lead to another and build exposure exponentially.
Even when I have been in shows where I was invited as the token conservative, and my peers were hostile to my message, I have found the opportunity to engage the viewers in a discussion of how we can begin to understand one another’s points of view. One of the driving forces behind my work is to foster discussion and to educate the viewer.
Surprising, though maybe it shouldn’t be, has been the way I have been treated by intellectuals in response to my work. This experience requires a separate article to fully explain, but the basic idea is quite simple. I have been told that there is no place for my work because I am ignorant. The point has been expressed to me on more than one occasion that I would believe differently if I were more educated. Given the amount of research I put into my work, this claim is absurd at best. More importantly, it illustrates to me the importance for what I am doing. No one’s voice should be shut out and no one should be made to feel inferior because they take a stand for what they believe. No one.
It is well past time for a conservative voice in the arts. If you are an artist, I hope you will join me in creating work that expresses your beliefs and your patriotism. If you are not an artist, I hope you will find ways to support a growing conservative art community. Let us inspire the people of America to take pride in our nation and defend the ideas that make it great. Let us illustrate, through our work, a positive message that will encourage others to understand who we are. Let us take back the culture.
(Both paintings by Frances Byrd)