Sunday, January 2, 2011

ArtTraveler translates through personal paintings his protest and propaganda against injustice

Image by Stefan van Drake circa 2004.
I'm not sure what prompted me to create this post: my frozen-in-the-60's protest mentality?

My abhorring our complicity with ignorance to deny the realities of growing fascism in the United States and elsewhere?

So, I shall explain.

The image above (circa 2004) is my first and only grafitti spray painting on board (plywood), firmly attached to the very front of our humble "shot-gun" home (once used by servants of the elite of Palm Beach, FL in the 20's and 30's ) in an Hispanic barrio in West Palm Beach. 

The plywood covered the south-exposure picture window of our Florida Room.

(It did withstand a threatened Cat 4 or 5 hurricane.....but what appeared was a Cat 3, which blew away parts of our roof and demolished the garage, circa 1926.)

This sets the scene for what could be called  my first mural. Please, no laughter. It is what it is. At the time I did not remotely consider this as work of art. It was pure propoganda and was at least three times egged (people throwing fresh eggs against it from cars).

But as I had just been fired (think terminated or if you're a Brit, "made redundant,") I had time on my hands, and since age 19, I had embraced defacto democratic socialism and thought it was time to terminate any Bush political dynasty.

But then again, idealism can be a predatory cancer of the soul.

I was fired by the Business Journals (South Florida Business Journal) for insubordination (objecting to self-censorship). See New Times story for details.

At age 60 and unemployed, picking up about $300 a week from the not-so-generous Republican controlled state of Florida  for "unemployment compensation" for this chronic injustice of at-will capitalism (you can be terminated for any reason unless for specific violations of state and/or federal law), I found time on my hands, despite shipping out 150 CVs and enduring three interviews and of course, no offers.

When you are a well-known whistle-blower, the prospects of gainful employment are dim at best, even during the best of times.

Anyway, I worked as a volunteer for the Kerry Presidential campaign versus GW Bush. I donated $3,000, my accrued "nest egg" of 401K retirement money from the Biz Journals (which was a stupid and ill-conceived and emotional if not totally spontaneous brain fart).

Bless them  (Biz Journals, that is). It was like pissing against the wind given the gutless efforts of the Democrats.

I knew as a former award-winning law-courts and government reporter in South Florida (Miami Daily Business Reveiw and South Florida Business Journal) that maybe I could help anyway I could.

I ended up in call centers and scouting permissions for Kerry signs in Palm Beach County.

Despite scores of hours of volunteering, my hero, John Kerry, lost to the womanizing, booze and cocaine consuming (and hence later, delusional) GW Bush.

During that fateful year of 2000 (think Bush vs. Gore) the presidential campaign where West Palm Beach (my home and office) was ground zero in the historical fight for the U.S. presidency, ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the theft of the US Presidency impacted me forever.

I was there at its heart, covering it daily and grew in disbelief and anger at the increasing evidence of fraud and institutionalized disenfranchisement, especially against minorities.

And along comes the Democrats shying away from the "L" word: Liberal in 2004 as they did again in 2010.

There should be no shame in acting by, of and for the people.

Protest art and propoganda have always been part of our visual landsape from "Uncle Sam Wants You!" in WWI to hundreds of other examples. The Soviets used such visual propoganda perhaps most effecitvely of any regime. (I was there in 1976 and 1985 and spoke Russian quite well.)

When GW Bush sucked up to his billionaire buddies promising great spoils of a war against Iraq and then Afganistan, my rage against this palpable international injustice and transparent war against Islam infuriated me.

The anger, the emotions resulted in the painting below: "Burning Bush."

Burning Bush: large format mixed media by Stefan van Drake.

Stenciled on public buildings in Amsterdam in 2004, an image of a war criminal I used in Burning Bush.
Escape from Madrid, oil on canvass (50 X 70 cm) by Stefan van Drake, 2009.

Pain and suffering are the stuff of religious traditions.

In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, the central spine of the novel is spiritual rebirth through suffering. Think Jesus on the cross.

Tragically, this theme has been faithfully endorsed by various extreme forces in the world (think martyrdom) fostering tribalism and civil wars over religion and ideology--the spin doctors of extremism.

One excellent historical example: the Spanish Civil War.

I live in Spain. The Spanish Civil War is scar tissue in most every Spaniard's psyche.

You cannot deny its presence even if you legislate against remembering the carnage from 1936 to1939 that took an estimated 950,000 to 1,000,000 lives here, including of course, the foreign troops and volunteers from various factions of the war, who joined the war from all over Europe, the UK, the US and as far away as Afganistan, the source of the only member of the International Brigades, a physician, who was Asian.

During this war, the Rpublicans (think anti-fascist or anti-Franco) employed artists to create various propoganda posters. This was nothing new, of course, but I became fascinated by them and decided to interpret them, oil on canvass.

Up 'till now, it would have been a clandestine project to take perhaps many years and never find a viewing in this country. But it remains a personal passion.

I'm not sure "Escape from Madrid" above interprets the poster of similar form and pallette by an unknown Spanish artist adequately, but in most of these, the sufferings of this war are so amplified that this kind of art no doubt helped fuel a cycle of revenge for which the Spanish Civil War is well known.

Rock on and practice peace and love, And please check out my funky videos on YouTube:

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM)

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