An Open Letter to All Artists and Allies

As a young person, I fully embraced the experiment and discovery brought about by drawing, making art, and storytelling. As an adult with a successful practice and business in fine art, I have often been asked the question, “When did you start drawing?” For years I responded with an answer one could easily find in my artist’s biography. But then I began an experiment, in hopes of creating a more engaging and inclusive conversation.

“When did you stop?” I began to ask. To the person’s surprise and my delight, this simple but destabilizing question seemed to open enough of a space for them to wonder, “Did I once draw? And if I did, what happened?”

That was a good moment to combine some light counseling with a little persistence to begin the process of discovery for both of us. What often revealed itself was a small but significant set of memories from the person’s youth—moments of joy found in experiment, discovery, and playtime. These memories would poke their heads through the thin membrane of confusion that had separated the person from rediscovering and acting on their own creative nature.

As a former International Liberation Reference Person for Visual Artists, after three decades in the job I am convinced, after seeing the clear evidence, that reclaiming our allies is pivotal to moving the liberation of all artists forward—that there is no substitute for assisting those who have given up the joy of being creative, an essential part of being human. I am convinced that every single person is qualified to be our ally and that artists’ liberation will only struggle to move forward—without clear direction, momentum, and speed—unless we, as identified artists, focus on reclaiming our allies first.

The headwinds of invalidation and oppression can be daunting for any movement facing opposition in numbers greater than its own. Scaling the wall of indifference to mount a campaign for understanding and recognition can seem like an exercise in futility. But it’s not. In the case of artists, all humans at one time felt the same love for experiment and discovery that we were able to hold on to. After losing their alliance and support, we falsely determined that we were different and alone. From that perspective we mistakenly decided that it was best to leave the “stragglers” behind and move forward with an identity that protected us and ultimately defined us as separate.

In reality, the people we falsely assume are insensitive to our allegiance to art, and whom we deny our support with unwarranted prejudice, are actually our inherent, beloved allies. For as long as they could, they held on. Then they hoped that we would return for them, to the place where they had given up trying and we went our separate ways. As each ally discharges their way to a life of joy and creativity, the recognition of our common goals will replace the division that was forced on us. The wall of opposition will be dismantled, brick by brick, until it no longer has the strength to separate us and keep us from working together for a common objective.

Over many years, as the artists’ liberation project in RC has gained traction, we have worked hard and well together as artists. To help eliminate the bias from our side, we have claimed the artist’s identity, cleaned up the distresses that have attached to it, and then reached to eliminate the identity all together—to clarify our unity with all people, whether they identify as artists or not. We have also done well in creating sustainable artists’ support groups, by following a few simple steps that seem to work in every situation. We have discovered the re-emergent effects of separating our art and creativity from the distresses attached to making money. We have found our way to the crossroads of ”mental health” and artists’ liberation, in a joint effort with Janet Foner, the International Liberation Reference Person for “Mental Health” Liberation. We have learned the benefits of reveling in the process of making art rather than concentrating so exclusively on the end product. We have rediscovered that we all played together as young ones and that, in reality, we have never been isolated from anyone. This has also been proven repeatedly as we’ve moved to assist and welcome our dear allies back to the family of creative minds. We have done all this together, as proud and valued artists.

However, we have not yet achieved the goal of complete artists’ liberation. We have more to do to make that a reality: As practicing artists in RC, we need to fully reclaim our allies and work in unison with them to eliminate all the oppression standing in our way.

We can continue this journey by demonstrating to others, inside RC and in the wide world, the importance of the artists’ liberation project and the crucial role it plays in the liberation of all constituencies. Prioritizing work that feels compelling and necessary (read “serious”) in the absence of relaxed joy is a consideration. But it can also mask a distress recording—one that will discharge with enough relaxed attention and support. As artists, our example of being creative, joyful humans can illuminate the endgame all of us in RC are reaching for: the reclaiming of our inherent, benign human nature, including the ability to love, cooperate, and feel zestful while using our full capacity to think creatively and act decisively.

I have been proud and pleased to be a key player in the RC artists’ liberation project as its former ILRP. I will continue to discharge, think, and act with all of you as we move forward together as artists.

With much love,

John Fehringer

Reykjavik, Iceland, and
Seattle, Washington, USA


Last modified: 2019-05-13 15:12:23+00