Radical Art with Molly Crabapple

Devon Douglas-Bowers

The following is a transcript of a recent email interview I had with artist Molly Crabapple where we discuss art and its relation to politics. She can be followed Twitter @mollycrabapple.

 So what got you into art in the first place?

I’ve been drawing since I was 4. It’s so deeply embedded in my nature that I can’t imagine not drawing, even if my hands were broken.  My mother is a very talented illustrator and always helped guide me.

What are your political views and why/when did you decide to meld art and politics?

I’d suppose I’m a general leftist though I always feel terribly awkward putting a label on it, and not educated enough to provide a specific self-definition.  I started doing more explicitly political work in 2011, especially during Occupy. It felt like a moment when one had to take sides.

What were some of your early art pieces like and how has your art evolved over time?

I used to set most of my work in an imaginary world of nightlife, burlesque and Victorian glamor. It was what felt most comfortable with my style.  But as I’ve evolved, my art has become more raw, journalistic, and concerned with the present day.

Every movement has its art. What are some pieces you’ve seen (or made) revolving around Occupy and other social movements that you admire or that you think really amplify the message?

My friend Ganzeer is a brilliant Egyptian artist who did some of the most iconic work of the revolution.  He recently moved to New York, and his first solo exhibition in America is tackling American police violence.  He’s an extraordinary craftsman and an utter badass.  I wrote a bit about him here.

Do you think that the public is interested in the arts any more, much less political art? It seems that the public at large really isn’t interested in art anymore.

I think fine art made a real mistake in wrapping itself up in this very elitist, ivory tower discourse, which most people find incredibly alienating.  Of course people love visual creativity, just like they love movies and music and books.  But the fine art world often spoke down to people, and convinced them their tastes were stupid and wrong.  So people felt ashamed, like they weren’t good enough to be in galleries.  Fuck that shit.  Art is for everyone.

In what ways do you think that capitalism undermines the potential of art? Do you think there are anyways in which artists and others can fight back against it?

Artists have always been fabrage egg makers more than revolutionaries.  When we weren’t producing luxury commodities, we were making propaganda for the Catholic Church.  However, I think the idea that fine art becomes more successful by being an increasingly expensive, exquisite object that only oligarchs and princelings can afford is incredibly limiting and dangerous.  There are all sorts of strategies to fight, but for myself, I try to be prolific, and create work that people can access for free.  Selling expensive paintings might finance that, but selling expensive paintings is never my major or only goal

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