Art has the beautiful ability to be a vehicle for social change. Artwork can often communicate ideas, concepts and issues more effectively than words. Today’s contemporary illustrators illustrate this beautifully. I published an article on Lifehack.org on “9 Impressive Illustrations to Present Current Society/World Issues” by today’s top contemporary artists showing through pictures things wrong with the world today. These artists visually communicate social issues in a non-literal way causing the viewer to ponder these world issues just a little bit more. The power of art to educate, inspire reflection and compel people to action is shown by these beautiful artwork images which you can see in the article.
CLIMATE CHANGE & GLOBAL WARMING
Yuko Shimizu is a Japanese artist and slated by Newsweek Japan as one of “100 Japanese People the World Respects”. Her art addresses important social issues such as the environment, climate change and the slaughter of animals. Her artwork on climate change which accompanied an article titled “Bracing for Climate Change” written by Michael Cockram in “Green Source”, a magazine about sustainable design. The article discussed created more resilient building and infrastructure in the face of climate change.
Artist, Gary Taxali was also quick to get involved on the issue of climate change and the receding ice caps in the Arctic. When Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise was arrested on September 13, 2013 in international waters to protest the detainment by the Arctic 30 by Russia, artist Gary Taxali created artwork for Greenpeace to help spread the word about their detainment. Finally, after two months they were released. The artwork was shared by Madonna on her instagram account and shared widely on social media. You can see the artwork here on Greenpeace’s website and are free to use it to spread awareness.
Artist Jason Holley did this illustration for the cover of The New Republic on Hurricane Katrina. The flooding shielding the real damage and that New Orleans was still in a disaster even after the flooding receded begging the question of what really happens in the aftermath of a disaster. You can see the image in the Lifehack.org article.
Artist Gerard Dubois lives in Montreal, Canada. His illustrations have a retro vintage poster style feel. His painted illustrations have appeared in countless magazines both in the US and around the world, including a weekly column in the Sunday New York Times. Gerard Dubois’ illustration encapsulates the tenuous balance between civil liberties, constitutional rights to privacy and national security beautifully in this illustration titled, “Civil Liberties and Law in the Era of Surveillance” for Stanford University Law School. With post 9/11 legislation with the passing of The Patriot Act law enforcement have easier access to electronic records and the personal information of citizens.
Gerard Dubois created a beautiful piece of art on human caused extinction of the passenger pigeon which is one of the largest human caused extinction of a species. In this beautiful illustration for The New York Times, Gerard Dubois captures the eerie sadness with this half ghost half pigeon illustration. Down from three billion pigeons to extinction with the last one dying 100 years ago slaughtered at human hands – a similar fate by cod fisheries with pacific bluefin tuna being possibly next.
VIOLENCE AND TERRORISM
Gary Taxali is an illustrator and fine artist living in Canada. His instantly recognizable work is hybrid of art/illustration and has won hundreds of awards including a 2009 Grammy Nomination and a Gold Medal from The Society of Illustrators (New York). He was recognized by Taschen as being among the top 100 illustrators in the word in their book, “Illustration Now!” edited by Steven Heller and Julius Wiedemann. Gary supports causes and uses his art for social good and change. https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/design/all/43404/facts.100_illustrators.htm
This artwork was created by artist and illustrator, Gary Taxali, in response to the violent attacks on Paris by terrorists on November 13, 2015 which had the world reeling and mourning with the hashtags #jesuisparis and #jtaimeparis. This art was shared by actress Drew Barrymore on her instagram account generating a lot of buzz and viral shares on social media.
Farmers and big agriculture have been allowing chemical fertilizers which contain nitrates to flow into the rivers where cities get their drinking water. Nitrate laced water has been linked to health problems such as birth defects and cancer. Des Moines Water Works filed a lawsuit in federal court against three counties claiming they violate the federal Clean Water Act. The illustration by Gary Taxali created for Mother Jones magazine titled, “Can This Genius Strategy Stop Big Ag from Dumping Fertilizer Into Drinking Water?” calls attention to the very serious issue of unhealthy drinking water.
ANIMAL RIGHTS AND ABUSE
Artist Sue Coe says, “I would never judge another human being individually…We are all in different stages of awareness and growth, [but] I am extremely critical of illogical economic systems that put profit over any and all other considerations, especially life.” Artist Sue Coe is known as creating art with a social commentary on issues such as rape, war, homelessness, hunger, AIDS, apartheid, sweat shops, prisons and animal abuse. Coe said she hopes that in the future, “animal rights and social justice issues will be more accepted and people will look back on my work and say ‘those were the dark ages, when humans used to slaughter animals for food.” This artwork titled, “Butcher to the World”, 1986, from her book Cruel on animal exploitation, page 20). http://www.amazon.ca/Cruel-Bearing-Witness-Animal-Exploitation/dp/1935928724
Sue Coe’s piece, “Garment Workers Exploited by Fruit of the Loom” (1994) on sweat shops is disturbing and powerful.
GUNS AND VIOLENCE
Marshall Arisman is an illustrator but also a fine artist. He works are in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Institution and others. He is Chairman of the Masters of Fine Arts Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He started his career doing a series on guns having grown up with guns all his life. This piece is simply titled, “Gun Shop”.
Here is another powerful image by Brian Stauffer titled, “Black Shooting”.
WORLD STEREOTYPES AND RACISM
Chrisophe Niemann is a visual columnist for the New York Times Magazines. He comments on political, social, art and lifestyle articles. His piece, “The World Map of useless Stereotypes” is absolutely brilliant.