In the ongoing spirit of Valentine's 2k17, Apiary Magazine digitally sat down with artist and educator JB BRAGER for a mini-interview about art and activism! Read the full mini-transcript below!
Apiary: What was the process of reading and interpreting the work of our three poets like?
JB: I have a background in poetry-- creative writing classes were my safe haven in high school and college (shout out to the Jimenez-Porter Writers House at the University of Maryland). The first illustration gig I ever did was drawing spot illustrations for the literary magazine at UMD, Stylus. A lot of my work is responding to or working with words--the comic I drew for Apiary 8 was inspired by "Poem about Police Violence" by June Jordan and "“The Brown Menace or Poem to the Survival of Roaches” by Audre Lorde. This is just to say, working visually with writing is something I love to do. I especially liked working with Lauren Howton's poem; I really like grotesque imagery and I love how she wrote a love poem that's kind of disgusting. I thought about drawing some gross stuff and had to rein it in for, you know, Valentines that people might actually give to another human that they like. But if anyone wants some sketches of dead rats and like, human flesh stew (weird tangential response to Josh Lefkowitz's poem), I'm your guy. I liked working with Shy Watson's poem because I ended up just listening to Ja Rule for a long time. "Put it On Me" came out in my prime pre-teen radio listening years so that was very nostalgic for me.
Apiary: What do you think is the role of print media in the current political climate?
JB: Stay engaged, stay honest, don't be distracted by smoke and mirrors, cover more than the tweets of a fascist, ask questions, dig deep, look closer, join the resistance, fuck "fair and unbiased," be biased, take sides, be right, call them out when they're lying, keep the lights on, be self-funded, be the voice of the people, publish the people, pay your writers, pay your artists, proliferate, draw people in, make space, empower people to make media
Apiary: How can artists become more politically present and engaged? What responsibility do artists have to their community/communities?
JB: I don't think it's the responsibility of every artist to be explicitly political in their work--in the leftist call "give us bread and give us roses," the politics is in the demand, not in the roses. Roses are allowed to be beautiful for the sake of beauty, because that is a thing that we need. That said, as humans, if you're not engaged already, sure, engage. Be responsible as a human, as an accomplice, as a conspirator. Put down your paintbrush (just for a little while) and go to a march or make sure your neighbors are okay or something. Do whatever is in your capacity to do. And then, turn off the damn news, pick up your paintbrush, and give us roses. And if you can sell those roses and donate some of the proceeds to SONG, or Cosecha, or the National Network of Abortion Funds, or wherever, do it.
As a white artist who makes political work, I have found this article by Monica Trinidad to be really helpful: http://www.monicatrinidad.com/blog/uplift-not-just-our-faces-but-our-voices-too
As a person who sometimes can march and sometimes can't, I found this resource on ways to be in the struggle to be really helpful: https://issuu.com/nlc.sf.2014/docs/beyondthestreets_final?reader3=1