Good Trubble (WTF America)
Creating digital art and design for a Good Trubble (WTF America), a satirical design company dedicated to inspiring hope and laughter in the face of political change. | wtfamerica2017.com
"That little girl was me."
Statement on Ruby and Kamala:
November 12, 2020
Creating art is a risk and an honor.
It is the most essential and most delicate of challenges. It's why art is at the center of so many movements. It's why a song written by a person on one side of the world resonates with someone else across oceans and continents. It's why art heals. It's why art deserves support. No matter how dangerous, no matter how controversial, it inspires people and it inspires dialogue. Each new conversation is a chance for empathy and compassion.
I am extremely honored to be a tiny part of this historic movement - to be able to inspire and uplift so many people, and to add an image to the collective celebration of empathy triumphing over shortsightedness and greed. Your messages and comments have shown me that this has been, by and large, a piece of art that spoke truth to a moment and brought strength and solidarity into our communities. As an artist, I could not dream of more. As an advocate, I could not be more grateful.
As a white woman, I have some things to clarify. And I hope I can do so - to whoever's listening - now.
Gordon Jones, owner of Good Trubble (a black-owned and operated team), a Black man himself, and my client, asked me to create this image in October. It was his vision, and I was his partner in bringing it to life. I am an artist, and that's what I do. No one is ever going to separate me from the work, nor should they be expected to. I created it. But I did so with with the same intention I always create with - I used my art to help a voice (one that I believe deserved listening to) be heard.
For a number of personal and practical reasons, since this has gone viral, Gordon has asked that I be the face of the effort. I have managed to get him on a few interviews with me, but I've also allowed him to lay low. He's dealt with a lot these past few months and years, and particularly last week with the death of his father. He deserves the space, and I want to give it to him. I've tried my best to answer his charge without stepping where I shouldn't. Speaking for him makes be very uncomfortable, but I'm doing it because he asked. And I want what's best for him, even if that means I get called a Karen - or worse.
With something that spreads so quickly and so expansively, especially something of such a delicate nature, it's inevitable that people will take meanings antithetical to my and Gordon's intentions. No one is ever going to know the full story. Interviews are changed, reports are edited, and comments are overlooked. Information spreads slowly and incompletely - pictures a little faster and more forcefully. That's why I believe in art.
Gordon has advised me to "block the haters" and "delete the negative comments." But that much I won't do. Art is a dialogue, and I won't be deleting anything.* At the same time, I cannot and will not insert myself into Black or Brown communities. The conversations happening in those spaces go beyond this image, beyond this moment, and beyond any movement that's in play today. They are extremely valuable to have, but they are not mine to interfere with.
I have my own opinions about our culture, our legal system, and our administration. I do my fair share of wrestling with their problems and their complexities. I have my own opinions about high heels, gender and racial representation, and the prison complex. But I also have an opinion that supersedes all of this - which is that my voice isn't the one that needs to be heard most right now.
As an artist, I try to be a translator more than an active hand, because I think that's incredibly important as an advocate (particularly a white one). I bring in my design and art expertise, but I let my clients decide the message. Because of this, I have chosen only to work for individuals with messages I believe in. This message was no different.
Gordon believes both Kamala and Ruby are trailblazers, and he was insistent on putting their stories together in this way. When he asked me to create this design for him, I myself was inspired. I also had the feeling that, maybe somewhere, there would be others who'd feel the same. I agreed with him that this moment deserved recognition - even as it stood before the election was called. We wanted to represent this moment in history for what it was: a victory of compassion against oppression.
The design symbolizes two powerful women (of color) in history who overcame the odds and stood with strength against everyone who didn't want to see them succeed. Ruby walked into a white-dominated school, and that took courage and made history. Kamala is walking into a white-dominated White House, and she, too, is trailblazing for women and women of color both.
In both cases, the odds were unfairly stacked against them. They are ultimately fighting for the same thing. They have both changed the game of representation. Nothing is finished. But both will be seen as firsts. For women, and for women of color.
These women are not the same, and that is not something either Gordon or I believe. They have different journeys, different values, different backgrounds, and different lives. But what they share is a fight for freedom - and an intimate familiarity with oppression. Kamala is walking in Ruby's footsteps, and her path to the White House has been paved by Black women before her - Ruby being one of them.
I have many clients - Good Trubble included. All of them are advocating for causes I believe in and all of them have voices that need to be heard. My time and effort is best spent continuing to work for them. I want to help people speak, not speak for them. And I do not enjoy spotlights.
Although this is a level of public visibility that I have never desired (nor currently want) for myself, I do want my art to bring inspiration and comfort to as many people as it can. And I'll try my absolute hardest to make that possible. I have a platform now, and that fact does not escape me. But platform or no platform, I have - personally and professionally - dedicated my life to amplifying the voices of communities that need it. I have made it my job as an artist to speak empathy and compassion through art. That will not change. And that will always be where I direct my energies.
I'm grateful for Ruby Bridges for her support and grace. I'm grateful for the endless and unparalleled support of my family and friends - and the love that everyone has shown me. I'm grateful to Gordon for entrusting me with his idea. I'm grateful for my mentors and friends in the Black and Brown communities for their wisdom and guidance over the years, and for their continued enthusiasm and encouragement now.
Most importantly, I'm grateful to the mothers who have messaged me, moved to tears. I'm grateful to have created something that is an inspiration to daughters, families, women, and men. I'm grateful for all of you who have told me your stories. I'm grateful for your kind words and the anecdotes. Those are why I do this. For the teachers, the parents, the partners, the advocates. The people fighting for change, and the people who see something in this art that they can use to capture a feeling - and have conversations with a little more ease.
Lastly, I am grateful for the attention that has been drawn to Good Trubble. Good Trubble is, again, a black owned business here in SF, and they are the ones selling the shirts, prints, and merchandise. They will be the ones receiving most of the profits - and Gordon plans to donate a significant amount to charities and causes of his choice. He and I both want this image to be a tangible force for change. And I promise all of you: he is a very, very good man. It will be.
Please feel free to share this. I think it may be helpful for people to know a little more. Continue having conversations. But the biggest call to action I can put out right now is to continue spreading compassion and love. We all need it.
*EDIT: I will not delete productive conversations about the piece, but directing hate at me personally isn't a conversation. It's misplaced anger, it detracts from fruitful exchanges, and it makes me feel unsafe. I will be blocking people who choose to express themselves in this way. They may take their hatred elsewhere. Peace and love to everyone. Please keep spreading compassion.