Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Encouragement for Pro-Life Artists
[Today's guest post by Kasey Jackson is part of our paid blogging program. Kasey is the author of the pro-life dystopian novel Blue, the busy mom of twin toddlers, and a "creator-of-all-trades" that whole-heartedly believes in the power of the arts to influence social justice.]
It is a beloved anecdote passed down through generations of the Stowe family–the story of the first time that Harriet Beecher had the honor of meeting President Abraham Lincoln.
Though some historians question the validity of the quote, it is reported that at Lincoln’s first meeting with Stowe, he greeted her by shaking her hand and saying these words: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!”
The historical accuracy of the quote may be in question, but there is little doubt among biographers that Lincoln would have agreed with the sentiment. Stowe had managed to write a novel that deeply affected and infuriated the masses again to the horrors of slavery. She wrote in a way that deeply humanized those trapped in slavery and gave them a story to tell.
She was a voice for those that couldn’t effectively stand up for themselves at the time.
She made an impact on the course of history by writing a story that made the issue at hand undeniably real and urgent.
She wrote a story that was a contributing spark to the fires of war that would ultimately mean freedom to millions.
Slavery was a terrible reality and a horrific violation of human rights. Stowe felt the burden of this reality and, as an artist, she was inspired to use her artistic bent to inspire social change. Today, we are still facing the other horrific human rights violation that is legal abortion-on-demand. So why are there so few pro-life artists putting their work “out there” with the hope of inspiring social change on this important subject?
Yes, there are hundreds of non-fiction books on the subject, tens of thousands of people “marching for life” every year, sidewalk counselors, crisis pregnancy centers, speakers and pro-life legal advocates. And these are all fantastic things that are helping the pro-life cause more than we can even see at the moment.
But where are our Harriet Beecher Stowes? Where are the artists that see the devastating reality that is at hand and use their artistic giftings to inspire change? Are there just so few pro-life artists out there that we just don’t notice new pro-life artwork surfacing and gaining popularity?
Are the artists just too scared of releasing a work with such a controversial inspiration?
While researching for my pro-life novel, I googled the term “pro-life art.” Among many articles on the first page of search results (most about the lack of respected pro-life artwork) was an article from the popular conservative news site The Blaze entitled: Will Christian Artist’s Anti-Abortion Painting Actually Save Unborn Babies’ Lives? The article is about a painting called “Before I Formed You In The Womb” by the respected Christian artist Ron DiCianni. After painting this pro-life piece, DiCianni embarked on a campaign to get this “inspiring piece of artwork in front of women that are considering abortion” to hopefully move hearts into reconsidering the value of the human life that they were carrying.
When I first read the title of the article, my heart sank. I thought that this would be yet another article questioning the motives and tactics of an artist using their gifting to draw attention to the pro-life cause. But, I was refreshed to see that the article itself was supportive and seemingly appreciative of DiCianni's work, despite the suspicous tone that the title may have suggested.
But this recognition is sadly an anomaly, even for highly respected and seasoned artists such as DiCianni.
Is it any wonder that pro-life artists are nervous to put their work out there? The conservatives that tend to agree with their position are often those that also tend to devalue the arts. Those that support the message of their work are often those that are quick to question the artist's motives and inspirations—asking questions like "Is this just to further their career?" or "What good is this doing, really?" All the while the liberals that tend to strongly disagree with the pro-life position are often those that truly value the arts, but because of the "anti-choice" nature of the work (their terminology, not mine) they can not fully appreciate the work by its artistic merit alone; it is tainted by its message.
Is this unfortunate combination of beliefs to blame for why the pro-life movement's "Cabin" has yet to be seen?
Or could it be that the artists that DO attempt to create moving works for this cause are usually green, budding beginners that suddenly feel the weight of unappreciation by the majority of the pro-life cause after releasing their first work, so they simply give up? Could it be that upon feeling this rejection, they are discouraged from creating pro-life works altogether—thus making the pro-life cause one that is tackled only by beginner artists, with no mature artists to explore the depths of this issue to its greatest potential?
I could write a dozen other articles about my experience so far with releasing my first pro-life work to the public and the reactions that it has garnered from those in the pro-life community in comparison to the general public—but I will refrain, and offer encouragement to any pro-life author, poet, musician, painter, sculptor, or other artist that might be feeling the weight of the lack of appreciation and support from those involved in the pro-life cause.
You’re not alone.
And yeah, maybe your work so far isn't the pro-life movement’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
But, one day, there will be an Uncle Tom’s Cabin for this movement. It’s just too important of a cause for there to NOT be a piece of artwork that eventually inspires a huge paradigm shift.
There are always going to be naysayers that tell you that what you are doing is pointless. They will tell you a million other things that you COULD be doing to affect change in your revolution of choice. Things that seem MUCH more important to them than creating art to inspire change.
But don’t ever stop using your artistic gifts to inspire the change that you want to see in the world–even if the majority of those that agree with you pick apart your work and seem that they couldn’t care less about being inspired.
For every revolution, there are artists that sparked flames in the hearts of the revolutionaries. And who’s to say that yours can’t be the voice to strike the match?
“It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe