I am an artist/activist…or is it activist/artist? It’s impossible to put one before the other or separate them. The work on this website represents artwork which I have created, sometimes on my own and sometimes in relationship with organizations, communities and organizers. I believe that art can contribute to changing people’s perceptions, hearts and understandings of what has been, what is and what’s possible. I’m enough of an organizer to understand that art can’t do it alone; people getting together and acting together is the real source of social change. The dignity and possibility in all people is the underlying message of my work.
I call what I do “medicinal art” (to adapt a phrase from my sister, Aurora). It means that when I work with any community I start with a diagnosis. I ask what it is that keeps this group of people from knowing their power and acting on it. Not what has been done to them but wounds, fears or ways of thought keep folks immobilized. What stories then might be offered, like acupuncture needles placed with precision to free up trapped energy, which can help reveal the possible avenues for collective action.
I began making woodcuts and caricatures when I was young. Later I discovered silk screen printing and worked many years, both as an artist and in industrial settings, as a screen printer. My favorite art medium is scratchboard, a clay on wood surface in which textures can be scratched and colors added. I have also worked in a range of service and manufacturing (and a minimum of agricultural) jobs and entered activisms at the grassroots. I have participated in movements for justice, increasingly using my art as a way to contribute. As a founding member of the Northland Poster Collective I have participated in the trenches of the labor movement in various capacities and have offered my art as a tool to assist in organizing drives, educational efforts, awards, commemorations and for various other functional purposes.
Since the closing of Northland in the summer of 2009 (after thirty years), I have opened this studio from which to continue the work that I love, partnering with the inspiring people who work every day to make a better world for our children.
–Ricardo Levins Morales