The Art of Activism: Painting The Faces of Social & Climate Change

ashley cecil photo
Image: The artist Ashley Cecil with her winning entry (Photo: Donald Vish, Oxfam America)

Art can be a powerful tool for social change, disseminating ideas and inspiring people to act together.Oxfam America's Climate Change on Canvas initiative is doing just that — with the aim of bringing art, activism and concern for climate change together for an exhibition at December's UN Conference of Parties meeting in Poznan, Poland.

After requesting and reviewing proposals from several emerging artists from all over the nation, Oxfam America selected Louisville, Kentucky resident Ashley Cecil, who is a self-described "painting activist" to create a work that would illustrate how climate change affects poor communities.

As seen after the fold, Cecil's gorgeous painting of two women in a drought-baked landscape depicts one of them tipping out a bowl of dust instead of a bounty of grain, symbolizing the struggle of impoverished families to feed themselves in a world facing more and more climate-related impacts.

Image: Ashley Cecil

"I wanted to show that the women are not harvesting crops the way they had hoped," Cecil explains. "They're holding a bowl of dust, because this is what they're left with—burnt, dry dust, dry branches... In other words, what we'd expect to see is not there."

Cecil's work has always had a social conscience behind it. "Welcome to the marriage of painting and social activism," says her blog, which shows paintings of the everyday, ranging from the picturesque to the positive portraits of domestic violence survivors, refugees, foster parents, and homeless kids. For each painting sold, Cecil donates a portion to various non-profits named on her blog.

Cecil believes that climate change is a crucial subject that affects people of all walks of life. "The [US presidential] elections are bringing attention to it right now—the urgency is absolutely critical," she says. "And for people in developing countries, it is devastating."

The Painting Activist
via Oxfam America
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