Bearing Graphic Witness: Sue Coe’s Incendiary Vision

28 May

Cruel,Bearing Witness to Animal Exploration by Sue Coe (OR Books)

I’m hoping each generation has its tenders of the flame of artistic integrity(that’s a hope in place of acquaintance with this generation’s [if such exists] standard bearer) as I believe Francois Moily and Art Spiegelman’s RAW magazine (not to be confused with the thing that is currently entitled “RAW”) was in the 80’s. That publication was both a tribute to the history of graphic and picture story art and a venue for the current crop of innovators. In it 11 editions one found Lynda Barry,Mark Beyer,Charles Burns,Sue Coe,Robert Crumb,Bill Griffith,Ben Katchor,Gary Panter,Edward Sorel,Joost Swarte, Chris Ware and Alan Moore.And, of course, RAW* was the original venue for Spiegelman’s magnum opus, Maus.

RAW magazine cover

Even in the illustrious company of the above mentioned artists the inimitable Sue Coe stood out. Callinh herself a “visual journalist” Coe was a fully engaged observer of the roiling issues of the day—as in this pamphlet published by RAW:

How to Commit Suicide in South Africa,1983

In 1996 came her book Dead Meat, an expose of the meat packing industry every bit as riveting and poignant as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Dead Meat with an Introduction by Alexander Coburn

Ms. Coe’s long interest and dedication to the animal rights movement has been appended by her latest tome Cruel: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation (OR books). As the publisher’s note points out this unsettling book includes images that Coe recreates in sketches from places that no photographer would be allowed admittance. And,

Coe also sets her sights on lesser-known, yet equally shocking, methods involved in commercial fishing, the wool industry, the flagrant use of pesticides, and livestock “protection” collars. This is social and political art at its most powerful, in the tradition of Goya, Käthe Kollwitz, and Diego Rivera

If you have the patience here is a 45 minute talk my Sue Coe

Or an interesting adaptation of Sue Coe’s paintings with music by the Black Anggels

* If you can find it, Indy magazine editor Bill Kartalopoulos produced a diligent study, A RAW History (in 2 parts)

Currently reading Trapeze by Simon Mawer (Other Books)

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