Denise Blough Writes about Sue Coe's Activism in The Lantern

"Scenes of animal slaughterhouse fuel artist Sue Coe's activism," by Denise Blough for The Lantern

Since she could think, Sue Coe said she knew she wanted to be an artist and draw animals. Growing up next to a factory farm and slaughterhouse in England gave her that chance.

Coe, a political artist and activist, creates work that she considers a form of “visual journalism.” Her bold prints and illustrations often center on animal activism and the atrocities that take place in slaughterhouses, she said, but she has also made several moral arguments through art on topics such as war, AIDS and apartheid.

Coe is set to give a speech, “Some Animals are More Equal Than Others,” Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Wexner Center for the Arts, which is sponsoring the event with OSU’s Humanities Institute and the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy.

The results of her unusual exposure to meat industry practices continue to be seen today in her art, which she started making around age 10. She’s been featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker, among other publications.

People might be able to read powerful stories about slaughterhouses and what occurs within them, but images can show people things that they might or might not be ready to see or think about, said Amy Youngs, an associate professor of art at OSU.

“It’s a mode of exposing the cruelty to animals without the horror of film or photography,” Coe said. “Which most people can’t look at because it’s so horrifying.”

One of Coe’s works, “Modern Man Being Followed by the Ghosts of His Meat,” depicts a man holding a McDonald’s bag as various farm animals walk behind him. Another print, “Cruel,” illustrates a man gathering the blood of a slaughtered animal into his bag of money.

“Visual language can make humans respond viscerally to images in ways that writing cannot,” said Deborah Smith-Shank, chair of OSU’s Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy and a visual artist. “Writing can maybe do it as a redundancy but I don’t think it’s our primary method of meeting the world head on.”