"Review: Harsh truths define British artist Sue Coe's animal rights work," by Felicia Feaster, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It’s rare to see impassioned, furious, shocking art displayed locally these days. But the powerful exhibition of noted British illustrator and artist Sue Coe’s work at Georgia State University gallery may single-handedly remind you of the power of art to bear witness, perhaps change the world, or at the very least shake up your perspective.
The 65-year-old artist is featured at Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design Gallery in a selection of 77 black-and-white woodcut prints (with traces of blood red) from her book “The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto.”
Coe has spent a lifetime advocating for animal rights, a cause inspired by growing up in Staffordshire, England, next to a slaughterhouse and her own research as an artist visiting abattoirs and sketching what she sees there. Defined by social mission, other works have focused on war, labor rights, apartheid and sweatshops, documenting both human cruelty in war and racism but also the ordinary, hidden violence done to animals in labs, in factory farms and puppy mills, cruelty that is allowable because it happens away from our view.
Her stark, graphic woodblock prints often appear in books and publications like The New York Times, Time and Newsweek, as well as in galleries. Coe’s propagandistic style, with shades of Francisco Goya and Max Beckmann, is pointed, direct, which gives these works their power and sense that nothing is wasted as all visual roads lead to her ultimate message.
It’s almost impossible to look at the work on view at Georgia State without feeling shocked and shaken on some level. That shock may be expressed as righteous indignation and refusal to be hectored or swayed or it may be guilt at the many ways all of us deny inconvenient truths. Whether you buy what Coe is selling or not, I found it hard not to admire the absolute, single-minded urgency of her mission in “The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto”: to protect animals. She makes her point about our inherent hypocrisy where our relationship to animals is concerned in several images that show chickens, fish and other creatures donning kitten or puppy masks, as in “Pigs Wear Cat Masks,” hiding behind the identity of animals we protect and love.