Sue Coe (b.1952)
Sue Coe (b.1952). Charlie Parker, 1978. Pencil, acrylic, gouache and collage on paper measures 18.5 x 24.75 inches (this includes 1.5 inch margin with stamp). Sheet is mounted to white matte board measuring 22.5 x 28.5 inches. A majority of image is hand drawn with graphite pencil and paint. Window exterior (with fire) and standing man’s face are composed with collage (clippings from offset magazine photos). Excellent condition with no damage or restoration. Signed with artist’s stamp, lower left. Unframed.
Born in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England, Sue Coe, who had studied at the Royal College of Art in London, emigrated to the United States in 1972. She settled in New York City from where she has established a reputation as a sociopolitical artist, mostly doing charcoal drawings. Her work references a wide range of ‘not-easy-on-the-eyes’ issues including the Ku Klux Klan, sweatshop conditions, animal rights, petroleum industry violations, apartheid, women’s rights and AIDS. Her goal is to educate her viewers and not to please them aesthetically.In 1983, her book, How to Commit Suicide in South Africa, was published and became a tool for dissuading people from investing in companies with stock in South Africa. A second book, (1986) The Life and Times of Malcolm X, contributed to the resurging popularity of that Black-American political leader. From 1986, her focus has been the meatpacking industry. For research to provide visual impact, she toured slaughterhouses extensively in the United States, Canada and England, and was able to do numerous sketches even though cameras and videos were forbidden. Resulting was her book Dead Meat (1996), which had numerous images intended to show the disgusting, gruesome side of slaughterhouses and factory farms. Coe has labelled the image series for this book asPorkopolis after the first central meat processing center in the United States, located in Cincinnati.Sue Coe began her career in America as an illustrator for the op-ed page of The New York Times, and since that time has had drawings in many publications such as The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stoneand Artforum.
Most of her charcoal drawings are intended to be devoid of her personality in order to free the viewer to focus on the subject. However, an exception is a series, The Last 11 Days, which she made of her sixty-four year old mother dying of cancer. To honor her mother’s wishes to die at home, Coe and her sister returned to Liverpool, England to be with her. Of this experience, Coe said that her mother was of a stoic generation that seldom revealed their true feelings and that she died as she lived. Emphasizing emotional isolation, the resulting drawings are a “sharp contrast between the heavily worked charcoal and the empty paper background . . .”(Folan 20). These drawings also reveal an emotional disconnect or tension between Coe and the situation in that the artist, doing a drawing each day, was able to document the decline scientifically and objectively while being much involved
emotionally. In 2005-2006, the series was a feature exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC
For a quarter century she has explored factory farming, meat packing, apartheid, sweat shops, prisons, AIDS, and war. Her commentary on political events and social injustice is published in newspapers, magazines and books. The results of her investigations are hung in museum and gallery exhibitions and form an essential part of personal fine print collections by artists and activists alike. Coe’s paintings and prints are auctioned as fund raisers for a variety of progressive causes, and since 1998, she has sold prints to benefit animal rights organizations.
Her major influences include the works of Chaim Soutine and José Guadalupe Posada, Käthe Kollwitz, Francisco Goya and Rembrandt. She is a frequent contributor to World War 3 Illustrated, and has seen her work published in The Progressive, Mother Jones, Blab, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Newsweek The Nation and countless other periodicals.
In the 1980s, Coe was featured on the cover of Art News and her artwork has appeared in numerous museum collections and exhibitions. In 2002, Brown University staged an exhibition of her work titled Commitment to the Struggle: The Art of Sue Coe.
Recent projects include 9-11, on the collapse of the World Trade Center and her publication Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round (2004), a critique of the Bush administration. Her latest book Sheep of Fools… a song cycle for 5 voices was published in September 2005.
She taught courses at Parsons School of Design about social awareness in art.
Her work is represented by Galerie St. Etienne in New York City.