Artist Abby Zeciroski Creating Work That Is Unapologetically Pro Choice, Pro LGBTQ+ & Political.

Abby Zecirsoki | “America in Tears” 2018

It’s crazy to think that it’s almost 4 years since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. Now that we are looking ahead to the November 2020 presidential election with the hope he will be voted out along with his bigotry and hate, we are excited to see so many individuals as well as organizations ramping up the activism to make positive change across the country.

One of the mediums we have found solace in since November 2016 is art, where galleries and artists have been using their voices and platforms to challenge the regressive policies and ideologies of the Republican party and Trump himself. One such artist who has been unapologetically raising her feminist voice through her art for years is Abby Zeciroski, a Chicago-based woman who recognizes the importance of political artistry now more than ever. With work that delves into attitudes toward abortion, suicide, gay marriage and more, we spoke with Abby to learn about her background, and the messages she hopes to share with her audience and beyond with her latest pieces of work.

(CW: some images may be disturbing to some)

Artist Abby Zeciroski

How did your art career begin initially?

When I was 8 years old, my parents took me to the Art Institute of Chicago Museum. That day, I instantly fell in love with art and knew I wanted to be an artist. I entered a couple art contests and won awards. One of those I placed top 3 of 10,000 entries, which built my confidence. My role model was my High School Teacher Ms. Skinner, she taught me about art and how to build a strong portfolio to get into the top art schools. She encouraged me and was surprised that during high school, I had created more art than all students combined. I was offered a scholarship for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where I studied.

Have you always been motivated to include political messages into your art?

Being an artist and an activist was initially separate work. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Secondary Raynaud’s and Fibromyalgia. Because of this I could no longer do activism, organizing, etc. I saw a Call for Entry for art submissions, titled “Leaders We Love or Despise”. I decided I wanted to try to get into this show. I made two Anti-Trump art pieces and an Anti-Ronald Regan piece about HIV/AIDS. At the art opening, my partner pulled me over to observe all the people that were stopping and spending time studying and discussing my art. From then I realized I could do activism through my art.

Some of your most striking pieces from 2018 to 2019, send some very clear messages about Trump, reproductive rights, Religion and LGBTQ+ rights and more, why are these issues important to you?

I think I can provide endlessly, why social justice is important. When I was young on the L train in Chicago, I would say, wow most people on the train hate me because I’m a lesbian. I’m born a second-class citizen. It makes me sick to think about Trump sending a rapist [Brett Kavanaugh] to the highest court in the lang. I wonder what young girls think: not only have we not had a female president but now we have a “pussy grabber” and a sexual criminal in the highest positions of power. Alabama’s governor signed into law a draconian bill that could punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison.

There are six states that only have one abortion clinic. People with low income- teenagers, people of color, migrants and refugees are hit the hardest by abortion restrictions because it is more difficult for them to pay, travel or take off work. And it’s not just US women who are affected. In 2017 Trump reinstated and expanded a policy called the Global Gag Rule. Trump support is driven by sexism, racism, and xenophobia. FBI data shows that since Trump’s election there has been a spike in hate crimes. My dad’s father was imprisoned and tortured in the former Yugoslavia for preaching the right to your own religious beliefs. My dad bravely came to this country for a better life. A quote I live by: “As long as poverty injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” Nelson Mandela.

Abby Zeciroski | “Pro Choice” 2019

Can you talk to us about the meaning behind your Pro-Choice piece as well as the Religion, Suicide, Hypocrisy- Are they Really Pro-Life? Piece?

Pro-Choice piece: I made this piece after reading this study below regarding the alarming statistics regarding unsafe abortions.

I wanted to showcase the Republican party’s deep hatred of women. Republicans trying to criminalize doctors and female patients. Women not having access to safe abortions, especially poor women. When I was 17 and got pregnant, I was so grateful I had access to a safe abortion, a ride to the abortion clinic and money for it. I was a kid, that no way could emotionally, financially, take care of a baby. I suffer from depression, anxiety, mental illness, and there is no way I could have taken responsibility of myself or a baby. I think all women and girls should have access to free, safe abortions.

Religion, Suicide, and Hypocrisy. Are they Really Pro-Life? piece: I made this art after reading a study about the connection between Religion and youth suicide.

I also identify as a Lesbian, and I have been with my partner for 5 years. Her family hasn’t spoken to her in 5 years because she’s a lesbian. I also helped to fundraise socks, food, and care packages for the homeless through various organizations. Because of my activism I realized that LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately homeless. I think that a lot of religious people claim to be loving, but many are hateful people with blood on their hands. I wanted to expose their deep hatred for LGBTQ+ people.

Abby Zeciroski | “Religion, Suicide and Hypocrisy. Are they Really Pro Life?” 2019

You were recently banned from social media for your artwork. Can you tell us why this happened and how this was resolved?

My art business is currently on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest Business Pages. Currently, I am still banned from advertising on these social media accounts. Facebook and Instagram banned all my political art from advertising. Pinterest has banned all political and non-political art from advertising, except 1 artwork that was representing Anti-Trump art, using humor. I think it says a lot that only political art that got approved is cute and funny. It’s like telling girls to smile all the time. Facebook and Instagram said my art is rejected for being political. They stated I need to confirm my identity, and if approved, I’ll be able to advertise my art but that they would keep my ads in their ad library for 7 years. 

But Facebook did accidentally approved two of my political art pieces. In 24 hours, I had received 200 likes for each piece advertised. I was sent a message that my ad is doing better than most ads, therefore, Facebook offered me a better deal because it rated high. So I submitted to run the ad again. Facebook said it was a mistake and originally should not have gone through.

Art, no matter how good, doesn’t sell itself. It takes marketing and hard work to build a fanbase and relationships, which leads to collectors and sales. Facebook is a private company but the majority of news and what people see, is through Facebook. Billions of users. Mark Zuckerberg has so much power. He is basically censoring my work because I’m doing political, social, emotional art. Everyone should be outraged. It doesn’t matter if you like or dislike my art.

Social media and advertisement is a huge game changer to the old way of marketing art. Throughout history, only men’s work is being shown. Here is a link to some statistics on women in art. Knowing that I can join social media and market and advertise myself was so exciting. I think my work is positive. I don’t think that Mark Zuckerberg, or the people who work for him, understand or represent the communities I identify with.

This link reflects, the truth and how women haven’t been treated equally in the art world. In recent data survey of the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the US, found that over 10,000 artists, 87% are male and 85 percent are white. Social media could have been a game changer but for me it’s the same crap.

Abby Zeciroski | Work in progress inspired by climate change activist Greta Thunberg, 2019

There are people who like to be critical of artists, including political messages into their work. What would you say to them?

I would say three quotes to them. 

One of my favorite quotes, is “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” by Cesar A Cruz. 

The second, is by Lauri Halse Anderson quote, “Art without emotion, is like chocolate cake without sugar, makes you gag.”

Another one of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King, “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter”.

When my LGBTQ+ piece, Are they really pro-life? accidentally went through for a day I received some nasty comments and messages. When I looked at these peoples’ Facebook page, I saw they were huge Trump supporters. From this I learned that I should not engage with them because they are the people who hate LGBTQ+ people and my art is exposing their hypocrisy.

Abby Zeciroski | “Western Eyes” 2019

What do you hope people will remember the most when looking at your art?

That it touches them emotionally. That it is thought provoking and influences them politically. Maybe if an LGBTQ+ person sees my art, they won’t feel so alone. People may look at my art and feel they need to discuss sexism and misogyny with girls at a young age. For the people that are offended by my art I would ask them to go deeper as to why are they so upset and feel the need to attack me. 

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

I stand up for what is right. I see the importance of art in a patriarchal society. I don’t give up. I see failure as part of success. I take time for daily gratitude, meditation, exercise. I am celebrating 11 years of being clean and sober. I learn something new every day, I educate myself about women issues around the world. I give back. I hold my girlfriends’ hand in public. 

My favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “ You must do the thing you think you cannot do”.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Artist Juliet Gilden Showcasing Bold, Courageous Women In Her Paintings - GirlTalkHQ

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