Communication through art can be expressed in ways that don’t rely on just words. Sometimes they’re obvious, like an image or performance piece on a certain person. But other times, artworks communicate through elements not as noticeable at first, through choices of movements, colors, or how these forms are structured together. All artists communicate through their work, which is ultimately the primal function of art. Colors in a painting hold an unspoken meaning. When looking at a piece, one can analyze how the colors used communicate something about the artist and what feelings he/she wants brought out of the viewer.
A theatre performance tells you on how to feel about the piece by its music selection and the tone of the songs used; whether it is upbeat or down-tempo, happy or sad, how the dancers move and etc. Often times artists may not have an idea of what they’re communicating but that does not mean the communication element isn’t there. Whether we are referring to dance, theatre, music, or paint, all forms of art serve as vehicles of communication. When we think about popular artists of our time, we can use them as reference how art is a means of not only communication, but as a way to promote social change in the world as well. Superstar Beyoncé is a prime of example of innovation communication. Her music serves as a present force for change. She continually uses her superstar status and her art to address civil rights and racial inequality, especially to highlight the wrongful murders of black men by police officers that seem to be reoccurring in the black community.
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Her album “Lemonade” was solely dedicated to black lives matter movement, as each song had lyrics and/or visual arts to display each social issue. Her song “Formation” used imagery that revealed the realities of police brutality, the celebration of black gay ballroom culture, Hurricane Katrina and the Black Panthers. Another politically moved song on the album is “Freedom”, an empowerment anthem for black women with lyrics that appeal to both the historical enslavement of African Americans and current realities of racial profiling and police brutality. The lyrics are accompanied by even more powerful visuals that included the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner holding pictures of their murdered children.
Her renown performance at the super bowl this year included costumes from The Black Panther parties in the early 60’s and 70’s. This is all proof that Beyonce is perhaps one of the most straightforward artist activist of black issues present in today’s society. Legendary singer Billie Holiday has been known for making music for social change. Her 1939 rendition of “Strange Fruit,” embodies the loathe towards racism, through sadness and the horrifying images of negroes being lynched in the south.
The song was essential for gathering support for the Civil Rights Movement, as it was one of the earliest protest songs in a movement that started many. What differentiates this song from other protest songs was that it’s a modern jazz song that doesn’t say directly but shows how racism in America was very much still around though slavery had already ended. Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” marked the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, and it demonstrated how a jazz ballad could be just as moving than as any protest act could be.
One of the more unfortunate aspects of American culture that remained after the abolishing of slavery was the lynching and killing by the Ku Klux Klan and most of the south. Back then, black musicians completely refrained from discussing racism and segregation in America. Several famous black musicians would be labeled as “Uncle Toms,” meaning they would only play for white audiences and didn’t stick up for the social injustices against black Americans in fear of losing their own jobs. Billie Holiday was among some of the first artists to shed light on the tragedies happening the south. The beauty of her song “Strange Fruit” and how it didn’t take the sides of either blacks or whites, but simply grieved the pain of the lynchings in the south. This created a deeper connection with its listeners who couldn’t deny the horror of images revealed by the song.
Zora Neale Hurston was a prominent social justice figure during the Harlem Renaissance period, the cultural movement that spanned the early 1902s through the 1930s. It is also referred to as the “New Negro Movement” and while it was mainly centered in Harlem, other locations also came to be inspired by the movement as well. The Harlem Renaissance era is extremely significant to black history because African Americans were finally able to develop and adapt their own ideas, ethics, and traditions through creativity, and most importantly art. As a novelist, anthropologist, and folklorist, Zora Neale Hurston is praised for her extraordinary way of communicating her feelings and ideals about racial division. Her efforts to join both the art world and the African American population through her literary work proved successful. Her writings displayed talent, strong meanings and creativity. Themes of identity were significant in African American art during this particular period of cultural change. Hurston contributed to the development of a common identity for black people during such an influential time.
Her most known piece “Zora Neale Hurston and the Harlem Renaissance: Searching for Identity” is an innovative display of art and communication from the Harlem Renaissance. This piece combined literary works and sculptures that explored connections between Hurston’s writings of African-American heritage and pieces by other prominent African-American artists working together during the Harlem Renaissance.