Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sue Coe: Drawing attention to what we ignore every day, a site dedicated to “visual arts and social commentary” refers to Coe as “a ‘graphic witness’ to realities more often overlooked or avoided. She is a journalist who uses printed images in preference to words.” Coe, most often making prints or drawings, explores the nightmarish worlds of factory farming and meat packing, however, she is also known for work concerning the more humanitarian (rather than animal-oriented) issues of apartheid, sweatshops, prisons, AIDS, and war (
                According to an article about Coe, she grew up “next to a hog farm and slaughterhouse in Tamworth, England [… Coe] says she couldn’t help but make a connection between the mass slaughter of humans, represented by the two World War memorials in her town, and animal butchery.” Coe acknowledges that this comparison may seem extreme, but she believes that the way human beings treat animals sheds light on how human beings treat each other ( Coe was born in Tamsworth, Staffordshire, UK in 1951.
       explains that Coe “uses the mistreatment of animals as a microcosm of society, exploring the negative aspects of capitalism and greed in symbolic and graphic terms. During this period Coe’s work became increasingly stark, using collage, drawing and painting in a style reminiscent of artists such as Otto Dix” (
                Coe published two books dealing with the issue of meat in 2005 and 2006, called Dead Meat and Sheep of Fools, a Blab! respectively. says that, in opening Coe’s books, “you will be sickened and sobered by what you see. Many of the images Coe creates to portray the horrors of factory-farming practices are gruesome and hard to look at; at the same time they reveal her commitment to using art to expose ‘realities in a way that stops us dead in our tracks’” ( In 1972 Coe moved to the U.S. and became an illustrator for the op-ed page of the New York Times, later contributing drawings to more publications such as Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. She’s authored four books in total.
                On Coe’s Cruel: "There is a spiritual terror, the promise of hell that makes them difficult to look at, and even more difficult to look away from." —Los Angeles Review of Books (
                Coe also deals with racism, both domestically and in South Africa; she’s published a book about Malcom X (titled X) and many independent prints dealing with race. (
Coe has received a lot of criticism for her politically charged work – many reviewers don’t believe that work that put Coe on top of a “moralistic soapbox” belong in museums, and that the world Coe’s work depicts is inaccurate; that "If the sexists and the racists and the awful rich are everywhere in charge of the capitalist Establishment, why is it that we so seldom see homophobic screeds, tracts against the homeless, or rightist propaganda in commercial galleries, or in the museums?" 


  1. As an X-Files fan, I particularly enjoyed Sue Coe's drawings of Scully and Mulder. I am sure you can look at her fan drawings of the X-Files and make connections between the government (and aliens) manipulating Mulder and Scully in a fictional universe and the government (and aliens?) manipulating our society in the real world.

  2. i like how you swung de certeau a little bit (at least in my opinion) to connect with sue coe's activist and political art. i think of de certeau's ideas of everyday life more with more face value; i.e. mundane depictions of everyday life (BILL OWENS) but it's meaningful to think of his ideas in the light of bringing out details and drawing attention to the unnoticed things in pursuit of uncovering or revealing them with an ultimate goal of spreading the knowledge of their existences.