Sue Coe is perhaps the greatest political artist of her generation. I can’t think of anyone who comes close. Whether one agrees with her point of view or not, her passion, her draftsmanship and her commitment to the causes she believes in can’t be denied.
From Michael Brenson’s New York Times review of Sue’s first gallery exhibit: “Using collage and the vocabulary of outrage developed by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Goya, George Grosz, Kathe Kollwitz and the Mexican muralists, Coe pieces together images that are direct and unequivocal…There are no questions asked; there is no curiosity about the other side or doubt that everyone is either part of the solution or part of the problem… Coe is not an artist who will reassure anyone who is troubled by the complacency and exploitation of the right but also by the inflexibility and exclusiveness of the left…And Coe’s images will reinforce anger about some or all of the issues with which she is concerned.”
Illustration as journalism: “Wait a moment. I don’t want to die this afternoon.“ was published by The Village Voice in its February 22, 1994 issue. Each piece is a full page. The design director was Robert Newman.
Text: “Wait a moment, I don’t want to die this afternoon.” by Sue Coe
On invitation from the Institute of Medical Humanities, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, I made paintings of the infectious disease ward. It is a hospital for the indigent and one of the foremost in the world for AIDS research and treatment. The following pictures are what I saw, or reconstructions of what I was told.
“It’s a horrible disease, it’s relentless-everything you throw at the virus, the virus moves around it. It never lets up-constantly putting the pressure on…I hate it.” Dr. Avery
“Doctors can’t stand insurance companies calling all the time, eying up staff hours, when they could be caring for patients. It’s hard to answer where future AIDS patients are going to receive care. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN. There needs to be a lot of spreading of the word; the trouble is, there are not that many people listening.” Dr. Pollard
Infectious Disease Clinic: Outpatients, up to sixty a day. One patient to another…”They told me yesterday, I’m in shock.” “I was told six years ago, and I’m still alive and healthy, I’ll give my phone number, there are support groups, call me, I can help.”
Ethics Rounds: Crystal, 22 years old, white female, commercial sex worker. Late stage of AIDS. Six months of diarrhea, dizziness, lethargy, severe dehydration. Patient’s mental status has deteriorated. She is refusing medication and wants to go home. Doctors debate how aggressive to be with medication. The family insists Crystal receive medication. After much discussion, it is decided that the patient clearly refused treatment, when she was mentally competent, and those wishes have to be followed
Louis (Notes From Doctor’s Meeting): Louis, African American, Male, gay, age 35. Final stage of AIDS. B.P. is 118/80. The patient is not mentally competent or coherent, does not respond to questions. Patient is tied to the bed. Patient has renal insufficiency and hypertension. Doctors are surprised he is still alive. The family denies Louis is gay, and that he has AIDS. They want more aggressive treatment for cancer. Doctors have explained that every organ of the body is involved, and that louis should be in a Hospice. The patient’s lover of eight years does not have any legal rights. Doctor Pollard says, “The law has to be changed, to give power to the significant other.” As the meeting ends, Louis’ father arrives and wanders from room to room looking for his son. Louis does not recognize him.
Kaposi’s Sarcoma: “He positions himself to me, like he wanted to be touched. He was also a Doctor, and my friend. People with full-blown AIDS are rarely touched. The skin wasn’t opened, so there wasn’t a need to wear gloves, but I thought I needed to, because the diseased flesh looked so awful. He went into a deep sleep. Two days later, he was dead. When was the last time you touched someone?”
Blue Bath: “The day before he died, he had a taste for a blue cocktail-type drink. He had diarrhea for a long time, and it was so bad, he could only eat and drink sitting in a bath. I watched as the drink went right
Sue began her career as an illustrator. Early on, Jerelle Kraus at The New York Times Op-Ed, Louise Kollenbaum at Mother Jones, George Delmerico at The Village Voice and Patrick Flynn at The Progressive were all art directors who gave her regular assignments. I first came across her work in the pages of Esquire.
Sue’s first important gallery show was at P.P.O.W. in 1985. Today, her work can be seen at Galerie St. Etienne.
England is a Bitch, 1982, mixed media, collage on paper, 41 x 55”
Bobby Sands, 1982, Mixed media, collage on paper, 29 ˝ x 41”.
Defend Yourself to Death, 1982, Collage on paper, 5 x 3’
Riot, 1982, Pencil and tempera on paper, 5 ˝ x 4’
President Raygun Takes a Hot Bath, 1984, Graphite and mixed media on paper, 33 ˝ x 25”, The image as reproduced here is from the November 20, 1984 issue of the Village Voice.
Let them eat cake, 1984, Paint on canvas, 6 x 6 ˝” published in Mother Jones
Vivisection, 1979, Graphite on paper, 40 x 28”
The Last Dance, 1982, Tempera on paper, 4 ˝ x 3’
Reagan as Pig, 1982, Graphite on paper, 20 x 30” published in Raw Magazine volume 1 number 4 edited and published by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (March ’82).
Homeless Women in Penn Station, 1985, Graphite on paper, 30 x 22”
Peoples Republic, 1983, Graphite on paper. 20 x 30” from “How to Commit Suicide in South Africa” published by RAW books (Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly)
We Come Grinning Into Your Paradise, 1982, Graphite and collage on paper, 50 ľ x 70”
Jacket art for Kathy Acker's novel "Great Expectations" (1982)
Dorothy Day, 1983, Tempera on paper, 40 x 50” published in Esquire