As summer stretches its legs in the Pacific Northwest, Nikki McClure's calendar is helping me count down the months. The cut paper artist seems to be everywhere now: on bookshelves, greeting cards, and fabulous retrospectives in museums opening this fall. McClure is known for her dramatic etchings of everyday life, resistance, and celebration. As Cinders Gallery puts it, "Armed with an X-acto knife, she cuts out her images from a single sheet of paper and creates a bold language that translates the complex poetry of motherhood, nature, and activism into a simple and endearing picture." She's been doing it for over a decade, and despite age, fame, and maybe a little fortune, seems to be as true to her roots as before. And that's what's so inspiring: a continuous evolution of radical art-making that doesn't sell out after life changes like having families or getting older.
It's a breath of fresh air, really, that as the activism of the '90s grows up, it is simply maturing, not growing obsolete. We need a multi-generational spectrum of radical art—from children's books, to cover art for DIY albums and zines. The benefit of Nikki McClure's relative recognition is that her images are in homes, being read to children. While some of us are needed on the streets, she's pioneering another front of activism within the home, with images that maintain the vitality of street art and the values of localism. She still collaborates with the radical artist collective Just Seeds, and she still has her work available on buyolympia.com, a bastion for local commerce. Rather than hurling age-old criticisms of "selling out" when an artist becomes known, we should look to McClure as a guide for how artistic and political values can remain intact throughout the changing seasons.
Previously: Diggin' Deep with Cristy C. Road