“Do we have a right to be hopeful? With political and ecological fires raging all around, is it irresponsible to imagine a future world radically better than our own? A world without prisons? Of beautiful, green public housing? Of buried border walls? Of healed ecosystems? A world where governments fear the people instead of the other way around?” These are the questions that Molly Crabapple asks in A Message from the Future II: The Years of Repair, an illustrated and narrated water-color film.
Perhaps you have seen Molly Crabapple’s images at any number of racial justice and feminist street marches, struggles in Palestine or Syria, or Occupy Wall Street protests during the last decade. Circulating struggles and ideas, Crabapples art is printed by activist and displayed during these public engagements. Maybe you have seen Crabapple’s award-winning water-color animation films exploring contemporary social issues. Or, just maybe you have read her auto-biography Drawing Blood, or seen her illustrations in Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War. Perhaps you have never heard of Molly Crabapple – a now unforgettable name.
Crabapple writes, paints, illustrates, and make films – among other projects. Her work in all genres highlights the contradictions of structural violence by focusing on everyday life, the beauty and pain of everyday people surviving policies of organized abandonment.
The consummate artist-activist, prolific, disciplined, and down to collaborate, Crabapple had been illustrating comics and workshopping techniques when she cut her teeth in journalism during the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. Living near Zucotti Park, where the first movement emerged, her participation opened-up a new avenue of political engagement, while her apartment was a way-station and studio for artist and journalist from across the globe. “Before Occupy I felt like using my art for activist causes was exploitive of activist causes,” she told the Village Voice. “I think what Occupy let me do was it allowed me to instead of just donating money to politics or just going to marches, it allowed me to engage my art in politics.” Before Occupy, along with A.V.Phibes, Crabapple had founded Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, a burlesque-drawing class. Occupy impacted her political stance, engagement and artistic stylizations.
In all her published and printed images, book covers and films, Crabapple emphasizes scenes from everyday normal life, portraits of everyday people living in dignity and with hope, struggling to survive and thrive. Her reporting has been published in The New York Times, New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker.
My favorite creations by Crabapple are the video illustrations accompanying a narration of current political or social issues. Topics include: “stop-and-frisk”, The Green New Deal, COVID stories from the frontlines, “Nurse Power,” solitary confinement, abortion, the money-bail industry, and a recent collaboration with Maria Carey on a music video. Crabapple’s illustrations and collaborations have earned her three Emmy nominations, and she is the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow Award.
Defiant, prolific, gracious and brilliantly talented, Crabapple is fire and magic. Hear Crabapple in her own voice in this NPR interview.