A woman standing in front of ribbons hanging down.
Soak Test

Andrea Bowers Talks Looking Forward and The Patience Required for Her Work

A woman standing in front of hanging ribbons.
Artist and activist Andrea Bowers.

Photography by Taz Essa.

How is it to look back on your work?

It’s a bit uncomfortable to look back because I tend to look forward. I’m always wanting to make the next project, develop new ideas, and record more activists. But I’m proud of the consistency of the work over the years, and I find hope in the commitment of activists. I’m sad that more progress hasn’t occurred, and that we are in a time where our freedoms as citizens are being taken from us.

How has your practice been shaped by endurance?

I make very labor-intensive work. I believe it is important to highlight the connection between craft and activism and to honor the people I document in my work using my own labor. I often work two shifts in the studio; my most productive time for drawing and painting is late at night because it is quiet, with no phone calls or emails. I have trained myself to be very self-motivated and function on just a few hours of sleep.

How do you summon the patience that is necessary to your practice?

Sometimes I have to think about the idea of radical patience in order to remain hopeful. I must trust that the change I wish for in the world might not occur in my lifetime, but that I am part of a larger movement—that the next generation will take the reins. Over the years I’ve been inspired by the words of activist Chris Carlsson: “It’s not easy to proceed politically when we take seriously how difficult, deep, and personal are the changes we seek. But pleasure, passion, and patience can bring real progress. Remember, the Americans you scorn today must be your allies tomorrow if you are serious about changing life!” When it comes to human rights and freedoms, patience isn’t a good quality. We should not wait, and we need to demand change now.