Theresa BrownGold is the painter/writer/performance artist/songwriter behind Art As Social Inquiry. She uses art to start dialog around social issues – access to healthcare, immigration, war and dying.
The artist has painted over 200 portraits. Her work has been written about in many publications including the Journal of the American Medical Association, featured on ZDF German television, WHYY public television and other outlets. She has given many talks about Art As Social Inquiry at conferences, college classrooms, churches, senior centers, and other venues. The artist received the 2011 PA Health Access Network Georgeanne Koehler Activist of the Year Award for her painting series Healthcare in the United States. She is the recipient of a 2013 Leeway Foundation Art and Change grant. In 2017 she received a grant from the Puffin Foundation.
The artist has been using art to look at healthcare in the US since 2008. She continues to interview people, and tell their stories about how they get (or not) health insurance. This project looks at how health policy directly affects people’s lives. For more on each subject, click the portrait for the story. “I’ll be painting healthcare in this country until health policy is settled or I die, whichever comes first,” the artist says.
The artist sometimes uses her art to publicly demonstrate in public spaces as a way of bringing awareness to an issue. In 2012 she stood with her healthcare portraits in front of the US Supreme Court and Capitol in Washington DC for five months to underscore the difficulties Americans were having getting healthcare. The 2017 effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act inspired signs to take along with the portraits to many public demonstrations. The artist attended Congressional hearings, and wore tee shirts with hand-painted messages on them for the House and Senate committee members to see.
A word about the performance art piece, “Pussi Artist,” from the artist:
1/2021 UPDATE: US citizens have elected and installed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice-president. My performance art piece “Pussi Artist” was my response to President Donald Trump’s presidency. Although my 2-year performance art piece ended in 2018, I continue to use the name proudly as a songwriter. We ALL sometimes rationalize and talk ourselves into acting in big and small ways that violate our core values of decency and goodness. This will be true when it comes to our blind spots around racism, sexism, transphobia, healthcare — ANYTHING that makes us uncomfortable. I remain TBG Pussi Artist, the songwriter, to remind myself and others to “go wherever we have to go inside ourselves to lie to ourselves, pretend to ourselves…go THERE to the place in our heads where we pretend we don’t know what we know…go THERE where we make ourselves get comfortable with what really makes us uncomfortable and call me ‘Pussi’.” Pussi Artist is alive and well challenging us to make the world better by dealing with what makes us uncomfortable.
11/2018 UPDATE: Art As Social Inquiry is retiring the performance art piece “Pussi Artist,” but she lives on as a songwriter as a reminder that our votes matter, and that the office of the president is not to be trifled with. Shifting majorities in Congress after the 2018 mid-term elections bring a different kind of serious work to the forefront. Now the work of focusing on what positive steps we can take to rebuild, instead of pointing out the setbacks, begins.
Being Pussi Artist is performance art. The Museum of Modern Art describes performance art this way. ‘In performance art, the artist’s medium is the body, and the live actions he or she performs are the work of art.’
As an artist, I explore the human condition, and sometimes I push boundaries to do it. It’s my job as an artist.
I am using my very name as a way to move us into the deep, sometimes unconscious parts of ourselves where we justify actions we suspect or know to be wrong, and do them anyway. As considerate, principled, and kind people we are uncomfortable, but we talk ourselves out of our objections. Where is that place in us? What does it look and feel like?
There are times in our lives when difficult choices have given us pause. We’ve all been there. We ignore the safeguards in our heads blurting out warnings. We do it anyway. We regret not listening to our best selves.
What are the thought processes required of us where we can overlook a presidential candidate’s depraved comments exposed during the 2016 presidential campaign? What inner mechanisms did we engage to bring ourselves to overlook our discomfort?
I rechristened myself Pussi as a constant reminder to self-reflect as a country. Who are we? Let’s reoccupy that same inner space where we talked ourselves into accepting Mr. Trump as a fit leader of the free world…and call me Pussi.
Don’t be mad. Let’s have a conversation.
Performance art and songwriting are the latest additions to Art As Social Inquiry’s art-for-social-change experiment.
Being Pussi in society is the artist’s most recent performance art/social action piece. The artist called into question our inner dialog vs. our actions. In 2012 the artist created another social action piece. Her desire to attend her congressman’s town halls turned into a 2 year game of hide-and-seek when her representative refused to tell her when the town halls were happening. In response, the artist called the office every day for town hall information. “They will have to choose to tell the truth or not every single day.” The next 2 years saw a staff meltdown — the artist was only allowed to speak to the PR person. There were scheduled town halls the artist was not told about. Lies? And questions emerged about the congressman using his position to squelch an uncomplimentary town hall story in the local press. This social action is called “Tracking Town Halls: Do Unscripted Constituent Public Gatherings Matter?”
Lyricist Pussi Artist and Composer Bionic Rhapsodist are writing songs about healthcare as another way to convey what happens in the real lives of those trying to get the care they need. They released their first song Through the Cracks in Fall 2017.
Check press and recent news for press info, pictures, and links.
In 2013 the artist completed the PA Health Access Network’s (PHAN) training to become a certified Affordable Care Act presenter.
The artist continues to document this next chapter in our nation’s healthcare story by interviewing and painting portraits of people who are impacted by the Affordable Care Act, and possible future changes to the law. The artist is over 75 portraits into what will be a 100 portrait traveling exhibit about healthcare.
To inquire about a commission, booking a talk, or anything else on your mind, please send your email to email@example.com