Blog / 2022 / The Future We Need

March 10, 2022

[video transcript]

You can preorder your copy of the book at Cornell University Press, and you can see the whole series of paintings here. If you want to dive deeper into the project before the book arrives, I’ve blogged a bunch about the project in the last three years:

Plus, the project has already gotten a bit of press in what was until very recently mine and Smiley’s local paper. (It’s still Smiley’s, but last month I moved to Lambertville, New Jersey!)

Bettie, portrait by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on panel
14 x 11 inches

The future we need: it’s here! Or, not the actual future that we need, but the book The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century.

This book is not just a practical guide about collective bargaining and all its applications—not just for workers, but for all of us—it also includes a number of my artworks, like this portrait of Ms. Bettie!

Work on this project began in 2019, when my friend Smiley approached me about painting the labor organizers that she and her co-author Sarita Gupta would be interviewing for their upcoming book.

Immediately, I was drawn to the idea of the way that this book would help upset traditional associations with portraiture—the idea that it’s only for kings and popes and other fancy ruler-types. Though the art world has been picking away at this idea for generations now, portraits still have that elitist feel to them in the minds of many people. And since I adore portraiture—I adore the idea of showing a person just how special they are by taking the time to paint them and create a kind of mirror that always shows them the things they love most about themselves—I adored the idea that The Future We Need could help make that concept of portraiture a little more mainstream.

Meeting Ms. Bettie and the other workers depicted in this book was both a pleasure and an education. And that’s another reason why I’ve always loved portraiture. When you paint people, they invite you into their lives a bit and you get to see the world from their perspective. Creating a portrait makes me feel both more myself and more a part of something bigger than me. It’s what makes me want to get up in the morning to meet the future. It’s what makes me hopeful that the future I’ll be meeting is the one we need.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


To receive an email every time I publish a new article or video, sign up for my special mailing list.


If you enjoyed this post, Ko-fi allows you to donate. Every dollar you give is worth a bajillion to me!