February 23, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Brave 2012: Ai Weiwei

This first in a series for the Washington Spectator on people who, one way or another, this year have told the truth. For this series I am very interested in your take on whom you would nominate. Please nominate your truth-tellers of 2012 in messages here. I will draw the best ones.

Ai Weiwei, brilliant and brave Chinese artist and dissident. Bravely facing down the authorities in the most powerful of dictatorships, Ai calls the attempt to put him away on a tax charge the fake case. The Chinese government has a lot to be worried about.  Thanks to the  energy and clout of Ai, the whole world is watching.


  1. ALEX MCCRAE says:


    Super drawing of Wei Wei, by the way.

    For me the ever-bound-and-determined, truly inspirational Ang San Suu Kyi gets my unanimous vote as one of the most courageous truth tellers of 2012, and perhaps our entire generation.

    As we know, this courageous Burmese woman, and unflagging dissident has spent man prolonged periods of barely tolerable house-arrest in her own country of Myanmar; which has, until most recently, been under the oppressive totalitarian thumb of a most corrupt, entrenched, and repressive military regime.

    Finally, she has officially been allowed to go free, leaving behind her years of many episodes of forced exile from her people, and supporters; almost immediately entering her country’s parliamentary governmental fray, as leader of the official opposition, heading up the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

    I can’t help but see so many compelling parallels in Ang San’s personal struggle for getting to, and fighting for truth and justice for her fellow Burmese, to the sacrifices, incarceration, and cumulative humiliations that the great South African liberator, Nelson Mandela, was forced to endure for almost three decades of his life, behind prison walls. He, and his courageous example, proved to be the driving force in the dismantling of apartheid as a once accepted institution in his homeland.

    This slight, humble, intelligent, caring, beautiful woman, Ang San Suu Kyi, never kept her eye off the prize at hand, the flowering of democracy in her native land and universal freedom and civil justice for all her fellow Burmese citizens. And the fight has only begun, it appears.

    Steve, for me, Ai Wei Wei, beyond his brilliance as one of the foremost art innovators and ‘art doers’ of this new century, is perhaps, more importantly, a relentless spokesperson for the oppressed, marginalized and seemingly voiceless millions of his fellow mainland Chinese brothers and sisters, forced to survive under the yoke of an outmoded, unjust, and at times, brutal political regime—the ruling Communist Party.

    He has been a dogged and effective thorn in the side of the current official powers that be, w/ his high-profile art ‘happenings’, world-wide gallery shows, and his constantly speaking out on social media; to the point where ‘The Party’ has to trump up ludicrous accusations of illegal wrong-doings by Wei, such as this most recent tricked-up charge of tax evasion, to the tune of alleged millions of dollars in back taxes-owing from his global art sales.

    Steve, how very appropriate is your caricature w/ Wei Wei’s middle finger gesture patch directed in the vicinity of the iconic Communist yellow star on the red background. Brilliant.

    This brave, creative man, in speaking the truth, loud and clear, sadly, one day, may pay the ultimate personal price, w/ his very life. IMHO, for him, life doesn’t imitate art…. life and art are one and the same, and are worth dying for, in his heart and mind. Period.

  2. ALEX MCCRAE says:


    Permit me this little play on the now iconic lyrics of fellow Canadian, Paul Anka, who wrote the song “My Way” specifically for one of his all-time singing heroes, the late, great Frank Sinatra.

    My version, is aptly titled “Wei’s Way”, and can be sung to the melody of Anka’s original, “My Way”.

    And it goes something like this:

    “WEI’s WAY”

    And now, the end is near
    And he must face the Bamboo Curtain
    My comrades, I’ll say it clear,
    I’ll state his case, of which I can be certain
    He’s lived a life that’s oh so full
    He’s travelled each and every highway,
    And none much more than this,
    He did it Wei’s way

    Regrets, nary a few
    But then again, why even mention
    He did what he had to do
    And saw it through, with great conviction
    And firm intention
    He planned each charted course,
    Each daring step, along each and every byway
    And more, much more than this
    He did it Wei’s way

    Yes there were times, i’m sure he knew
    Where he may have bitten off
    More than he could chew
    But through it all, when there was doubt
    He just ate it up and spat it out
    He faced it all, and he stood tall
    And did it Wei’s way

    For what is a man, what has he got?
    If not himself, then he has naught
    To say the things he truly feels
    And not the words of one who kneels
    The record shows, he took the blows*
    and did it HIS way


    *Ai Wei Wei, a number of years back, literally took the brutal, sustained physical blows of hired Communist Party goons, and was hospitalized for weeks. At one point , early on in his hospitalization, it appeared his life may have been in jeopardy, w/ a major concussion and horrible, disfiguring swelling and bruising about the face and head.

    Wei Wei’s shocking beating (and the torching of his famous grand art studio around this same time period) was largely provoked by his rather blatantly anti-government conceptual art piece related to the needless deaths of hundreds of innocent school kids in his Western China home-province from a major earthquake in the region. He was merely telling the truth, and drawing attention to the ruling party authorities history of shoddy building practices, and neglect of local infrastructure, which became most apparent in the aftermath of the killer quake, and its many aftershocks.

    Yet Wei Wei forged on, undaunted, just as keen on exposing the weaknesses and injustices of the ruling class., going forward.

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks for partnering with me here. Great extra material on Ai. It is a miracle that he and others forge ahead in that society. Whether they believe it or not, it a good sign of health for China.
    And Ang, absolutely, she is coming soon!

  4. ALEX MCCRAE says:


    You are more than welcome re/ my offering of a little bit of personal perspective, and a few snippets of historical background on the courageous Chinese political dissident/ fine artist, Ai Wei Wei.

    For me, he’s a most fascinating, totally driven, dynamic force of nature— pure righteousness, and the best of the human spirit, personified.

    I’ve tried to follow Wei Wei’s meteoric career arc, both as the cutting edge, ever-pushing-the-envelop, multi-faceted artist/ performer, and as the unflagging, proactive political activist writ large, and am constantly blow away by this guy’s incredible chutzpah, and seemingly unbounded energy reserves. It’s almost like there’s a secret clone in the woodworks, or an identical Wei twin. HA!

    Somehow I just couldn’t visualize, say a Jeff Koons, or a Damian Hurst, willingly taking on the mantle of human-rights rabble-rouser, or enfant terrible, along w/ their primary role as super-star, globally renowned artists; choosing to fight for the oppressed, or marginalized folk in their respective countries, the U.S. and the U.K., respectively.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe making multi-millions from his art is Wei Wei’s prime motivation in life.

    His high-profile, provocative art ‘happenings’, and blockbuster, thought-provoking exhibits around the globe, appear to bring inevitable attention and media focus on Wei Wei, giving him valuable opportunities to articulate his unapologetically anti-Communist regime/ pro- everyman political views. His high-profile art is basically a creative means to a nobler end— the ultimate freedom, and universal justice for his fellow mainland Chinese countrymen.

    IMHO, they broke the mold w/ Ai Wei Wei. He has become a shining template, so to speak, for the new artist/ activist./ warrior, that frankly few could really emulate to the high level of abiding passion, and steadfast moral conviction this man has consistently displayed.

    Steve, I’m curious as to which features of Ang you will choose to accentuate in your upcoming caricature(s)?

    I’m sure you will treat her w/ due reverence, accenting her noble, strong, attractive facial features; those marvelous, high cheek bones, and that longish, slender neck. Can’t wait to see what you manage to come up with, Steve.

    Forge on, good man!