The Pencil and Ink award winner for the 2017 North Dakota Human Rights Film and Arts Festival was “Pulse” by Jack Sadat. Sadat accepted his award on Saturday, November 18 at the festival’s art reception and awards ceremony which took place at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. As part of the reception, Sadat participated in an Artist Talk, and shared his motivation and inspiration for “Pulse”. His presentation is transcribed below in its entirety.

“I’d like to thank you all for being here and taking an interest in human rights. It’s monumentally important.

I remember when I first heard about Pulse. I was laying in bed, looking at the news, and there it was: “Nations largest mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando.” It felt like the world stopped turning. I couldn’t get my head around what I was seeing. So many thoughts flashed through my head. I thought about the possibility that this could happen to me. I thought about how I used to live in Florida, and the utter betrayal of it happening in my home state. I thought about the countless LGBT lives lost, laying on a floor of broken glass. I thought about what this meant for us moving forward. I thought all this, and I had no idea what to do.

And so life went on. Gradually, everyone around me stopped talking about it. I stopped talking about it. But it left a mark on me I couldn’t forget. But nothing really gave me the push to create a piece about it.

Meanwhile, that very year, I founded the school Gay Straight Alliance with my friend Kaylee. I don’t think it was a direct effect of Pulse. However Pulse was an additional push for me to start putting effort into my community. I wanted a place where the LGBT kids could come together and feel safe. Since then, it’s been going strong. This strengethened my LGBT identity, because I felt like I was doing something useful. Sometimes, rather than marching, or creating a petition, there are other things we can do to strengthen and fight for our community. We forget that all too often. I certainly did. And this experience at the art festival has taught me of the other ways I can help my community.

I’ve been an artist for six years. I focused on portraiture and cartoons. I didn’t make pieces I had an emotional connection to, because I didn’t yet realize the value that art has on our emotions. I made stuff that looked pretty and that was all. But when I was at Pride in the Park this year, walking amongst the booths, I picked up a postcard about this very event. Call for an artist, it said. And suddenly, two parts of my life, my life as an LGBT person and my life as an artist, intersected. And I thought, “why haven’t I done anything like this before?”

Of course, then I had no idea what I wanted to make my piece about, which is typical for me. I sat and thought through all the things I’d gone through, and really there was only one that affected me so deeply.

All of the emotions I’d somewhat suppressed regarding Pulse then came back up, and I knew I had to make my piece about it.

So I pondered what message I wanted to send. There were so many intersecting issues coming together at Pulse, which is what made it such a major event in LGBT history. But I wanted to focus on the name itself. Pulse. When you think about the event tied with the name, it makes you think about individual blood and death. There will always be a negative connotation to it. But, I also thought about the pulse of the community. This event greatly impacted us, yes. But our pulse did not stop. It grew stronger, because we knew that we needed to fight as hard as possible, for those who have fallen, ourselves, and each other. So, I decided I wanted my piece to be about the perseverance and connection of the community after Pulse.

So, I thought of several things while making this piece, in order to get my message across. I played with color, using a duality of red and blue in the image, to get the emotions of both love and sadness felt after the tragedy across. I used imagery of the inside of the body, because our community, like the heart, is a unique mix of delicate and strong. While we can suffer and be hurt, it takes a lot to take us down. Also, the heart is what keeps our pulse going. I wanted to focus on how we will never stop going.

I went pretty direct with trying to get the message across as well. I inserted various words into the art: heart, pulse, blood, life, and so on, because this was a piece that I wanted to be a little more in your face about.

I think my piece, beyond my original, more specific message, can pertain to everyone.

The current political atmosphere has made it harder and harder to stay together. Words have become divisive. Just as the LGBT community has a self contained pulse, so does humanity. Everyone thinking about the message I’m trying to bring across: that we need to stay together to stay strong, is what promotes change. I want this piece to be a reminder of what has happened, and what could happen. It’s up to everyone to create a world where our Pulse is united.

I’m honored to have created a piece that invites such interest, and I hope all of you have a good night!”

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