Ali Cat Leeds

Posted: March 10, 2011

Interviewed by Chris Richards, January 2011

Ali Cat Leads is an artist currently based in Portland, OR. Ali produces art for the masses and propagates printed poetry as ammunition for the coming storm.

“May all new seeds grow the length and brevity of both our love and our liberty.”

Greetings, Can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?

My name is Ali Cat. Leeds, and I am a printmaker. My mediums mostly include intaglio, relief, and screen prints. I concentrate on ecological and socio-political topics. I chose printmaking as my primary medium because it allows the works to be easily mass-produced for the creator, as well as easily accessible for the masses. I am currently completing my BFA as a General Fine Arts Major with an emphasis in printmaking at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon.

What Goals do you have with your art and its impact on the world?

I believe in the far-reaching power of personal expression in collaboration with collective action. I would like to create graphics for grassroots struggles for justice and create wheat pastes for the streets.

I am always looking for better ways to create my work in the least negatively impactful ways while also finding better routes for disseminating the images.

What message or messages are you trying to instill in your audience?

I suppose it depends on the work. Some works are trying to educate the audience about a specific injustice in the world, while some are created to motivate people to take action. Mostly I want to express the urgency of these subjects and illustrate how they have an impact on all of us.

Your artist bio describes you as specializing in ‘radical and engaged works’.  What does that mean to you?

The word radical comes from the Latin word radix meaning “root.” Radical politics focuses on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in crucial ways. Radical art is a medium used by many including myself to express and share these views. When work is “engaged” work, it proposes ideas or asks questions that invite the viewer to participate in the world around them through thought or action.

Also from your artist bio, your work is said to ‘proclaim a manifesto of a call to arms, where solidarity, love, words, art, and actions are all weapons.’ Does this imply we are at war, and if so, with whom or what?

We are at war on many different fronts. It’s class war against the elite, we are at war in defense of the Earth against the corporations who tear up her insides to see how much they are worth. We are at war with patriarchy, racism, all forms of sexism and subjugation based on sexuality, at war with the enslavement of the entire animal kingdom, against the domination of all our lives.

What first led you to the decision to utilize your gifts as an artist as a tool for expressing your personal views on environmental, social, and/or political issues?

I have always wanted to be an artist. My mother is an illustrator and I used to sit under her drafting table with pens I had stolen from her and draw for hours, every day. My beliefs developed as I got older and so did my artistic skills. It was one of the first passions I had in my life, and it just seemed to make sense to use that skill to work towards the things I am passionate about today.

Ideally, what experience or impact would a viewer take away from your art?

Ideally, so long as an experience has had an impact at all that is a step in the right direction. I hope that my work has more to offer than its aesthetic alone. Whether a poster can become a catalyst for the eruption of a peoples movement, or it simply sparks questions in someones mind – that is the impact I am looking for. Impact itself is what I want to be able to have, to create, and to share.

Your website describes your art as ammunition for the coming storm.

What is the coming storm?

The world as we know it is not going to last forever. There are mass extinctions world wide, food riots, tension between all governments and “their” people, massive losses of biodiversity and cultural diversity.

Something has got to give. I see my art as ammunition for this change because the works help arm individuals with knowledge, ideas, and passion, if people are willing to look for it.

Do you have advice for other writers, musicians, or artists who are creating politically focused art?

Know your audience and never surrender. We may sometimes find it necessary to compromise on the tone of our content, but the only true failure would be a compromise of our beliefs.

What personal lifestyle choices have you made which reflect the views and opinions expressed through your art?

I have not, and do not support any illegal acts.I am a law-abiding citizen.

But really, I try to make sure that everything I do falls in line with my views. That ranges from small acts like mending clothes, cutting friends hair for free, planting a garden, sharing what I can, not wearing makeup, and the list goes on and on. I won’t talk more of large acts.

Is there any hope for success?

I would not believe in anything if I thought there was no hope.

How important do you feel it is for artists/writers to communicate and discuss these topics and themes via their art and writing, as opposed to spending their time developing sustainable personal practices?  Can you do  both?

I believe that we must use all the tools and resources that we have available to us to work towards a better world. We all have individual strengths that we can utilize. If a revolution does occur, not all will be willing or able to pick up weapons. We need gardeners, artists, builders, herbalists, musicians, cooks, writers, and everything in between. I have met many people who run off to the woods and learn to live sustainably completely off the grid. In the large scheme of things, that would be just like killing yourself. You can no longer contribute anything to the common good.

As for how important I feel it is for us to communicate versus actively develop sustainable practices- I believe that it is absolutely possible to do both if you are aware that there will be a compromise. The individual acts we create, while important, will mean nothing if we do not come together and organize. Sustaining from eating fish will not stop the over-exploitation of at least 75% of fisheries world wide. In the same way that eliminating racism, sexism and homophobia in ourselves does not make them disappear for the rest of the world.

For more information about Ali Cat Leads, and to view her artworks, please visit her website: