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Guerrilla Girls

FEMINIST ART - They are a secret society whose names, faces and number of members remain unknown. But their message is heard loud and clear, as in overseas-in-other-countries “loud” and billboard-sized “clear.” They are the Guerrilla Girls and they threaten to be anywhere at anytime. Their upcoming visit to Albuquerque, however, is no secret.

Co-founders of the Guerilla Girls, Frida Kahlo and Käthe Kollwitz (adopting the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms is part of the group’s shtick) will give a presentation at the Kimo Theatre promising to “educate, infuriate and entertain.” The feminist art group has been rocking the boat since 1985, admonishing institutions in the art and film world that perpetuate sexism and racism. Despite their trademark gorilla masks, these are women who should be taken quite seriously.
The Guerrilla Girls have produced posters, books, billboards and entire exhibits displaying the cold, hard facts about the low percentage of women and minority artists represented in art and film. One poster produced by the group is aimed at the film industry and touts facts such as “No woman has ever won an Oscar for direction, cinematography or sound,” “94 percent of writing awards have gone to men” and “In 1987, 2.4 percent of major films were directed by women. By 1999, that number rose to a whopping 4 percent.” Other examples of the group’s work include the White House receiving a gift of estrogen pills courtesy of the Guerrilla Girls and a slew of informative coasters found their way into bars in Europe.

Museums and libraries have collected entire portfolios of Guerrilla Girl posters and after 20 years of raising their own unique brand of hell, it is not uncommon for their name to pop up in art history and women’s studies classes.

What started as a way to vent frustration by tacking up posters in New York City in the dark of night has blossomed into an activist group manifesting a noticeable change in American culture. But despite these inroads, there is still a lot of work to do, as Kollwitz explained recently in an interview with Local iQ. Though seemingly intimidating with their hairy masks and black attire, this group is much less judgmental than one would expect. Kollwitz is somewhat understanding of why people are hesitant to associate themselves with the word “feminism.”

“(It) has been demonized for so long,” she said of the common feminist stereotype as humorless, dour, bitchy and ugly. “I can’t tell people what to call themselves ... the labels aren’t super important. But to me it’s important to call myself a feminist. It’s a whole new way of looking at the world.”

As intimidating as feminism can be for some, part of the Girls’ ammunition is humor and wit, hence the gorilla masks. Kollwitz noted that the group believes feminism could use a little humor and it certainly helps to spread their message to those who may not initially be convinced.

“We aren’t just interested in talking to people who agree with us,” Kollwitz explained, adding that when addressing people who may find their messages abrasive, a little humor goes a long way. “It lets you sneak in and surprise and disarm them.”

516 Arts invited the Guerrilla Girls to speak in Albuquerque as part of their Speak Out: Art, Design & Politics exhibition, which is on display through December 20. The co-sponsor of the visit, Through the Flower, is a local non-profit art organization founded by accomplished artist, Judy Chicago.

Susannah Rodee, executive director of Through the Flower, described her excitement about the event in a recent interview, saying that the efforts of the Guerrilla Girls, “Are directly related to the mission of Through the Flower, which is to educate the public about the importance of art and its power in countering the erasure of women’s achievements.”

In addition to their presentation, the Guerrilla Girls will also facilitate a workshop. After the masked avengers explain their philosophy on political art, workshop participants will be given the opportunity to work on their own political art pieces in small groups.

“Great projects have come out of these workshops,” Kollwitz said. “We get out of town and then the people (from the workshops) go and raise hell.”

Though the group has at times been in serious danger chased, threatened, etc., Kollwitz noted that not all Guerrilla Girls adversaries tend to react in such an inciting way.

“A lot of discrimination is unconscious, people just perpetuating the status quo,” she said.
Kollwitz added that the Guerrilla Girls has often received letters of apologies and thanks. Most importantly, the group’s unique and unparalleled work has prompted well-known museums to increase their displays of works by minorities and women. But the Guerrilla Girls aren’t relaxing one bit and will continue to roam the world, reinventing the “F” word along the way.

Ed Fox


"In the early days I just wanted to be given a chance. I got rejected numerous times by the fashion and adult industries, photo reps, and advertising agencies. I have kept every rejection letter and every fan mail I have ever received. The Art Center College of Design and the rest of the people that tried to put me down really held me back. I felt like Rocky taking a pounding. I knew that the harder I got beat, the greater the reward would be—that there would be more of an impact when I would finally get up.

While studying at the Art Center I was told numerous times I was wasting my talent by creating erotic imagery. I followed my dream, and on my way up with my head down, ten years had passed. Comments on my photography went from “You are stunting yourself” to “You are in the beam of the light.” I used to be the little boy flipping anxiously through the pages of adult magazines, and now I’m the one making them—I still can’t believe it.

My fascination with the female form and appreciation for light is what inspired me to become a photographer. I create to satisfy the need to see a better image than the last, and there is ample gratification if at least one other person values my work. I would rather be famous than rich. The fans validate my vision and inspire me to create more.

The most tempting part of a woman’s body is her feet. Feet are a woman’s second body, one I can enjoy without her being offended or even aware. I began noticing painted toenails at the age of 14 and slowly fine-tuned the fetish into my life. Never would I have imaged that my “little secret” would attract so many people.

I originally wanted to become a photographer so I could shoot for Playboy. Since I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I started focusing more on the type of imagery I secretly desired to make. I believe now that I will ultimately be appreciated more by shooting what I really want and for being published by Taschen. I am so grateful for the chance they have given me. I saved myself for Taschen because I wanted my first and possibly only book to be the best it possibly could. It’s printed documentation that I exist—I have finally left my mark. I want to be remembered as an esthete who made a difference in the adult world."

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Hasisi Park

FEMINIST ART - By Hasisi Park.

We assume that artists are of a different category to normal people, and they live a special life. As an artist and photographer, I’ve been trying to put myself in a general category of normal life. I create projects and series out of intimate life through my relationships or the roles I have to fulfill, and all the discordances between my circumstances and I. I’m female after all, so often my works speak for women. For example, being a femme fatal in The Housemaid (a series of work, homage to a filmmaker Kim Ki Young), trying to be a member of a whole new family in The Family (a series of work from Japan), and making a small funeral for bloody panties. I role-play a certain character in an absurd situation, or exaggerate trivial events of everyday life to give women a chance to reconsider their dejected viewpoint toward the world and themselves.

As a lazy and weird-looking Hikikomori (a Japanese term referring to the phenomenon of reclusive individuals who have chosen to withdraw from social life), which may explain why I don’t use pretty models in my work. I prefer to appear in front of a camera. Being a Hikikomori is certainly related to my attitude and perception of art because it limits what I can get from outside. Rather than being a spectator, I choose to be objectified by frightened women, including myself. When you first look at my photographs, it seems difficult to identify with the character because she plays out what most women can’t present in normal life. But it unconsciously arouses desires of becoming one of the characters in the image. By merging gratification of deviation and satisfaction of aspiration, my works could be classified as feminist art.

People who only believe what they see are easily cheated. Lacan once said, “Cynics believed in their eyes miss effectiveness of symbolic fabrication even though the fabrication is realities which compose our life.” I’d like to stimulate people with indirect seduction, which could be a total lie, meaning fictional. On the assumption that the lie itself makes people uncomfortable and insulted, the symbolic fabrication of the image affects people, and they automatically find a connection to their memories or experiences. That is the most important aspect of producing art for me. I don’t have the answer to what I should keep focusing on to awaken people or satisfy them. But I know I want to develop the relationship between audience and artist, and a genuine way exists through an interaction. I will keep providing interesting clues and narratives to make viewers click on their own memory so that they can create a brand new story of themselves.

Melanie Manchot

FEMINIST ART - Right: Melanie Manchot. Emma & Charlie I, 2001.

'Emma & Charlie I' is the first image in a triptych which belongs to the 'Fontainbleau Series', consisting of four such triptychs in total. The series takes as its starting point the well known anonymous image in the Louvre of Gabrielle d'Estree and her sister in the bath. Throughout its existence this work has over and again caught people's curiosity and attention and has recurred as reference for artists across generations.

Drawn to the very ambiguity of the gesture as well as to the contrast between the intimacy of the touch and the blankness of the protagonists expression I set out to work with different sets of women restaging the situation. The invited women have different types of relationships to each other and how this manifests across the three images is a process of discussion, collaboration and experimentation. In each case I ask the two women to first restage the image itself and to then continue to find gestures and moments of touch while remaining constrained within the confines of the bath.

A Victory for Obama is a Victory for Women

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the new president of the USA. A victory for Obama is a victory for men and women around the world.

Let all the world sing and dance in celebration!

Black Womanhood

Wellesley College’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center

Right: DOUBLE FUSE: Wangechi Mutu’s playful razzmatazz makes reference to the past but lives in the present.

“Black Womanhood,” the exhibit at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center, must have seemed like a sharp idea when it was being put together. It examines the ways in which “contemporary artists are challenging historic and often stereotypical images that present black women as the alluringly beautiful Other, the erotic fantasy, or the super-maternal mammy.” By now this is familiar, if still urgent, stuff; what makes this outing special is that it gathers more than 100 objects — traditional African art, Western colonial photos and postcards, and contemporary art — that connect today’s dissectors with the origins of the ugly stereotypes they’re working to take apart.

Barbara Thompson, who organized the show for Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in New Hampshire, does a good job of mapping the territory. But it’s an uneven show with a dour vision that leaves a mediciny taste in your mouth — and, I think, offers signs of a generation gap among curators.

The art of African women was traditionally pottery, beadwork, basketry, textiles, and the decoration of their own bodies (tattoos, scarification, hairstyles, body paint). But Westerners collected primarily African sculpture, masks, and costumes — which tended to be made by and for African men. The women’s portrayal of themselves was more abstracted, less obvious than their men’s literal, if stylized, depictions of women. The show presents women-made pots with bumps and patterns that make reference to women’s physiques and body scarification. The women’s pieces emerge directly from their work and their rituals — like a leather skirt beaded by an adolescent girl in her seclusion as she made the traditional passage into womanhood.

The most charged part of the show surveys early-20th-century Western photos and postcards of African women. Western attitudes are apparent in images that treated the women as curious ethnographic specimens and pin-ups — either untamed, sexually available African primitives or Oriental harem girls. Photographers tailored their shots to different audiences by photographing the same models elaborately garbed or in various states of undress. A postcard of a young topless Temne woman lounging on a rug was published around 1910 as “Timnie Girl, Sierra Leone.” When it was republished in the 1920s, the caption read, “Just you and me. Sierra Leone.” These postcards could be the foundation of an electrifying stand-alone exhibit.

Right: HOT-EN-TOT: More of the contemporary work should have Renée Cox’s crackle and swagger.

But “Black Womanhood” — primarily work by black women, with some contributions by men and whites — deflates as it moves to the art of today. Sokari Douglas Camp’s 1995 sculpture Gelede from Top to Toe is an African woman turned into an armored tank of steel and chicken wire with wooden breasts that jut out like battering rams. In Renée Cox’s giant 2001 photo self-portrait Baby Back, she imitates Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s 1814 painting La grande odalisque by reclining, with nothing hiding her brown skin except for red heels, on a gold chaise longue. Cox asks how race colors our notions of beauty, and she teases black-white, male-female hierarchies. Ingres’s naked white lady is an imagined harem girl holding a fan; Cox has a whip.

More of the contemporary work should have Cox’s crackle and swagger. It should sadden, celebrate, anger. You’d think Kara Walker’s bawdy, violent versions of ante-bellum paper-cut silhouettes would be just what this show needs, but the 1997 pop-up book that’s here is too tiny to convey the fierce beauty of her best work.

The then-and-now focus favors artists whose work is built on looking back — but many artists seem hemmed in by their historical references. And the theme pigeonholes art that is more expansive, like María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s 1994 self-portrait When I Am Not Here/Estoy Allá. The photo shows her naked body from her chin to her belly, everything painted with blue waves. Slung over her shoulders and hanging over her breasts are a pair of baby bottles. Milk seems to drip from the bottles and her breasts into a simple wooden boat that she cradles. A black Cuban native who lives in Brookline with her white husband and their son, Campos-Pons often makes reference to the African diaspora and traditional African art. But her explorations of motherhood, race, and much else have their own rich mysterious symbols, and they’re planted in the present by her sculptural and symbolic use of hair extensions and beads.

These are highlights among contemporary works that are mostly dull, didactic, and rote — like a 1990-’91 photo from Carla Williams’s How To Read Character series that pairs a diagram of the parts of a cow with a photo of the nude artist. It’s art focused more on being good for you than on engaging you. “Global Feminisms,” a survey of recent international feminist art that was organized by the Brooklyn Museum and appeared at the Davis last fall, was similarly full of dour art. This eat-your-broccoli didacticism seems at least a decade behind the times.

In “Black Womanhood,” that’s partly because much of the newish work is at least 10 years old. But it also seems to represent a generation gap among curators who haven’t picked up on the changes in this area of art over the past decade or so. These curators know black and feminist art of ’80s and ’90s, which often took the form of pared-down didactic critiques. What they’ve missed is emerging women artists and artists of color who while continuing to berate the straight white guys who’ve kept their people down also create exuberant visions of what the future can hold. And they’ve embraced lavish beauty — often for its own sake. Among younger black artists, this trend tends to show up as vivid psychedelic colors, glitter, and patterns and fabrics that make reference to traditional African art as well as ’60s and ’70s Afro soul. These artists remain engaged with the past, but in terms of the themes and styles of their childhoods, when the transformations of the civil-rights movement, feminism, and post-colonialism began to be felt.

The single example of all that here is Wangechi Mutu’s 2003 collage and ink drawing Double Fuse. It depicts weird futuristic glam twins with hands made of motorcycle parts and glittering skin-tight outfits with blond hair as epaulets. The patterns recall African art, but the goofy, cheeky, playful razzamatazz is more about beauty than a comment on the past.

Where are Chris Olifi, Mickalene Thomas, Lorna Williams, Laylah Ali, Saya Woolfalk, Yinka Shonibare, El Anatsui, and the Chicago artist Nick Cave? The show would benefit from flashbacks to Betye Saar’s acid 1972 assemblage The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which gave the icon a broom in one hand and a rifle in the other. Or cartoonist Robert Crumb’s notorious ’60s caricature Angelfood McSpade, which was inspired by racist comics of the 1920s and ’30s.

And though it doesn’t fit the show’s then-and-now focus, I wish “Black Womanhood” had a place for pseudonymous Chicago artist Lo (see, who is spending this year following, as closely as she can, the advice Oprah Winfrey gives on her television show and her Web site and in her magazines. If that doesn’t tell us something deep about black womanhood today, what does?

Feminists Censoring Feminist Art

One of the things that really bothers me is the great divide between feminists. There are after all liberal feminists and conservative feminists, moderates, pro-choice, pro-topless, anti-porn, pro-porn, whatever.

So what happens frequently is that even feminists don't get along with each other and don't understand or appreciate the viewpoint of the feminist next to them.

Lets take an issue like nudity in art for example.

One feminist could use nudity to make a profound statement about the history of art and how there are a lot of nudes in art galleries, and most of them are women (see the Guerrilla Girls poster to the right).

But another feminist (who gets upset easily at the sight of nudity and anything remotely sexual) will make a fuss about it and try to have it censored, afraid that children won't understand it properly or their little minds will get warped somehow.

Totally besides the point that children don't seem to care. (See the painting to the right: Changing Times by Charles Moffat.)

It all comes down to difference of opinion, but with one fatal difference. When its written or spoken people have Freedom of Speech. When it is an image suddenly its an issue of obscenity.

If I say the words breast and penis there's no fuss, but if I painted a she-male with breasts and a penis suddenly there would be a controversy.

It really just illustrates that we have one set of standards for words and another set for images, and for artists I think that is extremely unfair.

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International Women's Day at the Brooklyn Museum

Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin drive the bulls and bears on Wall Street, Evening Telegram, February 18, 1870.

Today marks International Women's Day; in 1908 more than 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights (IWD didn't officially begin until 1911). 100 years after the march, women are not only voting, but they're running for president.

Hillary Clinton isn't the first woman to run, Victoria Woodhull (also the first female Wall Street broker) ran for the position in 1872. The Brooklyn Museum has now put the spotlight on her, and all women, with their Votes for Women exhibit (running through November).

The exhibit is housed in their fairly new Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and "examines the methods and tactics used throughout the generations of the suffrage movement with more than sixty objects and images from the days of Susan B. Anthony’s leadership of the movement, to the increased activism after her death in 1906, to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920." Suffragette newsletters, a copy of The Women's Bible, recorded excerpts from speeches delivered during the suffrage movement, engravings, photographs, campaign buttons and more will all be on display.

As for Woodhull, Time Out NY talked to the exhibit's curator, who said, “Despite being such an important figure, Woodhull was pretty much written out of history, even from within the movement. Her presentation was seen as just too radical.”

Yarn art an old woman's tale

It looks like a psychedelic spider web.

It's made of three cargo nets, hundreds of shoelaces, a bungee cord, string and yarn.

Artist Colby Brewer called it a three-dimensional drawing. His former teacher Sheila Pepe called it a type of feminist art strategy inspired by the New York school of abstract expressionism.

"You can tie knots and do as many as you want with as much string as you want," said 7-year-old Vance Larsgard.

Virginia Catherall, Utah Museum of Fine Arts curator of education, called it a massive piece of installation art to be created by everyone who comes to see it. Brewer, an art teacher at the Waterford School in Sandy, came up with the idea as a way to get people excited about art and to have a work in progress that anyone could add to however they choose. On Saturday, the museum opened its doors for free and provided tubs of scissors, yarn and string of all colors for the community to see and add to the sculpture.

"We got people having a great time in the museum," Catherall said.

Norah Johnston, 11, came with her family and decided to make a ball of yarn to add because she was inspired by the "undodgeable" dodge ball in the movie "Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium."

Brewer studied sculpture at the Pratt Institute in New York where Pepe teaches. Pepe has experience participating in large-scale art projects where a professional gets it started and then anyone from the community can come and participate. When Brewer got her to come to the Waterford School as a guest teacher, he contacted the museum and organized the event. In one of the open galleries Brewer connected and hung cargo nets from the top of one wall to the bottom of an opposite wall. Pepe then crocheted shoelaces together and hung them over, under and through the nets to create a second "layer." The public then began hanging or stringing their pieces to and through the nets and web, creating a colorful third layer.

"This idea is about bringing people from different locations together to participate in an idea of collaboration, an idea of tying and connecting, and having points of connection," Brewer said.

String was chosen as the medium because Pepe's own art is almost completely crocheted. She uses yarn, shoelaces and large rubber bands in her work because she likes the idea of mixing and mirroring a domestic craft technique into a higher creation. Her large pieces mix domestic and industrial themes.

"It's taking bits and pieces of life and putting them together to say, 'This is how I see the world,"' she said.

Higher profile for D.C. women's museum

Washington, D.C. -- For almost 20 years, Susan Fisher Sterling has watched visitors come into the National Museum of Women in the Arts to study the works of Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe and Elizabeth Catlett.

Last week, she took charge of the country's only museum dedicated to female artists. Sterling, 52, was named director of the downtown Washington facility, which often does groundbreaking work but is just as often overlooked among Washington museums.

Sterling said that her vision for the 20-year-old museum, which has 50 full-time employees and an annual budget of $10.5 million, includes ensuring that it stands out from others in Washington and the world.

"We are very proud of our permanent collection. We are this jewel box of a building with great work in it. I want us to blow our horn louder," she said. In January, the museum was one of 20 museums and libraries that received a medal from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services for its commitment to public service.

Sterling joined the staff in 1988, a year after the museum opened. The institution, founded by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, started with 500 works; it now has almost 3,000 by more than 800 artists. The museum drew record crowds to its shows on folk artist Grandma Moses in 2000 and theater and film director Julie Taymor in 2000 and 2001. But yearly attendance remains a problem, averaging about 140,000.

As a curator, Sterling organized surveys of photographer Carrie Mae Weems and painters Sarah Charlesworth, Romaine Brooks and Alice Neel, as well as two rare retrospectives of Brazilian art. In addition, as the curator of contemporary art, she brought more photography, abstract painting and feminist art into the archives.

She declined to reveal her favorite shows. "Like an artist, I believe the last work I have done is the best," Sterling said.

Governor General's Awards honour feminist artist

Ottawa, March 25, 2008 – The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the names of the eight winners of the 2008 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Kenojuak Ashevak, Serge Giguère, Michel Goulet, Alex Janvier,
Tanya Mars and Eric Metcalfe will receive awards for artistic achievement; Chantal Gilbert will receive the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts, while Shirley Thomson will receive the outstanding contribution award for her work as a cultural administrator, gallery director and arts advocate.

Tanya Mars

Considered one of Canada's most innovative multidisciplinary artists, Tanya Mars has been active in the Canadian alternative art scene since the early 1970s. Her dramatic, humorous and satirical works–ranging from performance through to sculpture and video–have influenced an entire generation of artists over some 30 years. An admirer of Dada and Surrealism, among other art movements, she is equally attracted to cheerleading and vaudeville. Her work is witty, entertaining and at times bawdy; it is inspired by feminist and utopian perspectives. Tanya Mars is a mentor to many emerging artists as an artist, teacher, curator and editor. She is a member of the curatorial collective that organizes Toronto's 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. She helped found Powerhouse in Montreal in 1973, one of the first feminist art collectives in Canada. She edited Parallelogramme from 1976 to 1989 and co-edited (with Johanna Householder) the definitive Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (2005). She has taught and given workshops at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University) and currently teaches at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Tanya Mars lives in Toronto.

Susan Fisher Sterling Named Director of National Museum of Women in the Arts

March 7th 2008

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) announced today that Susan Fisher Sterling, the museum's longstanding and highly regarded chief curator and deputy director, has been named director effective March 7, 2008.

"We are thrilled to begin NMWA's third decade by announcing our new director," said NMWA Board President Mary V. Mochary. "Susan is a creative and energetic leader with the capacity and wisdom to shape a compelling vision for the museum's future. She has earned the confidence of the Board of Trustees over many years and we look forward to working with her to bring the museum forward to the next level."

"Certainly, no one knows the museum and its workings better than Susan," said Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, founder and chair of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. "Her taste, scholarship, and innovation have been instrumental in the museum's success almost since the beginning."

Sterling has been with NMWA more than 19 years and is credited with helping to shape much of the museum's artistic direction over its twenty-year history. Sterling holds a Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University. She joined the staff of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1988 as associate curator, was promoted to curator of modern and contemporary art in 1990, chief curator in 1994, and was appointed deputy director in 2001. She is an alumna of the Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty (2004), and has received the Royal Order of Merit from the government of Norway and the Order de Rio Branco from the Republic of Brazil for her cultural diplomacy.

Among the major modern and contemporary exhibitions she has curated and/or organized for travel are the first surveys of Carrie Mae Weems (1994), Sarah Charlesworth (1997); two groundbreaking exhibitions of Brazilian art -- Ultramodern (1993) and Virgin Territory (2001); The Magic of Remedios Varo (2000), Amazons in the Drawing Room: The Art of Romaine Brooks (2000), Alice Neel's Women (2005); and the upcoming Fall 2008 Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography; as well as a host of projects in the museum's acclaimed contemporary Forefront series. She also has enhanced the museum's reputation by bringing significant traveling exhibitions to NMWA such as A History of Women Photographers (1997), Inside the Visible: An Elliptical Traverse of 20th Century Art (1997), Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire (2000), and most recently, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007).

Sterling also has significantly expanded NMWA's holdings in contemporary photography and photo-based art, abstract painting and sculpture since 1960, and feminist art.

As deputy director she has been charged with supervising programs and staff in the curatorial, education, and registrar's departments, as well as the museum's renowned library and research center, and directly oversaw the budget for these departments.

The museum, which announced the completion of its first endowment campaign, raised more than $40 million in pledges, cash, and planned giving during its 20th Anniversary in 2007, creating a newfound financial stability upon which to build its programs.

"I am truly energized and honored to assume the directorship at this special moment in the museum's history. Working in concert with NMWA's dedicated board and staff, we will build upon our strong twenty-year foundation through imaginative approaches to programming and cultural partnerships," said Sterling. "I am confident that our future is bright as NMWA continues to build its audiences and carry the message of equity for women artists to a new generation."

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, founded in 1981 and opened in 1987, is the only museum dedicated solely to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Its permanent collection contains works by more than 800 artists. The Museum maintains a Library and Research Center accessible to the public by appointment. The Museum is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, in a landmark building near the White House. For information, visit the Museum's website at

The Venus of Long Island City

Tee Corinne - Cunt Coloring Book - 1975.

Much of the art in “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” is fully experimental, made by the seat of its jeans and pleats of its skirts. In fact, the best way to look at the show is as a walk-in catalogue, a consciousness- raising session, and a class reunion. It’s devoted to the artistic soldiers of the women’s movement from 1965 to 1980, and it’s all here, the good and the bad: cringe-inducing off-the-wall goddess worship, icky dirty-hippie art, lighter-than-air pattern-and-decoration painting, porn as art, breast-beating, bra-burning, the joys and sorrows of second-wave sex, man-hating, woman-loving, bushy hair, aviator glasses, and the revolutionary power of women’s laughter and anger. Nearly every trope in favor today—from photography-based painting to performance, appropriation, scatter art, process art, endurance art, “Relational Aesthetics,” and institutional critique—was either invented or extended back then. This P.S. 1 show is loaded with DIY ingenuity, passion, and literal blood and guts.

There’s so much to be knocked out by: Joan Semmel’s photorealistic paintings of herself having sex seen from her point of view, Shigeko Kubota painting with a brush stuck to her crotch, Cosey Fanni Tutti posing in porn magazines, Eleanor Antin documenting herself on a diet, and Carolee Schneemann pulling a scroll from her vagina and reading it. It’s a rush of old memories and the lust for life.

Let one example suffice for all. Compare Tee Corinne’s explicit little pencil drawing of female genitalia, from her Cunt Coloring Book, to the most famous rendition of the subject in all of art, Courbet’s Origin of the World, which is on view right now at the Met. Courbet’s magnificent eye-peeling, psyche-challenging spread-eagle essentially depicts the dark mystery of female sexuality, the vagina as void. Everything in the painting simultaneously hits you in the face and pulls you into the shadowy cleft. Corinne’s drawing is nowhere near as powerful, but it is far more anatomically detailed and infused with feeling. Instead of obdurateness she gives us labial interface, clitoral hood, flesh, texture, wrinkles, different thicknesses of skin, and so on. Courbet’s painting is one vagina as all vaginas, a source-of-the-Nile Ur-vagina. Corinne’s is about specificity, sensation, vulnerability, and voluptuousness. If Courbet’s work is woman as Venus flytrap, Corinne’s is more like woman as Delta of Venus. Most interesting, however, she also subtly transfers the idea of male sexual power through phallic visibility to the female sex organ.

Expertly organized by the Museum of Modern Art’s chief drawings curator, Connie Butler, “WACK!” is also an occasion to ask yet again about female representation in the art world, an issue that I’ve discussed here before. In 1972 it was hard for women to get their work into galleries and museums. Yet it was impossible to be in the art world then and not be totally aware of the form-changing dynamism of women’s art. Today, museums love the art of the period. They do massive survey exhibitions of Smithson and Serra. Where are the surveys of Lynda Benglis, Dorothea Rockburne, Adrian Piper, and Sturtevant? By my count, totaling up the shows and projects at the Guggenheim since 2000, only 24 percent are by women. MoMA and the Whitney are a few percent better. The gallery scene is even worse: One Saturday three weeks ago, I checked out every show in every ground-floor gallery in Chelsea from 18th Street to 26th Street. Of 74 solos, only 16 percent were by women. The art in “WACK!” may have changed the way art looks—but it didn’t quite change the way it works.

Women artists need chutzpah

"For a woman to be a success, she needs chutzpah, like red legs and high-heeled shoes," says photographer Ruth Oren, who catches the sexy, confident, on-the-go side of modern womanhood in a work entitled, "Red Feet" at a Tel Aviv exhibition marking International Women's Day (March 8).

Oren's photograph of the lower part of "Woman," a life-sized Joan Miro metal sculpture (1.30 m high) on the terrace of the eponymous museum in Barcelona, is one of 64 works by an equal number of artists in "The Faces of Eve." The exhibition by and about women ran until April 4 at the Bible Museum (also known as Dizengoff House) on Tel Aviv's bustling, regentrified Rothschild Boulevard.

The show reveals "the incredible richness of women's roles in our society," says curator Zina Bercovici. "It is an eclectic exhibit of a variety of themes and media with works by primarily Israeli artists, who have contributed one work apiece." Topping the list of themes is woman as mother: nursing, joyous, grieving and pregnant. Woman is also depicted as angel, bride, clown, dancer, Eve, gypsy, mermaid, musician, queen, sphinx and temptress. One genre, however, is conspicuous by its absence: the nude. Bercovici explains, "Nudes are for men's eyes and delight. Our goal is to show how women see themselves."

Males are also largely absent as subject matter, with the exception of several sculptures of men and women dancing. Says Bercovici, "The exhibition is not about man versus woman or even the two in harmony. It is instead about how a woman artist perceives herself when she is not in the glare of a male gaze." If "feminism" can be defined as a movement that concerns itself with gender inequalities, the art in this exhibition would be more accurately described as female, not feminist art.

Do women have a different approach than men when creating or portraying women in art? Exhibition-goer Dina Levy, a 63-year-old housewife from Tel Aviv, believes that subjects like childbirth and breastfeeding are more authentically portrayed by women. Moshe Katz, an Israeli artist who has worked in Paris and Chicago, disagrees, saying that those subjects are "banal, lacking depth, even kitschy," and that an artist of either gender can paint a woman breastfeeding. It isn't the subject itself but the treatment that is significant, says Katz, adding: "I would prefer to see a female artist take on something serious, like the Oedipus complex." Katz was also offended that only women were invited to the opening.

"Imagine the outcry if it had been 'for men only.' Men have something valid to say about women," he adds.

Artist Liliana Livneh, who came to Israel from Argentina in 1977, concurs. She believes that men have special insight into women, sometimes even better than a woman herself, citing the cinematic works of Spaniard Pedro Almodovar. Livneh's work "Faces" depicts a woman as a caryatid (a sculpted female figure in the shape of a column or a pillar serving as an architectural support). "First you see the external beauty, the usual way we approach a woman," Livneh explains. "Then we notice that she is hard at work supporting the architecture. The capital above her head represents her responsibility both as a mother and professional."

Another exhibitor Marlen Ferrer, a 55-year-old painter and environmental artist from Tivon, who came to Israel from South Africa in 1978, says she treats a figure of a woman gently, using gold leaf to show a jewel-like quality in her "Eve and Apple." Ferrer's working method is to begin with tar applied to the canvas, and through rubbing, to watch a shape begin to form. "This is the strength of women, from the dark sticky tar, a gentle soul arises," she says.

Bercovici, 50, a freelance curator from Haifa, initiated the project, which was supported by Bank Hapoalim and the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, after noticing that Israel's response to International Women's Day was minimal. "When I started to work, I was the only person preparing an exhibition." (Subsequently, Beit Ahoti, a gallery in south Tel Aviv mounted "The Silence of the Butterflies," by Hanan Abu Husein, a female Israeli-Arab artist from Umm el-Fahm in the north of Israel, who deals with the plight of Arab women in Palestinian and Israeli society). The city of Holon also joined the festivities (see box on page 39).

Bercovici, who emigrated from Bucharest, Romania, in 1983, says she was fortunate to have had a muse to guide her on this mission. Advising her both on the importance of Jewish women's artistic achievements as well as where to find them was Hedwig Brenner, who has recently completed the final tome of her three-volume opus on "Jewish Female Artists in the Visual Arts" (Hartung-Gorre Publishers, 1998-2007). It features comprehensive biographies of 1,030 artists and their work from Israel, the United States, England and Western Europe.

Like Bercovici, Brenner is a Haifaite who arrived from Romania, in 1982, following a career as a physiotherapist. She began her research on female artists in 1987. Now 89 years old, she is a vivacious, multilingual and outspoken champion of female artists, especially Jewish ones. Brenner, who studied art history at the University of Vienna until the Anschluss (Nazi takeover) of 1938, believes that female artists are more attuned to creativity than their male counterparts because they are closer to nature and its cycles. "Women are more sensitive to love, nature, flowers, children, animals. Men cannot be so near to children as women," she contends.

Brenner is passionate about female artists. She supports them not only because of their artistic talent but because they were shunned in the art world, and frequently not taken seriously once their gender was revealed. "Many times they had to exhibit work anonymously or under their husbands' names," she said during a speech on the opening night of the exhibition, going on to note that women suffer the extra burdens of marriage, home and children.

"Many female artists had to relinquish or seriously curtail their ambitions to suit their husbands' careers; or if they were married to artists, to stand in their shadows," she told The Report in her Haifa home, singling out artist Lee Krasner and her better-known husband Jackson Pollack, who were both American abstract expressionists; and sculptor and graphic artist Camille Claudel, model, confidante and lover of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

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Wack! Art And The Feminist Revolution

Helena Almeida, Pintura Habitada, 1975, 11 black and white photographs with acrylic paint, 19 x 23 inches, Collection Banco Privado.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, the first comprehensive, historical exhibition to examine the international foundations and legacy of feminist art. Organized by MOCA Ahmanson Curatorial Fellow Connie Butler for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, WACK! focuses on the crucial period of the 1970s, during which the majority of feminist activism and artmaking occurred internationally. Praising the exhibition, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Director Alanna Heiss notes: "In addition to exploring international occurrences of feminist art, the show emphasizes New York's role in the movement, as well as its relationship with each artist involved. This is a particularly happy coincidence for P.S.1, as Connie Butler, the curator of WACK! in Los Angeles, has since last year joined the staff at the Museum of Modern Art, and will work on the very special installation of the exhibition with P.S.1 Director of Operations and Exhibitions Design Antoine Guerrero". This exhibition will be displayed on the entire First and Second Floors, and in the Third Floor Main Gallery through May 12, 2008.

The exhibition spans the period of 1965 to 1980 and includes 120 artists and artist groups from the United States, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. WACK! includes work by women who operated within the political structure of feminism as well as women who did not necessarily embrace feminism as part of their practice, but were impacted by the movement. Comprising work in a broad range of media—including painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, and performance art—the exhibition is organized around themes based on media, geography, formal concerns, collective aesthetic, and political impulses. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

A series of performances and panel discussions presented in the Third Floor Main Gallery will connect featured artists with younger generations inspired by feminism. WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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Art Of And By Women

"Earth Birth" is among works by Judy Chicago in a show that features her and eight other feminist artists at Central Connecticut State University's Art Galleries beginning Thursday. (JUDY CHICAGO / March 6, 2008)

Judy Chicago once said she was challenging the notion of what art was supposed to be about by looking at human experience from a female perspective.

Her most famous work, "The Dinner Party," on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum, suggested that art had left the history of women unexplored.

And "The Birth Project" explored a transcendent aspect of the human experience that serious art had all but ignored.

More than 25 years of Chicago's art is represented in a show at Central Connecticut State University's Art Galleries beginning Thursday.

Aside from more than 20 works by Chicago ("The Dinner Party" is not among them), "Female Forms and Facets: Artwork by Women from 1975 to the Present," includes pieces by some of the most famous names in the feminist art movement.

New Britain's Penny Arcade, who was a teenage superstar in Andy Warhol's Factory and began working on her own shows in the 1980s, opens the show Thursday with a live performance created for the exhibit.

Some of Arcade's more famous performances, which draw on her Italian American working-class background, will be screened throughout the exhibition.

The exhibit is the brainchild of curator Robert Diamond. He was exploring feminist themes in his own art and hit upon the idea of a retrospective featuring the legends of the feminist art movement.

He began making calls and found the artists receptive to the idea.

"The idea was to focus on the representation of women by women," Diamond says. "You would normally have to go to New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles to see the work of these artists, but this show brings them together right here."

The roster of talent is impressive.

Carolee Schneemann offers two works created more than 20 years apart. Both "Interior Scroll" from 1975 and "Vulva's Morphia" from 1995 challenge taboos and the antiseptic manner in which male artists (and the men who dominate Madison Avenue marketing campaigns) gaze at the female form.

Unlike Chicago, whose work seems most concerned with aspects of the female experience that have been too long ignored, Schneemann offers a fresh look at subjects that have dominated art for centuries.

She rejects the male version of an idyllic female form and offers a more natural interest in a real woman's body.

The notion that women for centuries have been under the scrutiny of the male stare is a major theme of this exhibition.

Lisa Yuskavage contributes a small painting done in the style of the Dutch genre painters, which might be easy to overlook amid the larger works in the show.

The difference is that the women in the Dutch paintings aren't topless. Yuskavage's painting is both sensual but also a reminder of how women have been sexualized in art for centuries.

Such scrutiny takes a sinister turn in the work of Sara Risk, who died in 1998, at the age of 33, after creating a series of works illustrating her struggle with her own body image and with eating disorders.

The honesty of Risk's self-examination is powerful and poignant and should inspire viewers to make connections with other works in the exhibit.

The space at Central is intimate enough that one should be able to return to a work for further examination.

One theme certain to emerge is the way these artists re-examine the world.

Candice Raquel Lee reinterprets mythological subjects through the eyes of a 21st-century woman.

"My treatment of myth invites viewers to reassess initial impressions grounded in a conventional male eye," she writes in her artist's statement.

She says that the male eye perceives female bodies as passive and sexual.

Judy Fox also delves into mythology with "Venus," which refers to both the Earth Goddess and the idealized notions of the female figure represented by the Venus of Willendorf statuettes.

Janine Antoni examines another area overlooked in the sweep of art history as she explores the connection between mothers and daughters.

But the dominating force in the show is Chicago, who offered a new form of female-centered erotica and shook the foundation of a world accustomed to staring at woman instead of attempting to understand them.

FEMALE FORMS AND FACETS: ARTWORK BY WOMEN FROM 1975 TO THE PRESENT opens Thursday and runs through April 18 at the Central Connecticut State University Art Galleries.There is an opening reception Thursday from 4:30 to 8 p.m. featuring a live performance by Penny Arcade, as well as a chance to meet some of the artists.

The gallery is in Maloney Hall at 1615 Stanley St. on the CCSU campus. Admission is free. Hours are Monday through Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Turning Stereotypes Into Artistic Strengths

“More, please” has been the critical response to “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” the survey of pioneering feminist art currently installed at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. The Bronx Museum of the Arts anticipated the demand with “Making It Together: Women’s Collaborative Art and Community,” which focuses on the groups and collectives that linked feminist art to a larger social context.

Organized by the critic Carey Lovelace, “Making It Together” occupies part of the lobby and a small adjacent gallery. Conventional art objects are few and far between: pink-painted walls display archival photographs, manifestoes and other ephemera. The show is much smaller than “WACK!” but includes a wealth of historical material, much of which would be better served by a book or documentary film.

The theme is timely, at least; the current Whitney Biennial is rife with collaborative projects. For female artists of the ’70s and ’80s, collective practice had several advantages. In keeping with the anti-authoritarian spirit of the times, it played down the roles of the individual artist and the marketable artwork. It also turned the stereotype of women as inherently conciliatory and cooperative into a source of strength.

The consciousness-raising session generated ideas for artworks like the “Womanhouse” (1972), an installation created in a rundown Hollywood mansion by students of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro at California Institute of the Arts. Documentation of the “Womanhouse” in “Making It Together” includes a photograph of Faith Wilding’s wall of crocheted spider webs (a recreated version can be seen in “WACK!”).

Art, especially performance art, was inseparable from activism. Leslie Labowitz and Suzanne Lacy’s “Three Weeks in May” (1977), a series of events including self-defense workshops and a performance on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, raised awareness of sexual violence. “Making It Together” includes an installation documenting Ms. Labowitz and Ms. Lacy’s project, in which the word “RAPE,” stenciled in bold red letters, figures prominently.

Later groups used humor and satire to get the message across. The Waitresses and Mother Art staged performances in diners and Laundromats. The gorilla-masked Guerrilla Girls, represented by the poster “Guerrilla Girls Review the Whitney” (1987), continue to take museums to task for underrepresenting women in their collections. (The group’s Web site,, currently features a letter to the California developer and art collector Eli Broad about the representation of women and artists of color in his collection.)

“Making It Together” includes in its definition of feminist art several community mural projects. A model of the “Great Wall of Los Angeles,” a collaboration between the artist Judy Baca and young Angelenos referred to her by the criminal justice system, is on display along with photographs of similar projects by Cityarts in New York.

The museum has even commissioned its own collaborative mural, “Activism Is Never Over,” by the graffiti artists Lady Pink, Doña, Muck and Toofly. Overlooking the lobby, it injects some much-needed color into the exhibition. The painting spells out the names of notable women from Betty Friedan to Nina Simone in a riot of different fonts, and quotes liberally from writers, activists and artists (including Jenny Holzer, who collaborated with Lady Pink in the ’80s).

All of this is more interesting as social history than as art history. “Making It Together” is an instructive supplement to “WACK!,” however, and a reminder that feminists could raise hell as well as consciousness.

“Making It Together: Women’s Collaborative Art and Community” is on view through Aug. 4 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, at 165th Street, Morrisania; (718) 681-6000,

Smile Gallery exhibits feminist art

Tucked around the corner of 22nd Street and Arch Street in Philadelphia lies a small art gallery hosting an exhibit with heavy subject matter and large artistic range. The Smile Gallery, also a café, is holding a show this month in honor of Women's History Month that is not overtly feminist but covers narrative and aesthetic works focusing on women's views of the world.

Everything from religious ideas to past memories of childhood are displayed in this show focusing on local women artists. Curator and Rowan professor Dr. Debra Miller chose this accumulation of artists because she had worked with them before and knew that each would add more variety and impact to the whole exhibit.

The show is not meant to be feminist in a political sense but in the idea that the works created are a woman's response to her world, according to Miller.

The gallery, which is reminiscent of the top of a small house, is composed of two main rooms and a narrow hallway. It is tight and enclosed, yet airy and bright.

"I chose this space because it is deceptively small and it allows things to flow together and the works draw your eye around the space," said Miller at the opening reception on March 14.

The front room opens up, exposing three artists' works that correlate with and complement one another. The first collection that immediately draws your attention is Lilliana Didovic's "My Journey." It is a vibrant and dynamic narrative of Didovic's life and journey from Yugoslavia to America, and primarily Philadelphia.

Expressive in execution and lively with color, Didovic's works are a celebration of life and her personal adventure.

"The work is not necessarily feminine," said Philadelphia resident Herb Sharp while observing Didovic's work at the reception. "They are just thought of a female looking back over their life."

The next group of works in the front room, which then lead to the small hallway of the gallery, is Betsy Alexander's art entitled "The Joy of Light." Using photography and reflective found objects to create crosses, Alexander focuses her work on the study and exploration of light and the images light can create. Right next to Alexander's bright and impacting photography is Madelen Warhola's "Slovakian Pop," which blends fine art and pop art influenced by her uncle Andy Warhol and folk art inspired by her grandmother. Creating silk-screened t-shirts and practicing pysanki, which is a Slovakian way of meticulously decorating eggs, Warhola has created a way to blend two very different and important parts of her family into one cohesive group of art.

Moving down the hall you will encounter little stuffed dolls, entitled "The Lost Souls Collection" by Francine Strauss. Combining cloth, buttons, lace and other found objects, Strauss creates the angelic dolls in representation of memories and the
people who have come before us.

In the back room you will find two more artists' works. To the left you will encounter expressive, colorful mixed media creations hanging from the wall. Rachel Citrino's collection entitled "Fecundita" could almost be the show stealer, incorporating emotion, power, and her inventive nature. Citrino depicts wonderful Italian landscapes with a childlike quality, using intense color and powerful lines.

"The colors are spectacular," said Philadelphia artist Michael Diprinzio. "Rachel's work gives a sense of Matisse's works."

This collection was created from Citrino's time spent in a painting studio in a little town located in Abruzzo, Italy, the birthplace of all four of her grandparents. The quiet town with only about 70 residents and medieval battle walls covering the whole exterior forced Citrino to look to the hills, a fertile lush landscape. Her works are renderings of a living nature and a beautiful world full of memories and history, including her own.

Following around to the right side of the room, Liz Nicklus' Reliquaries leaves the viewer with a final summary of what this show is all about. Nicklus, an artist for as long as she can remember, has created what seem to be treasure boxes of memories. Using old objects that she could never find reason to part with, Nicklus combines all media into small wooden boxes. They are autobiographical narratives of haunting and happy memories. Each box represents Nicklus' childhood observation of the women and absent father in her life. According to Nicklus, they are about the people who shape any woman's perspective on life and the standard that woman have to seemingly live up to.

This show is about the ideas of memories and life and how they influence women, the past and the present. The works are autobiographical. The ideas become essential by showing that all options are open to women today and that we have reached a place in time where a woman can become, create and experience any thing she chooses.

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