Artists 1011 and Capucine Bourcart in the exhibition Nebula. Protologo, Language Shifting Through Time and Space at Revolú Gallery
by Allicette Torres
Covid-19, since its onset, has led to an accelerated rate of change and innovation in the art world. With new currents in our ever-morphing artistic silos, I’ve decided to create a different art gallery space. It needed to be malleable to the present day—which is situated around the online, virtual, 3D sphere––while also allowing in person, on the street, pop-up variations of such. I have received some pushback as to why a digital space is needed for art, when we strive for a visceral visual or tactile experience within art. I hate to break it to some, but nobody is looking for us as female artists. And indeed, no one is coming to save us except us. Technology can offer a level playing field and affords us to innovate and have the same agility as our male counterparts.
The first exhibition by Revolú Gallery will serve as innovative and will pave the way for future artists. It’s a custom space built from the ground up (not a 3rd party service) with new technologies with real-time 3D rendering within a browser with interactive web walkthroughs. It will reside on our Revolú website, but in the future, it can also exist in other digital platforms, other 3D environments with visual headsets, and even the Metaverse.
As curators and artists, it should be our primary endeavor to figure out how to make modern tools suit us. The world is a different place than only five years ago; we can use many mechanisms to begin a worldwide conversation about art, propagate the knowledge about diverse artists, and cross international borders all within the parameters of the modern-day. Along with all of this, it must be said: technology isn’t what makes the work suitable. It can’t create or make up for things that may be lacking there. Some mediums aren’t suited for all technologies; however, the point is to make the tool––in this instance, technology––bend to the art. Men dominate technology and the art market, and this needs to come to a halt. Though it can only happen if you decide to participate as an artist or patron. Part of the Revolú gallery’s ethos is “for women, by women.”
There are no women in the top 0.03% of the auction market, where 41% of the profit is concentrated. Overall, 96% of artworks sold at auction are by male artists (Bocart et al.). A recent survey of the permanent collections of 18 prominent U.S. art museums found that the represented artists are 87% male and 85% white (Public Library of Science).
Just 11% of all acquisitions and 14% of exhibitions at 26 prominent U.S. museums over the past decade were of work by female artists. “Museums Claim They’re Paying More Attention to Female Artists. That’s an Illusion,” artnet News.
And I can drown you in more citations about women’s disparity to men in the artist, but why should I need to? We can sit in meetings, Zoom calls, or coffee room small talk and drone on about always being behind the eight ball, or we can use the propulsion of the start of the 21st century to turn everything on its ear. Women made great strides at the beginning of the last century, and it’s our job to do the same.
But What About the Exhibition?
Letters, characters, and logograms are visual artifacts that are powerful, palpable, yet invisible carriers of cultural knowledge through time. This 3D virtual reality exhibition intends to feature a broad stroke of artists and their work while discussing the many possibilities within the boundless confines of language and the authority of words in the present day. Two particularly highlighted fiber artists, both French, from this exhibition are 1011 and Capucine Bourcart. They share in creating tiered storytelling through textiles, found objects, and other ephemera within their bodies of work. They carry on with the idea of woman’s work. The manual labor of “craftwork” and elevate it into its proper pedestal as one of the storied first art forms of humankind as far back as 30,000 BCE as documented by Elizabeth J. Wayland Barber, a published specialist in prehistoric textiles.
“Along with cave paintings, threads were among the earliest transmitters of meaning.” -Anni Albers, ‘On Weaving’
Both artists in the show have produced works that hit on the intersectionality of memory, womanhood, ritual, the organic, nature, and the birth of language itself. They defy the preconceived notions of words, language, typography, and the essence of communication. Artwork can become “high art” when it exists outside of the practical form. However, one of the seminal acts for art is to coalesce emotions and the human condition to translate, understand, and process culture. Both artists guide us into inner reflective spaces about human fallibility and how we navigate these paths.
In one of the installations featured, Lettres Mortes, artist 1011 recreates a series of hand-stitched photos of a letter initially made by a young Polish girl––Marie Jelen––who lived in Paris while it was occupied during World War II. Marie originally disguised her embroidery so that her letters would go unnoticed within the fabric itself. Her family was scattered because of the Statute of the Jews and the Aryanization measures during World War II by Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, her letters never reached their destination as she was gassed in Auschwitz on September 23, 1942, only a few days before her eleventh birthday. The found letters came to light from a series of four images taken secretly by a Sonderkommandos (a group of Jewish prisoners forced to perform various duties in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi camp system) from inside a gas chamber in crematorium V at Birkenau in Auschwitz. The film was brought back to the central camp from Auschwitz in a tube of toothpaste where an employee in the SS canteen had hidden it. On September 4, 1944, it reached the Polish resistance in Krakow.
The Artist 1011’s embroidery is a strict reproduction of Marie’s handwriting with hesitations or errors in the spelling. The embroidery is done in black and white, tone on tone, so that the text can escape those who would not take the time to detect it.
Capucine Bourcarts’ series, Asemic Writings, journey is one of revisionist history, one to empower the voice of women. She created a book, a dictionary, words, language, and an entire universe. She is undoing the Christendom narrative, where Adam was the one who named all things in the Garden of Eden. Capucine’s sacred texts transformed discarded materials to actual 24 Karat gold. She leaves you with the questions of which materials are the holiest and the humblest. She tethers a new mystic vocabulary for those who might not have one. Who dares to open Pandora’s box of typography and secrets?
Besides the artists 1011 and Capucine Bourcart, the exhibition features artists Luana Y. Ferreira, Ph.D., Keith Josiah, Tuomas A. Laitinen, Edgar Moza, and Mario Tauchi. Thomas Ruple is the Assistant Curator.
Nebula.Protologo, Language Shifting Through Time and Space, runs from March 11th to August 12th, 2022, and is part of the wrong biennale, a global online experience.
About the Curator Allicette Torres
Allicette has been a member of the WCA since 2007 and International Chair since 2020. She is a Puerto Rican curator, arts writer, and visual artist for over 20 years. She’s undertaken curatorial projects since 2009. With her show Evidence of Things Not Seen in 2019 and artists lecture series, she tackled the invisibility of Latino artists in the arts, specifically the bluechip market in New York City. Another pivotal show was False Idols: Perspectives on Latina/Hispanic/Chicana women, an exhibition inspired by Latina identity misconceptions and truths.
About Revolú Gallery
Revolú is a newly founded art gallery in 2022 and at the forefront of utilizing new technologies such as 3D, new mediums, and innovative presentation methods to further art and artists globally. We are interested in bridging the gap for further conversations about personal, political, abstract, nascent, or experimental ideas. We are not afraid of what comes next.
I am pleased and honored to present feminist art historian Margo Hobbs, who served as president of WCA from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Hobbs initiated and organized the Art Writers Committee, which is how I met her and experienced her exemplary leadership. This interview is part of the WCA Leadership Project in celebration of the organization’s fiftieth anniversary, one of the initiatives of the Art Writers Committee, and part of her WCA legacy. In our conversation Dr. Hobbs shares her memories and experiences about her career and WCA.
Dr. Hobbs is Art Department Chair and Professor of Art and Art History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, women and art, and African American art. Prior to teaching at Muhlenberg, she taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bucknell University, the University of Notre Dame, Illinois State University, and the University of Vermont. Dr. Hobbs earned her B.A., at St. John’s College, an M.A., from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her Ph.D., from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on feminist art and artists of the 1970s and 1980s, with a particular interest in representing identity in photography. She has also written about graffiti art and public sculpture.
MKM: Were you always interested in art?
MH: I was always interested in art, but I realized early on that I didn’t have the discipline needed to really master a medium and work independently. I was interested in talking to my artist friends about their process, and I thought working in a gallery would be fun. (When I was in college, the ambitious young art dealer Mary Boone was on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. My roommate and I decided we wanted to be her.) After college, I moved to Santa Fe and found a job as the registrar of a gallery selling sophisticated paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by local artists. I loved the small city art scene but after a few years I wanted more intellectual stimulation. I decided to pursue an MA in modern art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Working as a TA for the art history faculty, I discovered that I enjoyed teaching along with the research and writing, and so I applied to Northwestern to pursue a Ph.D. to become a college professor.
MKM: Do you have any memorable teachers, mentors, role models?
MH: Artist Tee A. Corinne took me under her wing early in the process of researching my dissertation on vaginal imagery in 1970s feminist art. She was the author of The Cunt Coloring Book—published in 1975 and still in print—which was a key work for my analysis. We met on the Feminist Art History listserv and she graciously shared her own archives, talked through my ideas with me, and connected me with other lesbian feminist artists whose work I would discuss—she knew everyone. I remember her introducing me around at a reception for the CAA Queer Caucus, “This is Margo, who I believe is heterosexual…” Her seal of approval was crucial for me to make connections with artists whose work was barely archived, much less the subject of much scholarship in the mid-1990s—such as Harmony Hammond. After completing my dissertation, I published an article on Tee’s graphics made for lesbian feminist ‘zines in GLQ: The Gay and Lesbian Quarterly which pleased her. And she was the impetus for my recent research on the feminist photography annual The Blatant Image (1981-1983), which originated in the feminist photography “ovulars” which were held on women’s land in Southern Oregon where she lived.
MKM: How has your work changed over time?
MH: My work has changed over time in two important ways: I have embraced my identity as a queer woman and consequently my research feels more personal, and I have learned from the examples of other queer art historians to have more confidence in my scholarly pursuits.
It might seem odd that a straight woman would take up the topic of vaginal imagery for her dissertation topic. One of the faculty on my dissertation committee, responding to my thesis proposal, scoffed that to study 1970s feminist art without taking up so-called “central core” imagery “was just pussy-footing around” (“so to speak,” said my advisor). I took his advice, and developed a thesis that the act of looking at vaginal imagery destabilized a straight female viewer’s identity in a performative sense. Little did I know. A little more than 10 years after finishing my thesis, I fell in love with a woman, realized I had been yearning for that experience my whole life, and never looked back. My desire to make visible artists working at the intersection of feminist and queer art feels urgent and deeply satisfying.
In the midst of that existential crisis of sexual awakening, I began to work on an article on The Blatant Image and the representations of lesbian identity scattered through its pages. I think the draft I sent the editors, Christopher Reed and Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, was a mess of half-baked, theory-driven analysis. They tactfully focused my thesis, offered more nuanced reads of the images, and suggested cuts. From Chris, I learned to think about archives as places where ideas could germinate, not as repositories of illustrations for preconceived notions. From Jongwoo, I was encouraged to think more queerly and creatively as I formulate ideas, to resist fixing meanings.
MKM: What work do you most enjoying doing – teaching or writing?
MH: As much as I enjoy researching and writing, I earned my degree in order to teach and I’m passionate about that. I want to share my conviction that works of art are inexhaustible. In talking about an artwork, you necessarily limit yourself by attending to certain issues or questions while excluding others. Words and visual expression are incommensurable—otherwise artists would just explain their ideas. I want my students to get excited about what art can do aesthetically, culturally, politically. I want them to be able to mine the past for creative solutions to persistent problems, to find themselves in historical works. Over time, I’ve become less invested in imparting art historical knowledge to students and more interested in teaching them the skills to find information, analyze visual evidence, and generate their own ideas.
MKM: I think the talent and skills that make you a successful teacher also madeyou a great leader.For you, what was the most important thing you accomplished as WCA president?
MH: The most important thing I accomplished was after my term as president, when I reached out to all the self-identifying art writers in the member directory and organized the Art Writers Committee. I didn’t have a particular agenda in mind beyond figuring out how to make the organization more relevant for people like me—feminist art historians working in the academy. To be honest, I’m not sure that WCA is my best fit as an academic and the faculty members of the AWC have participated less over time. But the group has accomplished a compelling reboot of the WCA blog, Art Insights, a transformation in process of the WCA publication Art Lines, and the WCA Leadership Interview Project for our 50th anniversary. My part in this has been to convene regular meetings, facilitate constructive discussion, identify initiatives and steps toward accomplishing them, and stay out of the way. Moving forward, I believe that the AWC will be the place where members engage with important developments in the contemporary art world while maintaining a commitment to highlighting women’s voices.
MKM: Art is the focus of your professional life, at homedo you maintain any collections or live with other artists’ artwork?
MH: When I worked at the gallery in Santa Fe, I did a quick favor for one of the artists we represented, and in return she gifted me a small monoprint of hers. Several artists graciously allowed me to choose a small work from their solo exhibitions at the gallery, and some works I purchased over time from my employer with deductions from my small paycheck. These gifts and purchases from artist friends are precious reminders of that time in my life when I was beginning to find my way. Working as a professor in various art departments, I’ve acquired works from my brilliantly talented colleagues and students. And during my time on the WCA Board, I’ve added to my collection works by artists whom I admire tremendously—Linda Stein, Margaret Parker, Rosalind Bloom. Nothing makes me happier than looking at the art in my home and thinking about the connections I have with the people who created it.
As a feminist art historian and former WCA President, I am honored and delighted to have had the opportunity to interview art historian Mary D. Garrard as part of the WCA Leadership Interview Project. Dr. Garrard shared her thoughts about the Caucus’ founding and its early years, WCA’s relationship to CAA, feminist art history, and leadership.
Mary D. Garrard was the second president of WCA from 1974 to 1976. She is an art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, who earned her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, her MA at Harvard, and her BA at Newcomb College. She is an expert on the work of Artemisia Gentileschi and has written four books on the painter; the most recent is Artemisia Gentileschi and Feminism in Early Modern Europe (Reaktion Books, 2020). With feminist art historian Norma Broude, Dr. Garrard has edited three essential anthologies of feminist art historical writing, beginning with Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, published in 1982.
Dr. Garrard is professor emerita at American University in Washington, DC, where she taught from 1964 to 2003. American University honored her and Dr. Broude in 2010 with the inaugural Feminist Art History Conference, “Continuing the Legacy: Honoring the Work of Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard.” The conference has continued to be held; the seventh was online this past September. (It’s a wonderful conference, where scholars from undergraduate to senior faculty present groundbreaking feminist work.) Dr. Garrard has been recognized with a WCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, the CAA Committee on Women in the Arts (with Norma Broude) for their “pioneering feminist scholarship” in 2000, and the Virginia chapter of the National Organization of Women for “scholarly and professional contributions to the history of women in the arts” (also with Norma Broude).