Featured Image: Kathy High and Guy Schaffer, History of Shit, 2017. Photo by Shannon K. Johnson. Image courtesy of Kathy High.
By Paula Burleigh
Expanded abstract for presentation at the Women’s Caucus for Art panel, 2022 College Art Association Annual Meeting
Convening the Women’s Caucus for Art Panel, Patti Jordan asked: “What are optimal means to transcend histories and advance intersectional feminist art and social justice issues in our given climate?” In response, I explored how visual art strategies associated with feminist speculative fiction in art serve as creative catalysts for social and political change. Encompassing science fiction, fantasy, and Afrofuturism, speculative fiction (SF) is a literary genre of conjecture, in which authors imagine alternative realities in order to question current norms.In literature, where SF is a well established genre, it is most often associated with imaginative futures—from utopian visions of all women societies to dystopian cyberpunk landscapes of techno-corporate domination. However, the artists I focus on share a backward looking gaze: they invent figures from bygone eras or fill in the blanks of women’s lives about which little is known. Deeply influenced by Saidiya V. Hartman’s work on critical fabulation—writing beyond the existing limits of the archive—I name the strategies in this presentation as works of speculative historical fiction. Artworks by Cheryl Dunye with Zoe Leonard, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Nuotoma Frances Bodomo, and Kathy High are all the result of research with the aim of expanding or altogether dismantling established historical narratives shaped by sexism, racism, and colonialism, among other oppressive forces.
More than just historical fiction, which extrapolates fictionalized narratives from established fact, speculative historical fiction takes a non-normative approach to time itself, working from the premise that “history” is neither linear nor irrevocably past, but part of a sprawling rhizomatic network of time and affective relationships. Speculative historical fiction not only questions the boundaries between fact and fiction, but ultimately points toward the artificiality of such categories. Some artists working in this vein explicitly mimic the attributes of an archive or a curated exhibition, while others stage more imaginative dialogues with ghosts of the past, rendering them material and present. An artist who deftly imitates archival conventions is Kathy High whose installation, History of Shit (2017), comprises photographs, glass colons, writings, and other assorted objects related to the history of proctology. These are the surviving attributes of Challis Underdue, a queer feminist researcher who pioneered the theory of “excrement vitality,” which held that the complexities of individuals’ excrement mirrored those of human society writ large. Underdue is a speculative fiction created by High and her collaborator Guy Schaffer: to imagine Underdue’s existence posits a subversive counter-narrative to a history of science from which mentions of sexuality, gender, and shit are largely absent.
Using film, photography, drawing, and collage-based practices, High and other artists invite audiences to see their own intersectional identities reflected in history, constructing a powerful archive of foremothers. I read these anachronistic interventions through the lens of queer temporality, which suggests that the construction of transhistorical lineages of influence and affinity—factual or fictional—disrupts heteronormative definitions of progress and time. Rather than privileging the biological nuclear family and its imperative to reproduce, these artists picture novel kinship structures between humans across time and space. A culture is defined by its myths and stories: writing and re-writing those stories is a means of finding pathways through an increasingly perilous future.
Paula Burleigh is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Allegheny College, and director of the Allegheny Art Galleries.
“The Brown Dot Project” keynote presented for the panel
Transhistorical Feminist Agency: A Matter of Gender, Race, Time, and Place
as a part of the College Art Association (CAA) Annual Conference 2021
Data pictographs that illustrate the advancement of BIPOC and women artists from 1970 and 2020
The Brown Dot Project: The populations of Los Angeles was 48.3% Latino in 2015 (2017), architectural gridded vellum, pencil, archival marker, 24×24” (48,400 squares, 23,377 brown dots) 48
Since 2010, I have produced hundreds of sculptures, paintings, and works on paper for a series entitled Make ‘Em All Mexican. I purchase pricey antiques depicting historical and pop characters (plaster and porcelain figures, magazines, and postcards) and paint their skin brown. I’ve made “brown” versions of Elvis Presley, Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble, Marie Antoinette & Louis Auguste, the Queen of the Rose Parade, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and the Greek and Roman gods.
In an effort to keep the work “brown,” I began a series called The Brown Dot Project in 2015. The Brown Dot Project isa series of “data pictographs”—images on gridded architectural vellum consisting of brown dots that represent actual data. These works portray various data sets about U.S. Latino populations; professional numbers in health, education, and business sectors; and Latino contribution to the U.S. Gross National Product. Some of the brown dots resemble designs seen in ancient weaving and architecture; others mirror computer-generated images or are reminiscent of grid-oriented works by Piet Mondrian, Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, and Charles Gaines.
The process is time consuming, beginning with studying and gathering relevant data, creating a formula to present data in 2-D works, counting the boxes in an area of gridded vellum, and dotting the percentage of squares to represent a data set. Some data pictographs contain over 30,000 hand-placed dots.
I describe The Brown Dot Project as “an elegant solution to a series of complex questions about simple facts”—data about Latino life in the United States. I find myself studying a variety of data sets about topics such as the number of Latinos in any given city or state, the national number of Latino executives, and the number of Latinos involved in the American Civil War. The amounts and categories of data are inexhaustible! The works have gone from seven square inches, to 24 square inches, to 40 square inches. The 24 square inch images titled Los Angeles (48.3% Latino population) entail 48,400 total squares (100% of the field), with 23,377 dots (48.3%). Counting squares and dots, completing the corresponding mathematics, and dotting the page takes hours of concentration on both topic and execution.
This work led me to research and compare artist employment data from the 1970s and early 2000s. I found this information by studying the NEA 1977 Tabulation of Artists in Comparative Occupations in the U.S. in 1970 and the National Museum of Women in the Arts Get the FactsReport.
The Brown Dot Project: New York’s population was 27.5% Latino in 2015,(2017), architectural gridded vellum, pencil, archival marker. In this 36×36” Brown Dot piece there are 129,600 squares X .275%= 35,640 dots depicting the fact that the population of New York was 27.5% Latino in 2015.
I then created a series of data pictographs, which I presented in a keynote for the College Art Association’s (CAA) Annual Conference, Transhistorical Feminist Agency: A Matter of Gender, Race, Time, and Place.
Here is what I found:
The National Endowment for the Arts Tabulation of Artists in Comparative Occupations in the U.S. in 1970 concluded that 91% of artists were white in 1970 (900 squares, 819 dots, 91%) PLATE #1; 32% of artists were women in 1970 (900 squares, 288 dots, 32%) PLATE #1; 3.8% of artists were Spanish in 1970 (900 squares, 34 dots, 3.8%) PLATE #2; 5% of university art teachers were minority in 1970 (900 squares, 45 dots, 5%) PLATE #2; 3.6% of artists were Black in 1970 (900 squares, 32 dots, 3.6%) PLATE #3; and women made 59 cents for every $1 made by men in universities in 1969 (900 squares, 531 dots, 59%) PLATE #3. See pictographs below.
According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts Get the FactsReport, 75.7% of museum collections were of white male artists in 2019 (900 squares, 681 dots, 75.7%) PLATE #4; 50% of galleries represented women in the Venice Biennale in 2019 (900 squares, 450 dots, 50%) PLATE #4; of 3050 galleries on Artsy, 48% represented 25% or fewer women 2019 (900 squares, 432 dots, 48%) PLATE #5; 14% of exhibitions at 26 prominent American museums were women 2010–2020 (900 squares, 126 dots, 14%) PLATE #5; 5.6% of women artists in NYC were women of color in 2019 (900 squares, 54 dots, 5.6%) PLATE #6; and 1% of Janson’s Basic History of Western Art are women of color today (900 squares, 9 dots, 1%) PLATE #6. See pictographs below.
These data pictographs illustrate that the trajectory for women artists between 1970–2020 has improved, while artists of color have fared far less favorably. After completing this research and the corresponding pictographs, my recommendations to help advance the careers of BIPOC and women artists is to provide artists with professional career development opportunities, scholar-artist-institution collaborations to publish in and out of institutions, and curator-scholar-artist-institution collaborations to present exhibitions with catalogs.
DATA PICTO-GRAPHS PLATES
National Endowment for the Arts Tabulation of Artists in Comparative Occupations in the US 1970
91% of artists were white in 1970 900-819-91%
32% of artists were women in 1970 900-288-32%
National Endowment for the Arts Tabulation of Artists in Comparative Occupations in the US 1970
3.8% of artists were Spanish in 1970 900-34-3.8%
5% of university art teachers were minority in 1970 900-45-5%
National Endowment for the Arts Tabulation of Artists in Comparative Occupations in the US 1970
3.6% of artists were Black in 1970 900-32-3.6%
Women made 59 cents for every $1 made by men in universities in 1969 900-531-59%
National Museum of Women in the Arts “Get the Facts” Report
75.7% of museum collections were white men in 2019 900-681-75.7%
50% of galleries represented women in the Venice Biennale in 2019 900-450-50%
National Museum of Women in the Arts “Get the Facts” Report
Of 3050 galleries on Artsy 48% represented 25% or fewer women 2019 900-432-48%
14% of exhibitions at 26 US prominent museums were women 2010-2020 900-126-14%
National Museum of Women in the Arts “Get the Facts” Report
5.6% of women artists in NYC are women of color in 2019 900-54-5.6%
1% of Jansen’s Basic History of Western art are women of color today 900-9-1%
I had the pleasure of meeting Marta Kowalewska, Chief curator at the Central Museum of Textile, Łódź, Poland during the summer of 2021. I was visiting the country for two distinct purposes; to visit my Great-Grandparent’s homeland, previously West Pomerania, Prussia, a great source of pride to the maternal side of my family known as Vorpommern. My Grandmother kept close ties with our family in Berlin, and without these important family connections much of our history would have been lost. This history informs my socially engaged project, Land by the Sea. My second reason for visiting Poland was to visit Małgorzata Markiewicz, the artist whose work, Medusa, I had exhibited July 15- Oct.31, 2021 at Triangle, my project space located on the outskirts of Chicago, in Riverside, IL.
Krakow is beautiful and has remained unscathed after many world wars. It feels like an ancient city, the Jewish Quarter lonely and exploited for the enjoyment of tourists. My stay in Krakow was short, and I was looking to head back north to Warsaw. Kowalewska graciously offered me a ride, under the precursor that I was not bothered by her large, elderly Polish Greyhound; exhausted, yet regal and poised, like an ancient Egyptian statue, occupying most of the back seat of her newer model Honda. It rained heavily for most of the day and into the evening. When we were not on back roads, traveling slowly through idyllic, pastoral villages, we were on the highway. Large portions of the sound barriers looked to be constructed of glass or clear plastic and in truly Polish fashion, the windows in these barriers were affixed with large vinyl stickers in the shape of a bird, as to ward off any potential collisions. Polish Culture understands the inherent value of nature.
The following day, Kowalewska picked me up from the Communist-era high rise where I had been staying in Warsaw, and gave me a tour of the Central Museum of Textile in Łódź (pronounced Wooot-ch). The English translation of Łódź means boat, and the city is known as a prewar textile-manufacturing hub. Markiewicz was one of the guest co-curators for the exhibition Open Departments/Closed Departments (2020-2021), and I was able to see Medusa in all her hand-made splendor, constructed from green, black, white, and grey sheep wool, as well as linen, hemp, and wool yarn that was hand-dyed at the Central Museum of Textiles. Basia Śliwińska, co-curator and author of the text written for the Medusa exhibition at Triangle, Riverside, IL writes, “Slowly, persistently, intentionally, from March 15, 2020 and over the seven months of the Covid-19 health emergency, Medusa’s crocheted body emerged, spreading with its fifteen metres long tentacles into the space, first Markiewicz’s home in Kraków, Poland, and then into her studio. Markiewicz-similarly to Penelope waiting for her husband, Odysseus, to return, and by day, weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, which she unraveled by night-created not a cloth but her-story narrativized by the motion of her hands and released into versatile private and public spaces.
She took time to interlock carefully selected yarn in a process of slow labour at a steady pace. Time was passing yet standing still as the making was sometimes disrupted by the necessity to unravel the crochet stitch and repeat the process, imbuing the emerging Medusa’s body with the circumstances of its creation. Markiewicz’s Medusa enacts Donna Haraway’s ‘tentacular thinking,’ mutually beneficial relationships and symbiotic solidarity across species and spaces, insisting on responsibility and response ability to all living bodies. Her masked face allows for any woman, every woman, to become Medusa. Masks are often strategic devices in activist artistic and guerrilla groups such as Guerilla Girls or Pussy Riot, they amplify the wearer’s anonymity and articulate metaphorical invisible positions and silencing in society. They also enable the collective subject to emerge via a multitude in solidarity and cultivate responsibility and response-ability. Medusa becomes a plural body, limitless and moving away from centralized patriarchal narratives.” Śliwińska goes on to quote Haraway and the ways in which “tentacular arachnid create interlaced trails,” Medusa is physically and conceptually connected to all living things, the embodied concept of Haraway’s ‘Chthulucene: ‘becoming with’, evidenced in Markiewicz’s accompanying film where she walks through the grass and forest, her body constructed from natural fibers: wool, hemp, and linen. Śliwińska (2021); Haraway (2016).
Markiewicz’s most recent work, Pimoa, is the collaborative knitting and crocheting of a web-like form, being created remotely with Polish weavers who were solicited through a Facebook page called ‘The Visible Hand,’ established during the pandemic to provide work for stay-at-home mothers and elderly women, or Pajeczyc Grandmothers, an endearing term related to the kinds of crafts they produce. There are several different types of webs and nets at play here, through the structure of the artwork, the internet, and the connectedness of communal making.
Pimoa, like much of Markiewicz’s work, is inspired by two historically important Polish textile artists, Eleonora Plutyńska, and her internationally renowned student, Magdalena Abakanowicz. Plutyńska is highly regarded for bringing the ancient Polish double-warp technique into the vernacular and onto artist’s looms, with a contemporary element added, using embedded cultural meaning and knowledge in unparalleled and revolutionary ways. “Plutyńska searched for and found peasant weavers who were familiar with the ancient weaving technique, and employed them to teach young generations, also at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.”
Małgorzata Markiewicz, Pimoa, 2021. Collaborative crocheted and knitted wool
Plutyńska bridged the gap between folk artists and young artists studying at the academy (Kowalewska 2018). “She cherished a strong belief that folk culture is truly fundamental, infused with genuine values, and consequently enduring enough to withstand turbulences both in arts and even on the political and social scene” (Frackiewicz 1998). “She did not limit herself to the expertise and experience she gained at the school; she went much further, looking for non academic sources of knowledge, seeking beauty in nature and in ever-green folk culture” (Frackiewicz 1998). Much of Plutyńska’s work brought her to remote villages in North-Eastern Poland, one being the region of Podlasie, to study woolen Janów rugs (Kowalewska 2018).
This rich cultural region borders current day Russia, Lithuania, and Belarus, strongly influenced by the presence of Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, and Tatars. The tight-knit communities of folk weavers in the Podlasie region embed their well preserved, multicultural folklore into the patterns of Janów rugs, often referencing the last remaining parts of the primeval Białowieża Forest, sharing stories that illuminate the forests as autonomous, living, breathing beings.
Important multicultural legacies and values are made visible through Eleonora Plutyńska’s research, textiles, and teachings, Małgorzata Markiewicz’s processes and artworks as well as, Marta Kowalewska and Basia Śliwińska’s curation and writing. Through their works we see a beautiful cultural lineage at work, highlighting inherently Polish cultural values found in beauty, nature, connection, and acts of reciprocity, legacies that have helped shape the trajectories of textiles and fiber art within global, contemporary, and post modern art worlds and beyond.
Frackiewicz, A.(ed), ‘Spółdzielnia Artvstów” ŁAD 1926-1996, Warsaw 1998 p 2018, pp. 396-411.
Haraway, D. Staying with The Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press 2016 Kowalewska, Marta. “The Makers of Success.” TEXTILE, Volume 16, Issue 4: Magdalena Abakanowicz: Recollections, Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis GrouKowalewska (2018).
Śliwińska, Basia. “Medusa: Sensing-With and Thinking-With The World.” Triangle, Riverside, IL, July 15- Oct.31, 2021.
Envisioning Cross-Temporal Collectivity in Indigenous Women’s Labor Activism through Contemporary Artistic Practice
By Erika Kindsfather, PhD Student, Art History, Concentration in Gender and Women’s StudiesMcGill University— Department of Art History and Communication Studies, Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies
In 1971, three white Americans opened the Muckamuck restaurant in Vancouver, advertising Northwest Coast First Nations cuisine. The owners hired mainly Indigenous staff. From 1971 to 1978, many workers expressed grievances about inconsistent scheduling practices, fines, and the unfair firing of employees who advocated for better working conditions. After the Muckamuck workers reported these issues to the Labor Standards Branch, they were told that union affiliation was required to assert their complaints. In 1978, many staff members voted to join the Service, Office and Retail Worker’s Union of Canada (SORWUC), a feminist labor union that allied predominantly women workers in industries that were not organized by the major trade unions. Indigenous women workers were at the forefront of this initiative and turned to SORWUC because of the union’s attention to the overlapping issues of gender and race within labor disputes.On May 28, 1978, the unionized Muckamuck workers voted to strike. The strike lasted for over five years, making it the longest in the history of British Columbia. The Muckamuck restaurant closed in 1980. In March of 1983 the Labor Relations Board ruled that the owners of the Muckamuck restaurant owed the strikers $10,000. This was never paid since the owners returned to the US with no remaining assets in Canada.
 Janet Mary Nicol, “’Unions Aren’t Native’: The Mucamuck Restaurant Labor Dispute, Vancouver, BC (1978- 1983),” Labor/ Le Travail 40 (Fall 1997): 235.
 “Muckamuck Workers on Strike,” Kinesis: Vancouver Status of Women 7, no. 6 (June 1978): 2.
 Indigenous women were the main organizers and leaders of the Muckamuck Strike and were impacted the most by the discrimination and illegal practices of the Muckamuck owners and management, given the fact that women have historically accounted for the majority of service sector positions, especially hosting and serving. Julia Smith, “An ‘Entirely Different’ Kind of Union: The Service, Office and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada (SORWUC), 1972–1986,” Labor/ Le Travail 73 (Spring 2014): 42, 55.
Fig. 2. Dana Claxton in collaboration with Sean Griffin, Muckamuck Strike Then and Now, 2018. Photographic mural. Courtesy of the artists.
At the Women’s Caucus for Art Panel held at the 2022 College Art Association Annual Meeting, I discussed a series of artworks that engage with the Muckamuck Strike to explore connections among moments in labor justice, feminist, and Indigenous sovereignty activist histories. Displayed at the Morris and Hellen Belkin Art Gallery as part of the 2018 exhibition Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts, artworks by Hunkpapa Lakota artist Dana Claxton, Vuntut Gwitchin artist Jeneen Frei Njootli and the Indigenous women’s activist group The ReMatriate Collective used the archives of the Muckamuck Strike to consider the complex and generative relationship between past and present activist initiatives. The artists established cross-temporal dialogues through creative engagements of archival materials, envisioning solidarity and collectivity among moments of feminist and Indigenous sovereignty activist activity across time.
cross-temporal dialogues through creative engagements of archival materials, envisioning solidarity and collectivity among moments of feminist and Indigenous sovereignty activist activity across time.
Inspired by a 1999 article titled “Muckamuck: A Strike for Indian Self-Determination,” the ReMatriate Collective created the banner YOURS FOR INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY, (Fig. 1) that hung on the façade of the gallery during the exhibition, accompanied by a black banner concealing the name of the gallery. The ReMatriate Collective was founded in 2014 by Vuntut Gwitchin artist Jeneen Frei Njootli and Taltan architect Kelly Edzerza-Bapty, who developed the organization to connect and empower Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people through social media activism. Their work communicates the shifting, yet enduring materialization of Indigenous sovereignty from the 1970s to the present day. The banner draws from the language of archival materials the forms of communication that expressed the Muckamuck Strike’s political framework in its historical moment. Picket signs, leaflets, banners and newspaper coverage of the strike mobilized the activists’ struggle for justice and communicated their aims to the public. Bringing together the language of the newspaper article and the public-facing nature of protest materials, the banner reorients public space through its re-presentation of the rhetoric defining and propelling the politics of the Muckamuck Strike. The public statement and its reference point emphasize the significance of historical Indigenous political organizing to contemporary Indigenous sovereignty activism. By revisiting the newspaper article, the collective declares an enduring connection among these initiatives and continued relevance of the strike’s politics.
 “Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts- The ReMatriate Collective,” Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, accessed July 20, 2021, https://belkin.ubc.ca/exhibitions/beginning-with-the-seventies-collective-acts/.
 “ReMatriate Collective at 259 Lake Shore Blvd E,” Toronto Biennial of Art, accessed July 20, 2021, https://torontobiennial.org/work/rematriate-collective-at-259-lake-shore/.
 Joanne Barker, “For Whom Sovereignty Matters,” in Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination, ed. Joanne Barker (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 21.
In the monumental photomural Muckamuck Strike Then and Now (Fig. 2), Dana Claxton inserts members of the ReMatriate Collective into an archival photograph from a newspaper article depicting protesters marching at a Muckamuck Strike picket action in 1978. Claxton’s addition of the ReMatriate Collective members to the group establishes a visualization of cross-temporal solidarity, inviting the viewer to consider the ways that gender justice and Indigenous sovereignty coalesce in diverse practices across time while emphasizing their relationship. The imagined collective of Muckamuck strikers and ReMatriate Collective members troubles conceptualizations of time as a linear phenomenon with distinct delineations of “the past” and “the present,” rather asserting the entanglements of historical activist thought and practice to contemporary social justice organizing. Claxton’s photomural shared the gallery space with The Sew In (Fig. 3 and 4).
This collaborative installation by Claxton and Frei Njootli consisted of an assembly of overturned tables, sewing machines covered in grey fabric cases, and chairs draped with colorful sheepskins. These materials were used during two public workshops— Ribbon Skirt Making and Ribbonizing a Shirt— held by Lakota Woodmountain artist and educator Kim Soo Goodtrack (Fig. 5). The ribbons on a ReMatriate Collective member’s skirt are rendered in color in Claxton’s photomural and ribbons hang from the edges of the ReMatriate Collective’s banner, establishing a dialogue with the installation. This visual connection links ribbon garments and the process of their creation to other forms of activist practices centered on gender justice and Indigenous sovereignty.
 “Workshop: Ribbon Skirt Making,” The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, accessed July 20, 2021, https://belkin.ubc.ca/events/workshop-ribbon-shirt-making/.; “Workshop: Ribbonizing a Shirt.”
Ribbon garments can signify Indigenous resilience against colonialism, the continuation of Indigenous knowledge and culture, and a reclamation of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people’s agency, power, and self-representation. The installation, workshops, and connection to the works referencing the Muckamuck Strike emphasize the politics of ribbon garments and their role in generating avenues of Indigenous knowledge-sharing, cultural continuation, and community collaboration.
The artists’ engagements with the Muckamuck Strike establishes ground to relate historical and contemporary activist strategies and initiatives in terms that emphasize continuation and exchange across moments of social justice organizing. Through these imagined connections, the artists draw attention to Indigenous women’s leadership in activist activity across time, subvert the erasure of these histories from narratives of social justice organizing, and envision cross-temporal solidarity and relationality among people dedicated to Indigenous sovereignty and gender justice activism.
 Kari-Dawn Wuttunee, Jennifer Altenberg, and Sarah Flicker, “Red Ribbon Skirts and Cultural Resurgence (kimihko sîmpân iskwêwisâkaya êkwa sihcikêwin waniskâpicikêwin),” Girlhood Studies 12, no. 3 (January 2019): 63–79.
Barker, Joanne. “For Whom Sovereignty Matters.” In Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination. Edited by Joanne Barker. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 2006. 1-32.
Friend or Foe? Access, Art and the Perfunctory Nature of Artificial Intelligence on Creative Process
Featured Image : AI-Generated Portrait of Me from Lensa, 2022
Last year marked the 50th anniversary for the National Women’s Caucus for Art and we’ve only just begun to celebrate the women on the frontlines of change. When I was told that I would become the new editor for WCA’s blog ArtInsights, I was honored. I knew I needed to do something special. I am very interested in our world, and I want us to share in this journey together. I’d like to consider my blog posts “Works In Progress” because similarly to our work, we are in progress. We are evolving and we won’t stop until the end.
In the early 2000s, I wanted to see the exact moment we are living in now come to fruition. I wanted to see access to information, art become democratized, and the ideas surrounding race, capitalism, and economics become demystified. But most of all, I wanted to come to the table as a woman whose intellect was not a threat but an asset. For me, that is what I saw with women artists and women in the art world. They were sensual, beautiful, cultured, brilliant, and strong. More importantly, they were on a mission, and it appealed to me. If it sounds like something that resonates with you, you are in the right place.
I became a member of the organization because I want to be next to artists, writers, activists, and historians committed to changing society. I want to be part of a global community that could see me where I could show up fully as myself. So, I decided to not only join, but to get involved with the art writer’s committee. During my first meeting with the committee, I sat among women who’d made artistic, pedagogical, and cultural decisions surrounding art. Although I was not as highly decorated as many of these women, I not only felt I could learn but that I was among my peers. Because of a natural kinship, I feel among women of all nationalities and diverse backgrounds, I know this is the place for me. The ArtInsights blog began as a platform that centered conversations with artists. I want this space to be a launching pad for ideas and thoughtful, intellectual discourse that pulls on perspectives from all walks of life. This space should not be seen as charity or a good deed, but as a cipher of education that inspires our overall mission—amplifying women’s voices and work. I’m excited.
What I’ve noticed more than anything over these last few years since the pandemic — is a visible shift in cultural paradigms and power struggles, and this year is no different. In fact, 2023 is an important one for our democracy. We had a loss with Roe v. Wade, but there are still more stories to tell in that area. However, we had a big win with the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally legitimized all unions. This month’s theme for our blog is Art and Technology. In this moment when we are looking, we should be looking to the future. Visual culture’s iconography speaks to the subconscious. Whether it’s Barbara Kruger’s iconic slogans, Faith Ringgold’s revealing paintings on race, or Linda Vallejo’s spiritual work and symbolism—women artists have a keen way of viewing the world by making magic from the ordinary.
So, where do you see the direction of art going? For me, I am an abstract painter, writer and sewist. The melding of color and text will always be it for me.
Oscar Wilde once wrote, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” However, I feel that in this season of our lives, artists are no longer simply reflecting on the times, but are using technology to drive the times and reimagine societal narratives. The idea of co-creating with tech signals a strong desire for artists to maintain control of their messages as well as their networks. This is extremely meaningful for women artists as a whole who’ve yet to achieve parity in the male-dominated art world. Artists are working with technology and opening themselves up to a wellspring of opportunity that we still have yet to see.
Over this next month I want to share insights into technology, discover artists that are using tech to affect change, and learn how we could possibly use its innovations. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling determined this year. I am determined not to simply serve myself but to go beyond the footstools of traditional power sources but to evolve beyond the positions of seeker, student, the afflicted and assisted and onto being the model of the change I would like to see globally. Right now, thanks to digitization, there is not only access to information that was previously unavailable, but an opportunity to engage more primary sources and analyze information typically passed down to us. On this blog, hopefully, you will discover some exciting new resources, and decide to get in on the conversation. Therefore, I believe that keeping our eyes on culture, tech, and the environment is key now and for the future.