bell hooks entered my life when I was considering leaving Los Angeles and taking a break from acting. I had just guest-starred on the CBS network’s Judging Amy, in a role that was emotionally taxing and left me wondering what next? During my time on the show, which employed a fair amount of women at the time, placed in the presence of strong veteran women actresses. Many of whom spoke to me about seeing beyond my current role in the moment, but discovering what I wanted to represent in each moment of my life going forward. They saw something in me that caused me to stop and reevaluate my course. For the membership of the Women’s Caucus for Art, I’m sure the conversations surrounding what brought us here are similar–identity, representation, racism, and the genderless patriarchy. These are just a few of the intersecting ideologies that hooks both deconstructs and repudiates in her theories.
hook’s Remembered Rapture, a thoughtful book of essays on her life and writing practice, made it into my apartment one day and changed the trajectory of my life. It was her words from Ain’t I A Woman that resonated with me, and made me question how I wanted to show up in the world. hooks’ ideas and generosity with them, shone a light onto the deeply repressed memories of when I dared to be anything I wanted to be.
bell hooks’ words provided a light for our path, and the wisdom to recognize the societal gridlocks of oppression, especially found in images. Images that model for us a sense of place, that may or may not speak to us as women. However, in many ways the most profound insights she left of us with centered around radical love and controlling our own narrative.
If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it has taught us about seizing the moment, and making an impact. This year the Women’s Caucus for Art is celebrating 50 years of women in the arts. The theme for this year’s conference is Occupy the Moment: Embracing Our History, Enhancing Our Impact. The work of establishing new narratives, while evoking our own liberation, exists outside of the conditions of the male gaze. This is a radical act of self-love.
The upcoming winter 2022 issue of Artlinesexplores many of hooks’ poweful intersectional themes that were made famous within her scholarship, while inviting feminist artists to utilize their collective power to form community. Especially, as conduits for intergenerational and global connectivity within the arts, and on social landscapes. Therefore, in honor of bell hooks’ legacy, and the WCAs mission of supporting women, I encourage you to make radical love part of your activism.
Ruth Weisberg is a prolific multidisciplinary artist whose work traverses the genres of painting, drawing, and mural-sized installation. She has an avid interest in Jewish heritage and Feminist subject matter that oftentimes incorporates the female figure. Ruth is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California and is the Former Dean of USC’s Roski School of Art and Design. She has received several awards for her work, such as the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, a Printmaker Emeritus Award from the Southern Graphic Council International, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 50th Anniversary Cultural Achievement Award. Professor Weisberg has also received such honors as Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, and the College Art Association Distinguished Teaching of Art Award. Professor Weisberg received her BFA and MFA degrees from the University of Michigan, and a Laurea from the Accademia Di Belli Arte of Perugia, Italy. Her work is held in the permanent collections of over sixty museums nationally and internationally.
When I asked Suzanne what inspired her for more than 70 years of making art. She smiles big before replying, “I’m in awe of life.” I smiled knowingly. One only has to flip through her robust catalogue of interdisciplinary work, in order to witness the commitment to a life of wonder, needed to create.
Benton has built an illustrious career that has spanned more than 32 countries, oftentimes, with her daughter at her side. She is a keeper and teller of many stories and her fervent activism on the behalf of women around the world, has been a voice for the voiceless.
Benton, a metal mask maker, mask performance artist, printmaker, and painter was born January 21, 1936, in Brooklyn, NY during the Great Depression. With the men off to war it was “a women’s town.” Perhaps this is where she first learned how to be courageous. Witnessing women working, leading, building community, and thriving while men were off to war was somewhat of a foreshadowing of her future.
Activism is the spirit that seems to drive her. She is the current President of WCA-FL, after reviving the chapter in 2019. Benton went on to lead the largest Women’s March on Washington in St. Petersburg, FL on January 21, 2017.
Three years after reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique she recalls the moment that she was instantaneously transformed into a feminist.
“When NOW’s founding had been announced by Betty and the other founders of NOW were featured on the front cover of the NY Times Book Review Section, I wrote to Betty via the NY Times. In reply, I received a letter on NOW stationary, became a member of NOW.”
The immediacy she felt after receiving that letter on NOW stationary catapulted her into action. In 1971 Suzanne formed both the Central and Western Connecticut branches of NOW.
She is widely known for her feminist mask tales. Often drawing from stories of women in the Bible, and around the world, she uses her masks to tell the truth of their lives.
During our meeting she grabs the mask she uses in her “Bengali Bride” performance. Without missing a beat, she immediately places the mask in front of her face and begins telling the story. I was immediately pulled into the tale of sorrow and servitude faced by the young Bengali Bride. It was purely magical.
Experiencing her 70 year catalogue feels novel-esque. Her latest series of paintings, All About Color, were inspired by the safe inauguration of President Joe Biden.
The paintings are luminescent, vibrant, and other worldly in their construction. These were the paintings that have been “pouring out of her” since the pandemic she says.
Although the pandemic was, and still is, hard for most of us. I found it interesting that she chose to focus on bright beautiful colors instead of venturing into a more somber palette.
However, with someone who is writing a memoir entitled “Spirit of Hope,” I wouldn’t expect anything less.