Envisioning Cross-Temporal Collectivity in Indigenous Women’s Labor Activism through Contemporary Artistic Practice

Envisioning Cross-Temporal Collectivity in Indigenous Women’s Labor Activism through Contemporary Artistic Practice

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

A picture containing grass, outdoor, sky, tree

Description automatically generated
Fig. 1. ReMatriate Collective, YOURS FOR INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY, 2018. Appliqué banner. Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, purchased with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, 2019. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography.

In 1971, three white Americans opened the Muckamuck restaurant in Vancouver, advertising Northwest Coast First Nations cuisine.[1] The owners hired mainly Indigenous staff.[2] 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.[3] After the Muckamuck workers reported these issues to the Labor Standards Branch, they were told that union affiliation was required to assert their complaints.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]On May 28, 1978, the unionized Muckamuck workers voted to strike.[7] The strike lasted for over five years, making it the longest in the history of British Columbia.[8] The Muckamuck restaurant closed in 1980.[9] 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.[1]

[1] Janet Mary Nicol, “’Unions Aren’t Native’: The Mucamuck Restaurant Labor Dispute, Vancouver, BC (1978- 1983),” Labor/ Le Travail 40 (Fall 1997): 235.

[2] “Muckamuck Workers on Strike,” Kinesis: Vancouver Status of Women 7, no. 6 (June 1978): 2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nicol, 236.

[5] The industries encompassed by SORWUC have historically employed predominately women workers. Nicol, 236. 

[6] Nicol, 240. 

[7] 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.

[8] Ibid, 63.

[9] Nicol, 235.

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.”

Erika Kindsfather

A group of people holding signs

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

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. 

[1] Ibid, 249.

Fig. 3. Dana Claxton in collaboration with Sean Griffin, Muckamuck Strike Then and Now, 2018; and Dana Claxton and Jeneen Frei Njootli, The Sew In, 2018. Courtesy of the artists. Installation view, Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts (September 4–December 2, 2018), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia.) 

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.[1]  Their work communicates the shifting, yet enduring materialization of Indigenous sovereignty from the 1970s to the present day.[2] 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.[3] By revisiting the newspaper article, the collective declares an enduring connection among these initiatives and continued relevance of the strike’s politics.

[1] “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/.

[2] “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/.

[3] 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.

Fig. 4. Dana Claxton and Jeneen Frei Njootli, The Sew In, 2018. Ribbon, sewing machines, sheep skin, irons, ironing boards, tables, chairs and sewing materials. Installation view, Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts (September 4 – December 2, 2018), Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography.

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)

Fig. 5. Dana Claxton and Jeneen Frei Njootli, The Sew In, 2018. Ribbon, sewing machines, sheep skin, irons, ironing boards, tables, chairs and sewing materials. Workshop, “Ribbon Skirt Making,” October 19, 2018 at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia as part of Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts. Photo: Michael R. Barrick.

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).[1] 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.

[1] “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.[1] 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. 

[1] 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.

Works Cited

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.

“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/.

Nicol, Janet Mary. “‘Unions Aren’t Native’: The Mucamuck Restaurant Labor Dispute, Vancouver, BC (1978- 1983).” Labor/ Le Travail 40 (Fall 1997): 235- 251.

“Muckamuck Workers on Strike.” Kinesis: Vancouver Status of Women 7, no. 6 (June 1978): 2. 

Smith, Julia. “An ‘Entirely Different’ Kind of Union: The Service, Office and Retail Workers’  Union of Canada (SORWUC), 1972-1986.” Labor/ Le Travail 73 (Spring 2014): 23- 65.

“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/.

“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.” The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Accessed July 20, 2021. https://belkin.ubc.ca/events/workshop-ribbon-shirt-making/.

Wuttunee, Kari-Dawn, 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.

Friend or Foe? Access, Art and the Perfunctory Nature of Artificial Intelligence on Creative Process

Friend or Foe? Access, Art and the Perfunctory Nature of Artificial Intelligence on Creative Process

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. 

Atoyebi, Chiara, “Rites Of Passage,” Acrylic on Wood, 2022.

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.  

Whether artificial intelligence is found within environmental art, comingled with blockchain technologies, AI-assisted drawings, or helping academics increase their scholarly productivity, tech is here to stay.

 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.

Stay tuned. Xoxo

Chiara Atoyebi

Artists 1011 and Capucine Bourcart

Artists 1011 and Capucine Bourcart

Artists 1011 and Capucine Bourcart in the exhibition Nebula. Protologo, Language Shifting Through Time and Space at Revolú Gallery

by Allicette Torres

The Revolution

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.

1101 Installation View Lettres Mortes

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 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.

Website: http://www.revolugallery.com/
IG @RevoluGallery

Website: http://1011-art.blogspot.com/
Capucine Bourcart
Website: http://capucinebourcart.com/
WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Margo Hobbs

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews:

Margo Hobbs

Margo Hobbs, Ph.D.
WCA President, 2018- 2020

Margo Hobbs

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.

The Interview

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.

Margo Hobb’s art historical research on display in a recent exhibition of faculty work at Muhlenberg College

MKM: I think the talent and skills that make you a successful teacher also made you 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 home do 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.

To learn more about Margo Hobbs and Art History at Muhlenberg, visit: https://www.muhlenberg.edu/academics/art/facultystaff/margohobbs/

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Mary D. Garrard

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Mary D. Garrard

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Mary D. Garrard

by Margo Hobbs

Mary D. Garrard, Ph.D., WCA President 1974-1976

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).

WCA Leadership Interview

Mary Garrard on Feminist Art History

Mary Garrard on Leadership

in Academia and Activism

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

WCA 50th Anniversary Interviews: Linda Vallejo

Linda Vallejo

Visualizing what it means to be a person of color…

By Marianne McGrath

What an honor to interview artist Linda Vallejo! This interview is part of a series of interviews organized by the WCA Art Writers Group to highlight past leaders of Women’s Caucus for Art in celebration of our 50th Anniversary. Linda is one of the recipients of the 2022 Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. The Award recognizes the contributions of women to the arts and their profound effect on society. It honors the recipient’s work, their vision, and their commitment.

Linda Vallejo creates work that investigates contemporary cultural and political issues, visualizing what it means to be a person of color in the United States. Linda says that these works reflect what she calls her “brown intellectual property” — the experiences, knowledge, and feelings gathered over more than four decades of study of Latino, Chicano, and American indigenous culture and communities.

As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Linda moved many times during her childhood. From Los Angeles, where she was born, to Germany, Sacramento, and eventually to Montgomery, Alabama where she began high school “in an era defined by segregation, the Selma marches, and the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” She says, “it was then that I began to realize that skin color was a defining factor in how the world judges you and fixes your place in it.”

After a few years her family relocated again to Madrid, Spain, where she completed high school and she had the opportunity to explore art and architecture, as well as other modes of creative expression. Linda says, “I delighted in family visits to ancient Roman sites and Europe’s great museums. I was in pursuit of a language that could express universal equality, acceptance, and appreciation.” In 1969 Linda returned to Los Angeles to attend Whittier College, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking at California State University, Long Beach.

Over the course of her long and prolific career, Linda’s work has been included in more than 100 group exhibitions, twenty solo exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collections of several Museums. Her solo exhibitions include LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes; Kean University: Karl & Helen Burger Gallery, Union, New Jersey; Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA; bG Gallery, Santa Monica; Texas A&M University Reynolds Gallery; Bert Green Fine Art, Chicago Il; UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles, CA; Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA; the Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center, New York; George Lawson Gallery, Los Angeles; University Art Gallery of New Mexico State University; Arte Americas in collaboration with the Fresno Art Museum and Central California Museum of Art Advisory Committee; and California State University, San Bernardino, Fullerton Museum of Art.

Linda’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA; the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA; Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; East Los Angeles College Vincent Price Museum, Los Angeles CA; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago Il; Carnegie Art Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA; UC Santa Barbara, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA), Santa Barbara, CA; UCLA Chicano Study Research Center (CSRC), Los Angeles, CA; the California Digital Library; and the Arizona State University Library Archives.

Her most recent solo exhibition Brown Belongings was featured in the New York Times “Visualizing Latino Populations Through Art” by Jill Cowan, New York, NY (November 26, 2019) and in The Los Angeles Times “Linda Vallejo and a decade of art that unapologetically embraces brownness” by Matt Stromberg (June 20, 2019). Upcoming 2022 shows include University of British Colombia Museum of Anthropology and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in New Mexico where Make ‘Em All Mexican and The Brown Dot Project will be featured.

An Interview with Linda Vallejo

Artist Linda Vallejo interviewed by Marianne McGrath.
Linda Vallejo in her studio

To learn more about Linda Vallejo and see her other series of works, please visit her website: https://lindavallejo.comhttps://lindavallejo.com