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.
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.
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.
Dr. Barbara Wolanin joined the Women’s Caucus for Art back in 1978, only a few years after its founding in 1972. Since then, she has been quite active in WCA’s Washington DC chapter and has served on WCA’s National board as Southeast Regional Vice President. She was also Vice President for Chapter Relations from 1998 to 2010 and President of WCA’s DC chapter from 1998 to 2001.
Dr. Wolanin held the distinguished position of Curator for the Architect of the Capitol and Congress from 1985 to 2015 and is now Curator Emerita. In this role, she oversaw the conservation of this vast collection of murals, sculpture, paintings, research and education, archives, and exhibitions. Dr. Wolanin holds a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and a Master’s in Art History from Oberlin College, an MAT in Art Education from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Kress Fellow from University Wisconsin-Madison, and a Smithsonian Fellow. Dr. Wolanin also lists as a noteworthy curator and art historian by Marquis Who’s Who. Additionally, she prepared a book for the Congress on the muralist for the US Capitol, Constantino Brumidi.