Monthly Archives: August 2011

Woman Made Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center, and !WAR

With school right around the corner my end of the summer ritual has begun. Namely I’m attempting to cram everything I meant to do over the summer into these last few days. Or really, I tried to cram everything into today, because tomorrow and Friday are reserved for packing, packing, and more packing!

The two big things that I’ve been meaning to do are visit Woman Made Gallery and the Chicago Cultural Center. One because I really believe in the mission and have heard many good things about it, and the other because it’s right there! Immediately outside of the train station! And yet I didn’t even realize it existed until earlier in the summer (Which is shameful, really. I’ve probably passed it a hundred times!)

Getting to Woman Made Gallery isn’t very difficult. Just hop on the blue line and head on over to the Chicago stop. It’s pretty quick, only five stops from Jackson, and the gallery itself is only about two blocks from the station.

I forgot to snap a pic of the exterior, but it's fairly easy to identify. This logo is on the little black and white sign above the entrance.

 Unfortunately for me, they were between exhibits. I was in such a hurry this morning I forgot to check whether there would be anything for me to see at the gallery. Luckily they had a small selection of paintings from Las Caras Lindas, a program aiming to engage the unique strengths of Black and Latina women. The work was fun to see! If you can’t make it down to the gallery they have photos up on Woman Made’s facebook page. (Also check out their blog and their twitter)

Even though I didn’t get to see as much as I’d like, it was still a very lovely gallery. I’m sure that during exhibits it’s completely amazing. In fact, their next exhibit sounds really interesting! It’s simply called, “The Project”, and is described as such:

I gave twenty women artists clay and a medium-sized piece of paper to fabricate an object. I brought each object to a psychic to be read and analyzed.

Sounds like fun! I’m jealous of everyone who will be in Chicago to see it (It runs from September 9-October 27).  In addition to this, I was told that there’s a call for another show for twenty year old artists. So if you’re twenty you should look into it and submit!

I also picked up a postcard for !Women Art Revolution. I’ve written about the film before and how it wasn’t yet showing in Chicago.Unfortunately for me, as I won’t be here, (But fortunately for Chicagoans) Zeitgeist is bringing the film to the Windy City from September 30-October 6. Check here for showing times.

This is joining my wall of gorgeous postcards.

I still really want to see this film! I’m still holding out hope that the stars will align and it will come to Rochester or return to Chicago while I’m on break or something. I may eventually just buy it, but these things are always more fun when they’re an event. Films are just better when you go with friends! Continue reading

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Women in Art: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

Claude Cahun, born as Lucy Schwob in 1894, was known by many labels. Among them, she was a photographer, a writer, Jewish, queer, an active surrealist, a performer, and a radical activist working to play with and expand upon our way of thinking about gender and sexuality.

Cahun dressed in masculine and feminine clothing.

The artist took on the name Claude Cahun in 1919. Formerly known as Claude Courlis and Daniel Douglas (and the aforementioned Lucy Schwob), Cahun settled upon her name due to its sexual ambiguity. The same can be said of Cahun’s step-sister and partner Marcel Moore, who preferred the names ambiguity to her birth name, Suzanne Malherbe.

While Cahun’s work is generally deemed to be self-portraiture, much of the work should be attributed to Moore, as capturing these self portraits would require assistance (In the vein of Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin having assistance). In fact, Moore switched places with Cahun both in front of and behind the camera. It’s interesting to note that Moore has remained somewhat in the dark in a way that Cahun has not. Although both Cahun and Moore were active in creating written works, sculptures, photographs, collages, and so on, Cahun’s work has been recorded and recognized while Moore is remembered as Cahun’s partner (although Moore did follow the illustration path more closely than that of fine arts, which may account for some of our lack of knowledge about her).

Cahun and Moore

This seems to be a pattern in the art world when two artists become partners. It seems like one of them generally ends up adjusting their own schedule, their own identity, to accommodate the others’, and if not their actions are portrayed as such. We see this in the work of, say, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, in which Krasner’s work fell to the wayside as she began taking on more duties as a manager for Pollock. Even though she still created work and was very innovative in her techniques, her body of work was seen as derivative of Pollock’s and often not worth mentioning for its own merit. We see this again in Elaine de Kooning’s relationship with Willem de Kooning, where Elaine’s own work, her own life, is written about and portrayed as a reflection of Willem’s career. (Here’s an incredibly interesting article about artist couples and how they’re portrayed in the media. It’s pretty short, but it packs a punch. Read it if you have time!) Continue reading

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The Voices and Faces Project

The Voices and Faces Project has been on my radar for a while. They have a post for a summer internship on the Idealist, they’re linked to at various sites (including at the end of the “Off the Beaten Path” exhibition), they seem to be everywhere! And for good reason.

This organization is a nonprofit national network for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. They’re collecting survivors’ stories and compiling them into a documentary promoting solidarity and healing for rape victims. The group is politically active, lobbying politicians and reaching the public through its speakers bureau. Initiatives such as the US’s first creative writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence and trafficking are what makes this organization so effective and so important.

You can read survivor’s stories on their website. It shows very clearly that there is no set “type” of victim. Everyone has a different story, a different background, and a different way of processing and recovering.. One survivor says in her story, “This didn’t happen to me because of anything that I had done. If there is a reason that it happened, it happened because of what I’m going to do to change things”.

If you’d like to donate to their organization you can do so here.

If you want to work with them, their internship posting still seems to be up (and they’re listed as having a fall position). If you’re based in Chicago, you have a passion for art and social change, basic office skills, and the ability to work with social media and plan events you may be a good fit! Check it out here.


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Art Works for Change

I just looked through the fantastic Art Works for Change’s virtual exhibition, Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art.

Eve Sussman's "Rape of the Sabine Women"

This exhibit includes the work of 28 contemporary women artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono, and Marina Abramovic. Addressing the issues of violence against girls and women around the globe, this exhibit uses the work of well known and respected artists to raise awareness of discrimination, domestic violence, and the exploitation of the female gender around the world. The range of which, in the curators own words, is “devastating, occurring, quite literally, from womb to tomb”. This exhibition aims to encourage women and men to stand up for social change.

The exhibit groups artwork into pieces that address Violence and the Individual, Violence and the Family, Violence and the Community, Violence and Culture, and Violence and Politics (As well as providing a helpful page of links to organizations addressing violence against women at the closing of the virtual tour).

Mona Hatoum's "Palestine Over My Dead Body" (2006)

The work can currently be seen at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta until September 9, and will travel to other locations after that.

It only takes around ten minutes to read through and view the images in the exhibit, more than worth the little time it takes! Click through to see it for yourself here.

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Women in Art: Chakaia Booker

Chakaia Booker doesn’t confine sculptures to her studio and institutes of art, she wears them.

Not in the traditional sense. She does not simply hoist her sculptures from the ground and decide to wear them around town. Instead, she considers herself, her clothing, everything that she does and says and adorns herself with to be a form of art. Booker has said of her unconventional style of dress and blurring of lines between art and fashion, “When I get up each day, I begin with myself, as far as sculpting myself”.

I think it’s amazing when artists incorporate their artwork into every part of their life. With some artists it seems like an act, but with others such as Booker, it seems as though they truly are just doing what they want to, what they think is visually pleasing or interesting.

Chakaia Booker (SCAD Permanent Collection)

Booker considers her headdresses and other garments made of wool, colorful fabric, tire rubber, and more to be wearable sculptures. She talks about the energy each piece brings, saying, “When I produce wearable art pieces, it’s not about the exact buttons or matching thread, it’s about getting that energy and feeling for the desired design. You need a foundation of rules, discipline, and structure, but rules are made to be expanded upon by exerting energy to make something new.”

Her wearable sculptures remind me of Nick Cave’s work. Cave is a Chicago based artist who specializes in creating sound suits, large suits made of materials that rustle, bristle, and rub together to create interesting sounds. I believe Cave began creating his suits in the 90’s, it’d be interesting to know if he was at all influenced by Booker’s wearable sculptures.

Nick Cave's Soundsuit (left) as compared to Chakaia Booker's wearable sculpture (right). These two pieces in particular remind me of one another. Ever since seeing this photograph of Booker I've been trying to think of what it reminds me of; this soundsuit that I had the opportunity to see in person at the Smart Museum of Art! (Which I would recommend by the way. It has great work, it's free, and there's a cute cafe attached. Check it out if you're in the Hyde Park area!)

Setting aside her wearable art origins (although really these play a role throughout her work), what Booker’s well known for are her pieces incorporating rubber tires. This is the style of her work that I’ve been able to see in real life in the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Acid Rain (2001). I apologize for the poor photo quality. It's a good thing I'm going to be living with a photo major because a photographer I am not.

Her pieces are often huge walls of slashed up rubber tires with this amazing texture that you just want to touch. The NMWA had an interesting pairing of her work in the same room as Louise Nevelson, an artist whom Booker has acknowledged as an influence. Booker is almost the organic form of Nevelson’s geometric. Both artists find abandoned materials, considered garbage by most, and build them up into large black sculptures focusing on form often within the confines of a rectangle or square. Here’s a comparison of their work for those who are interested: Continue reading

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Women in Art: Ladi Kwali

Ladi Kwali is remembered as Nigeria’s most impressive and well-known potter. Leaving behind a rich legacy through her work and through the Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre, she has shaped the world’s opinion of African pottery-making and pottery-making as a whole.

Ladi Kwali works at the pottery wheel (1959)

Fame and recognition were far from the traditional path for Nigerian craftworkers of the 20th century. Kwali grew up in a family of women potters, unsurprising as her culture viewed pottery as being the near-exclusive domain of women. With its utilitarian uses for water storage, cooking, and much more, pottery was a very useful skill to possess for someone working in the home. In addition to this, some Nigerians viewed pots in a religious light which explains the incredible ornamentation of work from this time period.

One of the reasons that Kwali was able to reach the level of success she enjoyed was her association with Michael Cardew. Cardew was a successful English studio potter who came to Africa as a recruit by the Nigerian colonial Government. His position as pottery Officer led him to co-found a pottery in Ghana, and then to Abuja where he met Ladi Kwali. While Cardew was eager to work with Kwali, he held on to the idea that the pottery studio should be primarily men, with women potters as more of a fringe group. Considering Nigeria’s tradition of women potters this seems to be an unwise decision. And it’s telling that the breakout star of the pottery studio was a woman. But nevertheless, old British values won out and women remained a minority at the studio (Not to say that many women did not come from the studio, a number of women potters followed Kwali’s footsteps in producing impressive work and even touring throughout Europe). 

Kwali came to the studio already highly skilled as a potter, fully developed before Cardew entered her life. However, Cardew was able to help her achieve international renown using his connections with English galleries, universities, and other institutions of learning.

This is where I would like to insert an image of Ladi Kwali’s pre-studio work. However, I’ve scoured the depths of the internet (Ok, not really. But I’ve spent almost an hour trying to find images. I have a life! And kids! Ok, not really kids. But still.) to no avail. I can, however, describe her earlier work as preferring a traditional spiralled coil method of pot building. The clay would be be coiled, and then beaten and smoothed from within to seal cracks. The pots were also decorated with figurative and geometric patterns.

This is a hand coiled pot produced by Ladi Kwali. I can't find a date for it (so it may not be early work), but I thought it fit well as an example of hand coiled work with stylized figures.

Cardew pushed for Kwali to use European pottery techniques including using a pottery wheel and glazing and firing using a high temperature kiln. Kwali’s work became an intriguing hybrid of Nigerian and European artwork. She maintained an overall style traditional to Nigeria, but she incorporated European techniques. Cardew affected Kwali’s work, but Kwali also strongly affected Cardew’s work and the work of other European potters. Continue reading

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NMWA Artist Spotlights

The NMWA’s blog is a must read, featuring women artists from a variety of movements and locations. Their most recent post gives us a quick biography of artist and activist, Ruth Asawa, an inspiration to us all through her work in the world of art and with San Francisco youth.

Ruth Asawa at Retrospective Exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1973)

Check out the post here, and be sure to look through more of their artist spotlights, there are a lot of great women artists to learn about! You can also view of few of my favorite of Asawa’s pieces after the jump, or see her entire body of work at her website. Continue reading

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Looking for a Feminist Internship?

As a college student I spend a decent amount of time thinking about my future. I want to be prepared when I graduate so that I can earn a living and not live in my parent’s basement (Haha, I would never live in the basement. That’s where my brother lives! I’d probably end up with my old room. Which is still depressing).

So I do things to prepare. And one of the steps to being able to graduate and function as a normal adult?


As an illustration major I’m really looking for internships in an art-related field. But since it’s the dramatically dramatic cutthroat world of art I’m not going to share those with you. However, as I search for those coveted art internships I also like to search for positions that I think look interesting or fun. Which in this case means internships with feminist organizations!

So here they are. Please enjoy.

Political Organizations

NARAL Pro-Choice America: NARAL is an organization of women and men across the United States passionately defending a woman’s right to choose and protecting her full range of reproductive health options. They offer internships in special events, community outreach, policy, and more! If you’re a high school student I would recommend checking out NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s internship specifically for high school students eager to organize on their own campus (I’m unsure if this is always an option). I met a student on the bus to the Rally for Women’s Health who organized for NARAL on her campus, she seemed to really enjoy it!

Feminist Majority Foundation: FMF is looking for some highly motivated undergrads who are interested in political science and public policy in regards to gender, human rights, and development. Positions available in Washington DC and LA for Spring, Summer, or Fall positions.

National Organization for Women: NOW is the largest feminist organization in the US today and the organization has fought to end gender inequality since 1966. As a NOW intern you’ll be on the front lines of the women’s rights movement. This internship will teach you the skills you need as an activist and leader in your community through workshops, field trips, and hands on experience. Check out their site to see the numerous internships they offer.

National Women’s Law Center: NWLC is a law center dedicated to using the law to protect and advance women’s and girls’ progress in every aspect of their lives. This group tackles issues directly affecting women’s and girls’ lives in employment, health, education, and economic security. 

The Sex Workers Project: SWP provides legal training and services for sex workers as well as working with documentation and policy advocacy. The group protects the rights and safety of sex workers using a human rights and harm reduction model. This organization is looking for legal interns committed to advancing the rights of sex workers and trafficking survivors.

Choice USA: A national pro-choice organization, this group supports emerging leaders by providing the necessary tools to organize, network, and exchange ideas to pro-choice youth. Interns with Choice USA will gain inside understanding of the fight for reproductive rights at a local and federal level. Plus, this is a paid internship! It’s rare to find these in feminist organizations, like an internship unicorn.


BUST: Bust is a magazine full of attitude. Providing an uncensored view of the female experience, BUST speaks truthfully about women’s lives and shares womens’ perspectives on pop culture. In the site’s own words, they’re “BUSTing stereotypes about women since 1993”. BUST is also looking for a “webtern” in case you happen to be computer savvy.

Bitch Media: This organization is of the grassroots variety and relies strongly upon volunteers. Their mission is to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture. Take a look at Bitch for internships in design, editorial, publishing and more.

Ms. Magazine: Ms. Magazine is said to have helped shape contemporary feminism, being the first national magazine to make feminist voices heard and feminist worldviews clear to the public. Ms. Magazine has covered topics such as abortion, domestic abuse, de-sexing the English language, date rape, and much more. Ms. offers internships in magazine marketing, advertising, writing, researching, and other areas of publication. They prioritize applicants with background in journalism and feminist activism. Continue reading

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Women in Art: Betye Saar

I’ve actually mentioned artist, Betye Saar, in a previous post. Many historians and critics discuss her in conjunction with Faith Ringgold due to the similar nature of their artistic message against racism and sexism, the shared motifs they use within their artwork, and the fact that they are contemporaries, popping up every so often within one another’s stories. Ringgold acted as a champion for Saar in the 1970 Whitney Annual. Saar deserved to be in the show, and Ringgold made sure the museum knew it. Thanks in large part to Ringgold’s contributions Saar (and the other sculptor Ringgold supported, Barbara Chase-Riboud) became the first black woman artist to show in the Whitney Museum. 

I bring this story up again just because I find it so impressive. The first black woman artist to ever show in the Whitney, a major museum. You can already tell that Saar’s work is going to be fantastic.

Saar posing with three of her works

Saar is a master of collage and assemblage, repurposing stereotypical images of black Americans in advertising and popular culture. She began to collect these images in the 60’s, no doubt influenced by the race riots, the assassination of Dr. King, and the emergence of an artistic movement by black women artists.

In her most well known piece, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, Saar works to reclaim Aunt Jemima’s image. She’s taking a caricature of a mammy, a presentation of black women as stupid, docile, and happy to serve, and she’s giving that caricature positive rather than negative power. In fact, the show Saar submitted this piece to had invited artists to create work based upon their heroes. Saar decided to take a hurtful character and make her strong.  The Aunt Jemimas in Saar’s piece hold a rifle and stand behind a silhouette of a black fist. Saar is attempting to take the image of Aunt Jemima and make it empowering. In fact, Saar said of this piece, “My intent was to transform a negative, demeaning figure into a positive, empowered woman… a warrior ready to combat servitude and racism”.

"The Liberation of Aunt Jemima" (1972)

The way Saar is treating imagery throughout her body of work is particularly interesting when taking current events into consideration. Most members of the feminist blogosphere have recently been discussing reclamation (particularly of the word “slut” as seen in the Slutwalks spreading across Canada and the US). And in the same way that many worried that “slut” should not and can not be reclaimed, Saar worried that her piece would receive a negative reaction. She worried that the negative imagery would be too ill received to present. Continue reading

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