Monday, November 13, 2017

ART OF THE PROTEST: Part IV


During the Opening Reception, in addition to the installation of message driven visual art  at the WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM Art of the Protest show at Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios in Decatur on September 1, 2017,local area noted writers gave readings of their original poetry. George Hess’s poignant poem, White, which Hess read is published below with his permission. To inquire about reproduction, contact macbethgeorge@gmail.com


 
Opening Reception presenters    L-R: Jerry Cullum, Sylvia Cross, Rachael Bommacino and  George Hess (photo by Maggie Bethel) 


White


I am white



I have privileges 



Policemen don’t stop me and ask for my I D or search me for a weapon



Nor am I seen as a threat when I walk down the street



No one questions why I am where I am or suspects me of bad intentions



I am not suspected of being a liar or a cheat or a thief



No one questions what I have earned as legitimate



When I apply for a loan I am not asked for extra documentation



My social status is accepted as is the universality of my experiences



I’ve always felt safe when interacting with police officers



I have not experienced overt racism being used against me or my kin



When I speak my well-spoken and articulate voice is not questioned



I may sing, dance, and act as I please without being called a thug



I am not the only representative of my race



I never worry about my skin color, hair, or cultural accessories



When a crime is committed I am not an immediate suspect



I am not considered lazy or incompetent 



I will never be labeled as a terrorist



I have privileges



I am white.
Vickie: George Hess’s original poem, White,  may not need a visual image, but if you think appropriate, attached is one photo that Maggie Bethel had taken that is a possibility to use showing the presenters. They were waiting while Art +Activism director, Jenny Bell, was introducing them.   Let me know when this Blog PART IV gets posted. Thanks!  (This is the final blog from me right now. J) Flora ·         If you use the photo: …………..Suggested caption   Opening Reception presenters    L-R: Jerry Cullum, Sylvia Cross, Rachael Bommacino and  George Hess and. (photo by Maggie Bethel)                    ·         Following is a brief intro to the poem with attribution to George.   During the Opening Reception, in addition to the installation of message driven visual art  at the WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM Art of the Protest show at Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios in Decatur on September 1, 2017- local area noted writers gave readings of  their original poetry. George Hess’s poignant  poem, White, which Hess read is published below with his permission. To inquire about reproduction, contact macbethgeorge@gmail.com     White   I am white I have privileges Policemen don’t stop me and ask for my I D or search me for a weapon Nor am I seen as a threat when I walk down the street No one questions why I am where I am or suspects me of bad intentions I am not suspected of being a liar or a cheat or a thief No one questions what I have earned as legitimate When I apply for a loan I am not asked for extra documentation My social status is accepted as is the universality of my experiences I’ve always felt safe when interacting with police officers I have not experienced overt racism being used against me or my kin When I speak my well-spoken and articulate voice is not questioned I may sing, dance, and act as I please without being called a thug I am not the only representative of my race I never worry about my skin color, hair, or cultural accessories When a crime is committed I am not an immediate suspect I am not considered lazy or incompetent I will never be labeled as a terrorist I have privileges I am white.

Friday, November 10, 2017

ART OF THE PROTEST: ARTIST VOICES PART III

Several  artists who participated in the recent WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM Art of the Protest Show wrote brief statements about their work, which have been compiled in prior blog posts. However, Sandrine Arons, ART+ACTIVISM artist, had a lot more to say. Rather than only posting an excerpt, below is Arons’ full essay about her work Enough is Enough. As she said when submitting her words, “Thanks for this opportunity to express myself (it helps me get things straight in my mind and heart)”. 
Susanna and the Elders by Tintoretto  



“Enough is Enough” – The story behind the work
Photo Composite by Sandrine Arons

When I saw the call for the Art of Protest exhibit I was honestly a bit overwhelmed because my first thought was “where do I even begin?” We find ourselves in a time when there is so much to protest that I feel like my mind, emotions and hands (all used to process) can’t handle the increasing daily threat to our rights as individuals, in this country in particular, but in the world in general. There are so many ways that art can shed light on the issues and it also has the wonderful capacity to calm the mind and serve as a therapeutic tool.  My busy schedule often doesn’t leave me enough time to create the kind of art that expresses the inner workings of my mind and the kind of emotions that arise from my sometimes obsessive thoughts on current events. I feel like I simply displace the thoughts into the back of my mind to reach back for later, but these days it feels like it is all piling up and overflowing. 
For this exhibit, I decided to work on a piece that deals with a struggle I feel I have been fighting my entire life: women’s rights.  Until about 6 or 7 years ago I heartily believed that, even though true equality between the sexes still did not exist, we were moving in the right direction. Though I have always pushed against the gender binary, my battles with this felt  small and personal, albeit meaningful to me. Women’s voices were being heard and action was being taken at all levels, or so I thought. But even prior to this current administration, I began to notice a shift backwards. I noticed it not so much in the laws, as much as in the daily conversations I was having with male friends who were expressing a kind of frustration with “feminism” and “equality” (and some female friends as well who subscribe to well-defined gender roles).  They felt they were experiencing a reverse discrimination in the workplace or in family matters. Many expressed feeling it was unfair to have to work AND help with domestic chores. Many felt that it was unfair that they HAD to pay alimony to support their ex-wives even though those wives had given up careers to stay at home. They felt it was unfair that women form professional women’s groups to help themselves advance in a company structured around men’s needs. How many big companies, for example, offer daycare centers instead of gyms? I could empathize, but I would also point out why fairness in all those things is important and how men have never had to fight for those rights; they were born with them. The workplace was designed for them more than for women and this needs to change.
Enough is Enough by Sandrine Arons

Today we have a president who not only embodies those expressions of insecurity, but who is acting on and trying to change the laws women have fought so greatly and passionately to obtain.  And we have a vice-president who cannot even be alone with a woman because he sees only her potential as a sexual object whose seductive qualities may interfere with his own fidelity towards his spouse. Just writing that last sentence points to the absurdity and truly disheartening position into which women are now being driven. This is a reality I never truly felt as a woman born in the 70’s. I heard the stories of my mother’s generation and what they did to advance women’s rights. I heard stories from my mother that sounded so out of sync with my own reality that I was thankful that our culture had moved beyond that. For example, when my mother (who is French) first came to the United States in the early 60’s and wore her little French bikini on the beach, she was escorted off the beach by security because women were not allowed to show their belly buttons on public beaches. Whenever I heard that story, I laughed. How ridiculous! Wow! So glad we’re no longer there. So glad America has progressed. BUT YET, here we are again.  That could happen again if the men in power continue to slowly but surely cut away our rights. And, especially if women don’t speak up.


I chose the quotes that are printed on my piece to express how devastating and dangerous the laws against women can be. For decades, these laws have existed on the books but have been generally considered absurd and rarely acted upon.  However, with our current conservative and evangelical leaders, the possibility of recreating the same reality my mother lived is ever-increasing. And this is what prompted “Enough is Enough”. As a woman, I feel that my existence and my right to live freely is being threatened every day. I believe for months I have been riding a fog of disbelief (though not denial) that many of the rights I was born into are being reconsidered and up for debate. Instead of moving forward, this administration is hoping to move the clock backwards. That is why I chose Tintoretto’s 1555 masterpiece “Susanna end the elders” as the backdrop for my photograph.  The story of Susanna is copied below but exemplifies so much of the hateful, demeaning rhetoric and physical violence that women experience still today.  I see Trump and Pence now as symbols of the frustration those men in my life alluded to; their dissatisfaction and fear of women demanding rights to their own bodies, to equal pay, to full equality.  I’m not sure this is the result they wanted, but I believe the current administration echoes their fears and their silence is deafening. 
“Enough is Enough” is a reminder that this is an ancient and constant battle and that the aggression towards women and the obstruction to equal rights needs to STOP.  The road signs remind us to be cautious and keep alert for potential obstacles. The expression on my face in the painting is one of shock, the disbelief that we are back to this. Trump’s facial expression is one of violence, hatred and disdain while Pence appears to passively partake in the savagery of the moment silently and lustfully. The STOP signs communicate the female’s refusal to participate in this drama. No man, no matter how powerful, has the right to grab a woman however he chooses and no man has the right to tell a woman what she can or can’t do with her body. Trump and Pence taking the place of the two elders from Tintoretto’s painting is a way of expressing my desire that they also lose in the court of public opinion, and perhaps beyond that one day in legal court, much like in the story of Susanna and the Elders.
 Until then, let the protests go on…

Susanna and the Elders
Based on the 13th chapter from the Book of Daniel:

1 Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim:
2 And he took a wife, whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Helcias, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God.
3 For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the law of Moses.
4 Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house: and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honourable of them all.
5 And there were two of the ancients of the people appointed judges that year, of whom the Lord said: That iniquity came out from Babylon, from the ancient judges, that seemed to govern the people.
6 These men frequented the house of Joakim, and all that hand any matters of judgment came to them.
7 And when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went in, and walked in her husband's orchard.
8 And the old men saw her going in every day, and walking: and they were inflamed with lust towards her:
9 And they perverted their own mind, and turned away their eyes, that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.
10 So they were both wounded with the love of her, yet they did not make known their grief one to the other.
11 For they were ashamed to declare to one another their lust, being desirous to have to do with her:
12 And they watched carefully every day to see her. And one said to the other:
13 Let us now go home, for it is dinner time. So going out, they departed one from another.
14 And turning back again, they came both to the same place: and asking one another the cause, they acknowledged their lust: and then they agreed together upon a time, when they might find her alone.
15 And it fell out, as they watched a fit day, she went in on a time, as yesterday and the day before, with two maids only, and was desirous to wash herself in the orchard: for it was hot weather.
16 And there was nobody there, but the two old men that had hid themselves, and were beholding her.
17 So she said to the maids: Bring me oil, and washing balls, and shut the doors of the orchard, that I may wash me.
18 And they did as she bade them: and they shut the doors of the orchard, and went out by a back door to fetch what she had commanded them, and they knew not that the elders were hid within.
19 Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders arose, and ran to her, and said:
20 Behold the doors of the orchard are shut, and nobody seeth us, and we are in love with thee: wherefore consent to us, and lie with us.
21 But if thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee, and therefore thou didst send away thy maids form thee.
22 Susanna sighed, and said: I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death to me: and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands.
23 But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
24 With that Susanna cried out with a loud voice: and the elders also cried out against her.
25 And one of them ran to the door of the orchard, and opened it.
26 So when the servants of the house heard the cry in the orchard, they rushed in by the back door, to see what was the matter.
27 But after the old men had spoken, the servants were greatly ashamed: for never had there been any such word said of Susanna. And on the next day,
28 When the people were come to Joakim, her husband, the two elders also came full of wicked device against Susanna, to put her to death.
29 And they said before the people: Send to Susanna, daughter of Helcias, the wife of Joakim. And presently they sent.
30 And she came with her parents, and children and all her kindred.
31 Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold.
32 But those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty.
33 Therefore her friends, and all her acquaintance wept.
34 But the two elders rising up in the midst of the people, laid their hands upon her head.
35 And she weeping, looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in the Lord.
36 And the elders said: As we walked in the orchard alone, this woman came in with two maids, and shut the doors of the orchard, ans sent away the maids from her.
37 Then a young man that was there hid came to her, and lay with her.
38 But we that were in a corner of the orchard, seeing this wickedness, ran up to them, and we saw them lie together.
39 And him indeed we could not take, because he was stronger than us, and opening the doors, he leaped out:
40 But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us: of this thing we are witnesses.
41 The multitude believed them, as being the elders, and the judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said: O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass,
43 Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me: and behold I must die, whereas I have done none of these things, which these men have maliciously forged against me.
44 And the Lord heard her voice.
45 And when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel:
46 And he cried out with a loud voice: I am clear from the blood of this woman.
47 Then all the people turning themselves towards him, said: What meaneth this word that thou hast spoken?
48 But he standing in the midst of them, said: Are ye so foolish, ye children of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth, you have condemned a daughter of Israel?
49 Return to judgment, for they have borne false witness against her.
50 So all the people turned again in haste, and the old men said to him: Come, and sit thou down among us, and shew it us: seeing God hath given thee the honour of old age.
51 And Daniel said to the people: Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them.
52 So when they were put asunder one from the other, he called one of them, and said to him: O thou that art grown old in evil days, now are thy sins come out, which thou hast committed before:
53 In judging unjust judgments, oppressing the innocent, and letting the guilty to go free, whereas the Lord saith: The innocent and the just thou shalt not kill.
54 Now then if thou sawest her, tell me under what tree thou sawest them conversing together: He said: Under a mastic tree.
55 And Daniel said: Well hast thou lied against thy own head: for behold the angel of God having received the sentence of him, shall cut thee in two.
56 And having put him aside, he commanded that the other should come, and he said to him: O thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived tee, and lust hath perverted thy heart:
57 Thus did you do to the daughters of Israel, and they for fear conversed with you: but a daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness.
58 Now, therefore, tell me, under what tree didst thou take them conversing together. And he answered: Under a holm tree.
59 And Daniel said to him: Well hast thou also lied against thy own head: for the angel of the Lord waiteth with a sword to cut thee in two, and to destroy you.
60 With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and they blessed God, who saveth them that trust in him.
61 And they rose up against the two elders, (for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth) and they did to them as they had maliciously dealt against their neighbour,
62 To fulfil the law of Moses: and they put them to death, and innocent blood was saved in that day.
63 But Helcias, and his wife, praised God, for their daughter, Susanna, with Joakim, her husband, and all her kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her.
64 And Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day, and thence forward.

NOTE: Attribution for text used in the work "Enough is Enough" are from the article 7 Shockingly Sexist Laws in America That Can Be Used by Women Anytime  by Sarah Friedman.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

ART OF THE PROTEST; ARTIST VOICES PART II


Compiled by Flora Rosefsky

Below is a continuation of a series of blog articles about the recent WCAGA Art+Activism show, Art of the Protest”, where several participating artists gave voice to their work with thought provoking statements .    

Maxine Hess:  “Is This the New America”
My work is driven by challenging personal and current social issues often not openly discussed such as gun violence. I consider myself to be a visual sociologist, seeking to make sense of inexplicable experiences by contrasting repetitive use of patterns as in “Is This the New America,” a poster revealing a combination of the feminine support background with the harsh realities of the content, like the rows of automatic military style guns. That juxtaposition intends to provoke the viewer’s thinking and influence intellectual and emotional dialogue with others.
"IS THIS THE NEW AMERICA?" by Maxine Hess (courtesy of Hathaway Gallery)

Betty Juodis “The Women’s March”
I didn't go on the March on Inauguration Day but the one here in Atlanta.
"The Women's March" by Betty Juodis


Vivian Liddell: “Love is a Battlefield
The work is a monotype, with spray paint and sewn ribbon. These are common materials in my work; I'm very interested in blurring the lines between fine art and craft and in addressing a hierarchy of materials that seems outdated, but somehow still persists.
The words come from Pat Benatar's song from 1983: Love is a Battlefield. I often title paintings after the music I listen to when I'm working, or use lyrics in a work. I particularly enjoy revisiting songs that I loved as a young person with an adult ear— especially songs that haven't weathered the ages well—lyrics that I happily sang as a child that I now realize are "slightly" sexist, or at least a little creepy 
My work is overtly feminist, and for a WCAGA show, I wanted the piece to be for women. I was raised, like many Southern women, to be polite and to keep out of controversial discussion (sex, politics, religion...). This year, I've made an effort to be louder in my opinions—to stand up for myself and for others I felt like this song was a battle cry. We have to fight for the things and people we love. When Pat Benatar wrote this song, it seemed to be about the compromises that two people make when they're in a relationship. I think in order to love each other as a country, we also have to make compromises. That means both sides have to adjust. That also means that both sides have to be heard. To clarify, I don't mean to imply that there is a binary of ideas or views or genders-- but only to further the analogy of a relationship-- there are two people trying to work things out. Politically, I think we need to work things out in this same way- one on one. Specifically, I'd like to hear more women in the South standing up for their own beliefs and opinions, rather than deferring to what they feel like they "should" do or say.
"Love is a Battlefield" by Vivian Liddell
Leah Medley: ‘State of the Union”While I prefer to let imagery of “The State of The Union” speak for itself, I do have a comment on its construction. Being greatly inspired by the challenge of incorporating at least one piece of protest material, like poster board, I decided to use not one but only protest materials in this sculpture. The final piece contains foam core board, sign stakes, staples, nails, glue, various paints, a burned flag, and since I stepped barefoot on a piece of that smoldering flag, a little of my actual blood, sweat and tears. 
"State of the Union" by Leah Medley
Barbara Robinson: ”No ACA?”-“Climate Change” 
I have been drawing political cartoons since Junior High where I worked on the school newspaper. From that moment on I was hooked and that became my voice risen in protest. Doing those cartoons throughout high school, college and beyond was such a great training ground for the current political climate. And as I’ve been saying, this stuff really does write itself! The pieces I submitted for The Art of the Protest were actually used in 4 protest marches that I’ve participated in since January 21, 2017 (dare I say, “a day that will live in infamy”?)
"No ACA" and "What About Don’t You Get" by Barbara Robinson

Marya Roland"10 Trying Days" aka "10 Days of Trying".
My piece arose out of a personal desire to transmute my acute distress after #45's election into something positive and to figure out how to resist without "going low." I explored aversion and pro-activity with images and words for 10 days, and felt much better in general - and in particular - about resisting. (And it was fun.)I also did an online version of the book. Click HERE
"10 Trying Days" aka "10 Days of Trying" by Marya Roland

Flora Rosefsky:  “One Human Race”
The cardboard mail priority flattened box that I painted green while leaving the word priority in red open, became the perfect support for the paper cutout  text  I used to express a hopeful  message in what has become a more divisive and polarized political United States of America. Often accredited to an unknown author, the quote, “There is one race…the human race” has been used by famous people like Ghandi, Thomas E. Dewey and Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Let us stop the deep divisions that unleash so much hate – but rather appreciate and respect those who do not look like us, or who come from another religious or cultural perspective. 




"One Human Race" by Flora Rosefsky






Friday, November 3, 2017

ART OF THE PROTEST: ARTIST VOICES Part I

By Flora Rosefsky

WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM’s  three day pop up show  held at Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios in Decatur over Labor Day Weekend-2017, brought together artists, unafraid to put into art, what they were saying to each other, to family, friends, colleagues at work, and perhaps in letters to elected officials in government.  After the show came down, I asked artists to send me their thoughts about their work. 
Sandrine Arons: “Enough is Enough”  (the entire work, its reference painting, and longer version of Aron's statement will be posted in a future blog, Part III of this series.)

I chose the quotes that are printed on my piece to express how devastating and dangerous the laws against women can be. For decades, these laws have existed but have been generally considered absurd and not acted upon.  However, with our current conservative and evangelical leaders, the possibility of recreating the same reality my mother lived is ever-increasing. And this is what prompted “Enough is Enough”. As a woman, I feel that my existence and my right to live freely is being threatened every day. I believe for months I have been in a fog of disbelief (though not denial) that many of the rights I was born into are being reconsidered and up for debate. Instead of moving forward, this administration is hoping to move the clock backwards. The backdrop for my photograph is Tintoretto’s 1555 masterpiece “Susanna end the elders”.  The story of Susanna is copied … but exemplifies so much of the hateful, demeaning rhetoric and physical violence that women experience still today.  I see Trump and Pence now as symbols of the frustration those men in my life alluded to; their dissatisfaction and fear of women demanding rights to their own bodies, to equal pay, to full equality.  I’m not sure this is the result they wanted, but I believe the current administration echoes their fears. 
"Enough is Enough" (detail)  by Sandrine Arons  



Pat Borow: “The Trump Fan”
The concept for my piece, “The Trump Fan,” came to me in an, er, flash. The idea is that of immolation by flame. The shape is that of a funeral fan, an object that has a strong history in this region, particularly during the days before churches were air-conditioned. For months now, we’ve watched Donald Trump go down in flames. I have thought more than once that it is either going to be his funeral or ours. Hence the funeral fan.
"Trump Fan" by Pat Borow

Vickie Martin-Conison: “Complicity”
It is done on traditional poster board. I began with collaging the entire US Constitution on the board, then applied thin paint over it. I spelled out the word "STOP" with gunpowder and burned it. The quote is done with pages from the dictionary that were dyed- as I believe in the importance of the First Amendment and therefore words. I continued with burning the edges - to show the fight we must fight and the battle we need to wage. The quote is by Einstein - his signature is collaged into the piece.
"Comlicity" by Vickie Martin-Conison

Helen DeRamus: “No Refuge”
This image was created over a period of time as I have been thinking about the generation of children who suffer the ravages of war all over the world. And now those young people who are no longer welcome even here in the US. How can that be? The image also contains the little image of one of my father's paintings on the lower left side. As a mentor and one who strongly supported peace and conservation he remains an inspiration and guide for me in my life
"No Refuge" by Helen DeRamus

Jodi Doughty:   “Social Justice-Human Rights”
It was a pleasure being a part of this important show that allowed artists to express and reflect the current chaos that people in our society find themselves in. My name is Jodi Doughty; I’m an artist because art provides you with a voice, an individual expression of hopes, dreams and fears. Art is your interpretation of the world and how you see yourself in it. Social Justice-Human Rights is an urban mural / marvel inspired piece that reminds us to be vigilant in our efforts to impact change in the world. We must be our own heroic figure while standing strong in our convictions and helping others find their strength.
"Social Justice - Human Rights" by Jodi Doughty

Marti Forkner-Vernon : “Women to Rule”
Wanting a world ruled by only women is not realistic, and that is my desire, that each woman will be free of society's guidelines and stand as individual and strong without inhibition. That the patriarchy will end. But it would take a complete metamorphic mindset change, and that won't happen. A genderless world would be perfect where no one asked, "what sex?" Just people
"Women to Rule" by Marti Forkner-Vernon


Lucy Julia Hale: “In Honor of Margaret Sanger”

On the table in the exhibition gallery I found a page with dialogue from the Handmaid'sTale : "...there is hope... like blood in a wound ". I feel that in crises artists are often called to ensure that wounds stay open and bleeding long enough for cleansing of contaminants and examination to determine and expose the true sources of injury. I am so grateful for this opportunity to join our women artists in this calling. My piece, which includes images of Faith Ringgold and Floria Steinem is also a way to honor them and all the artists in our exhibit.
"In Honor of Margaret Sanger" by Lucy Julia Hale
NOTE: There will be a Part II and Part III

Sunday, October 29, 2017

EVENING WITH 'PRIDE & JOY ARTISTS, ICONS AND EVERYDAY HEROES" AUTHOR KATHLEEN ARCHAMBEAU

By Flora Rosefsky

Noted California activist in the LBGTQ world community, author Kathleen Archambeau  facilitated a thoughtful and insightful discussion at the home of Callahan McDonough on October 6, 2017. Sponsored by the ART+ACTIVISM initiative within the Women’s Caucus for Art- GA chapter (WCAGA), approximately 30 people listened, spoke, and learned from Kathleen and from each other.  Perhaps  there was a smaller audience than the previously planned event at GA Tech that was canceled due to the unanticipated death of Scott Schultz, president  of the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance where he had been killed by a campus police officer during a confrontation. Schultz  had been the lead coordinator to bring the author to the GA Tech campus. Those of us in Callahan’s living room – representing a wide spectrum of ages and gender identities, felt a spirit of warm camaraderie and friendship, with a sincere appreciation for each other, although saddened by why this event could not be held as originally planned on the GA Tech campus. 

Author Kathleen Archambeau reading excerpts from her book, “Pride & Joy”.   (photo by Ruth Schowalter)       



Some of those who attended the event joyfully sharing their own stories. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

In an excerpt in the “Pride & Joy” book foreword by Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award, Best Original Screenplay, Milk, 2009 – he writes, “This book……….empowers queer youth to do more than survive, but to thrive, whatever the challenges, whatever the losses, whatever the risks, wherever you find yourself. It encourages LBGQT  citizens of the world to live open, happy, fulfilling, strong and successful lives and utilizes the power of true stories to demonstrate that a freer, brighter future is possible even with what feel like impossible circumstances.” 
Author Kathleen Archambeau tells some of the stories about those depicted on the cover of her book, “Pride & Joy”. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Before Archambeau read excerpts from her book, she opened the floor for questions and comments. As someone who missed the Feminist Movement by six or seven years, growing up in the very conservative Eisenhower era in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when those with different gender identities hid in what was called “the closet” or practiced “kiss but don’t tell” behavior, I asked those present how they felt about hearing the word “queer” being used today. In the past, it had a more negative connotation.  The vast majority of hands that went up felt the word “queer” had been reclaimed – that it was perfectly fine to use that term as an umbrella word where one’s gender may not be as mainstream as the general public. One person said, “queer is our word…it has a jazziness of its own.”  There is a renewed pride in how one feels about oneself, with more support groups from all spectrums, but more support is still needed. One person said “We’re all in the human struggle…..we are works in progress.”  That rings true no matter how one identifies their gender, for as human beings we are not perfect, yet in the best of times, we can aspire to do good deeds of kindness, compassion to make this world a better place – a thought reiterated  by Doug Thayer.
Callahan with Patrice, sales representative from Charis Books of Atlanta, selling copies of “Pride & Joy”.   (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

At the core of Cuban American Richard Blanco’s poem, “One Today”, which was the Inaugural  poem presented to President Barak Obama  in 2013, is his message that “we are all one”. Blanco is one of several people interviewed for Archambeau’s book. This theme of “oneness” manifests itself in Judaism and other religions, where we, as human beings, are created “in the image of God” – a meaningful belief that promotes and instills inclusiveness.  Another person interviewed, Peggy Moore, felt it is not religion that is the most important relationship to have with as a person, but rather one’s personal relationship with God. People of all faiths can find comfort in that simple, yet powerful philosophy of total acceptance and love.  I liked what Oscar Wilde had to say. “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

On a personal note, like so many others in Atlanta and around our world, I send my deepest sympathy to the parents and family of Scout Schultz.  As a tribute to Scout’s memory and good deeds, Scout somehow brought author Kathleen Archambeau, and what she had to say, into the lives of many of us who attended the event at Callahan’s  home on a beautiful Atlanta fall evening, where a full harvest moon lit up the sky – signifying God’s presence;  this magical  mystery of the universe is something all human beings, no matter where they live, no matter their gender identity, religious belief, color of their skin….. even if only for a short moment in time – as Blanco the poet said, we are “one today”.  
Photo by Flora Rosefsky

Saturday, October 14, 2017

ART OF THE PROTEST - To See and To Be Heard


 works by WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM – Sept. 1-3, 2017 – Decatur, GA

By Flora Rosefsky   
Art of The Protest, the 3 day thought provoking art show held over Labor Day Weekend at the Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios in Decatur, put together by The Women’s Caucus of Art – Georgia Chapter (WCAGA) with its  growing ART+ACTIVISM core of artists, continues to resonate within the minds of those who created the ephemeral work as well as for those who attended the show.  One may ask, can art really change a mindset? Perhaps not reverse it per se, but highly message driven art definitely makes people  talk, discuss, and share their viewpoints with anyone who is willing to listen. Like any art show, each work has more than one interpretation, depending upon if one were hearing what the artist has to say in a conversation, or where the viewer’s experience and philosophy takes them to reflect, to figure out what the protest art means to them personally.  As stated in the show’s prospectus, all the work could be in any type of media, but had to use a piece of poster board, cardboard, foam core or other ephemeral materials.  The show was to “celebrate your first amendment right and let your voice be heard.”
Bouquets for Heather by Callahan McDonough

In some ways, the demographics of age plays a part in the sensibility one has for protest art. Artists like Callahan McDonough, who was and still is a big voice in the Feminist Movement which began in earnest in the 1970s with the likes of Gloria Steinham, Bella Abzug and others brings an activist core to her work. In McDonough’s “ Bouquets for Heather”,  those who saw this oversize work were able to touch the fresh bouquets of flowers, saw the lit candles that memorialized the life of Heather Heyer ,killed in Charlottesville 2017.  Unlike the 1970s, it was the conservative post WWII 1950s and optimistic  early 1960s that defined my young adult life. Busy raising young children, yet surrounded by news of  the JFK, MLK Jr., and RFK assassinations, Vietnam War opposition marches, flower children defying anything traditional -  that world of protest escaped me. Today – a protective cocoon has broken apart – where I no longer can ignore the political landscape, or I simply ask, “what legacy am I , and we as a country, leaving the next generation? ” WCAGA Art+Activism has become a conduit to express ways that I, and other artists, can raise consciousness on issues that can no longer be ignored – inclusive human rights to name just one.  
It took me several weeks to come up with which of many topics I had in mind for my protest art. I wanted it to be somewhat optimistic, more of a hope than regurgitating something disdainful and miserable. I found a quote online when I was searching for words supporting acceptance of others, crossing religious or gender lines. “There is one race…the human race.” That quote sometimes attributed to educator Thomas Dewey or other times, Ghandi - became the basis for my work, on a flattened  painted “priority” box.  From my faith and tradition, “Tikkum Olam” – “to Repair the World”, are words that resonate for people to take action, not to be a bystander. Today artists can be of any age to be activists – from children, teenagers, adults, and seniors . What art can do is to start a conversation, and find mutual respect.

Visitors with several of the works

Opening sign with "Trump Fan" by Pat Borow
 The words liberal, progressive, Democrat may not have been written all over this show with actual words, but there was no hiding the fact that the pendulum in the Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios from September 1-3 supported that agenda. Some work stayed on a specific protest topic – which ranged from rows of automatic assault military style rifles printed  against traditional red wallpaper  in Maxine Hess’s work “New America”  about gun violence  to Roxane Hollosi’s carboard female figure cutout piece titled “choice, conscience, consequence” that  used a metal hanger as part of the collage. Others mirrored the deep political divide in the United States, such as Jenny Bell’s “Two Sides of the Same Coin”,  where lines drawn polarize what used to sustain a more moderate temperament where the word compromise was hailed as success, not failure. A few of the works made some feel more anger such as Sandrine Andros’s “ Enough is Enough” while others evoked some sense of frustration as in “No Refuge” by Helen DeRamus or “Love is a Battlefield” by Vivian Liddell.  “Trump Fan” by Pat Borow elicited lots of discussion with her using a traditional white paper funeral fan for the support of a frowning president’s portrait. Several works were mini-history lessons such as Vickie Martin Conison’s collage “Complicit”, with a quote by Albert Einstein glued onto the actual United States Constitution. 
Vickie Martin-Conison with "Complicit"
"Choice, Conscience, Consequence" by Roxanne Hollosi with Maxine Hess and Callahan McDonough

The absolute authentic  creativity of each of the approximate thirty artists illuminated the gallery. This was definitely not decorator art to add the right color to one’s d├ęcor, although many of the works could find an important place in a home where the artistic qualities of composition, color, shape, or texture were strong.   Besides more traditional 2-D work hung with wires or nails, was a box filled with game pieces to give-away called “Anti Trump Dust” created by Dharma S. Lunar, and who could forget the various artistic postcards to send to government elected officials -  hung on strings below a metal construction piece made out of former Hillary sign posts. This most creative mobile was the brainchild of Claire Lewis Evans.  

"Untitled" by Claire Lewis Evans; hanging mobile using cards to send to politicians using steel from Hillary yard signs
In talking to a few of those attending the opening, a mother with a 13 year old daughter was particularly drawn to the work  by Lucy Julia Hale, “Margaret Sanger – Social Justice – Not to Hate”. She said she “almost burst into tears” when seeing it.  For Barbara Robinson, an artist who has been doing political satire thematic  work for over 30 plus years,  felt the entire show, to see “everyone’s interpretations was very inspirational.” Her own illustrations in the show echoed thought provoking political cartoon drawings.  Journalist writer, Kevin Madigan felt “we need more of this” kind of art as this is “not a normal time in our country.” He continued, “ we have to stand up and complain… and care about history.”

"MESSAGES OF HOPE" (described below)
"On Many Sides" by Jenny Bell
During the show, a tall 3-sided kiosk held pasted pages from Margaret Atwood’s book, ”The Handmaid’s Tale”,  where artists and those attending wrote their own protest messages in red or black pens in this collaborative effort called “Messages of Hope”.  Presenting original protest theme poetry during the opening on September 1st were George Hess, an educator from Woodstock, Georgia whose poem, “I am white” recounted the issue of race in our country today. Artist, teacher, poet and owner of Sycamore Place Gallery & Studios, Sylvia Cross read her poem "Melania is Dreaming" while a weightlifter, fitness coach, and artist Rachael Bommacino lifted barbells while Cross gave her reading.
 
 Well known art critic, poet and philosopher Jerry Cullum read his original poetry, making those present appreciate both the spoken word as much as the art surrounding the circle of listeners.  The visual art exhibition along with the spoken word presentations  offered another source of inspiration during the popular annual Decatur Book Festival that was ongoing during  the same weekend. 
Artist Jody Doughty with her work "Social Justice/Human Rights"
Because there were no artist statement text accompanying this show, I asked participating artists to send me insights about their work; a few artists complied. With their permission, I will post their writings in future blog articles. The protest show was the third Art+Activism topic, conceived by Jenny Bell. Other topics have 
included the 2016  show, “46/21  46 million slaves/21st Century - Modern Day Slavery  (about Sex and Human Trafficking) held at the Mammal Gallery in Atlanta, and in 2013, WCAGA hosted “Dolls in the City” with a similar theme co-sponsored with the  2Rules Gallery in Marietta, GA.  In 2016, the topic of Trees  Speak for Atlanta, was addressed with a Drawing Marathon event and a show, “Art & Nature: TreeSpeak”  held at The Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Atlanta.  Art+Activism , within WCAGA,  will continue building initiatives by sponsoring more exhibitions, programs,  and other educational  opportunities, insuring that the visual arts can be an instrument for positive change and dialogue in our communities and world. To see work from the Art of The Protest show, visit WCAGA Facebook pages, and the WCAGA website, www.wcaga.org –and be sure to  check out the Art+Activism artist directory.
Rachael Bommacino weightlifting while Sylvia Cross reads her poem "Melania is Dreaming".

AND - A BIG SHOUT OUT and Thanks to Jenny Bell for all her hard work organizing this event. She is pictured below flanked by Leah Medley and Kevin Madigan.