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.