20 December 2014

Political Art

Ty the Yellow Lab ponders where to put this box.

Yesterday afternoon the pieces from my NSA series that didn't sell (and yes, a bunch of them sold!) came back to me from Charles Krause Reporting Gallery, reminding me that I need to figure out how to store all the framing supplies that keep multiplying in my basement. My basement being damp, it's not an ideal place to store anything except the plexi and glass, but the living space in my house is only 1240 square feet, so I'm hard pressed just to store my prints, much less framing supplies. Fellow artists, your storage suggestions are welcome.

The return of the NSA work also reminded me that I've intended to blog some of my thoughts on political art. Charles Krause Gallery focuses on political art and, as my regular readers know, so do I. I don't often articulate why that's my focus, though. I'm not even sure if I know -- it feels more like a calling than a choice. But I'd like to make an attempt to define and articulate more clearly why it is that I'm drawn to socio-political work, what makes art political, and what constitutes 'good' political art. I'll blog about this occasionally in the new year, and I welcome your thoughts.

Today, an interview with artist Mark Bradford flickered across my computer screen and I enjoyed some of his words about socio-political work. He sounds a bit like me when he says "My art, I never could completely separate it from the social. I could never just have a hermetic studio life. It’s just part of me. I’ve always been so curious of everything that’s happening—social anthropology, social history.” Also like me, he does a lot of reading when he gets interested in a topic. Here, he studies sea monsters for a body of work of the same name:

 “Another layer for me that I got really interested in is that we always have this thing about making the other dangerous. So I started reading these books. I read this book on sea monsters. The 16th and 17th century maps, they didn’t understand the ocean, so it was a deep, dark, mysterious place. In these books of these sea monsters, they were half dolphins and half walruses. They had names for them. They had categories. I just became so fascinated by this. I just thought: this is so cool. What they didn’t understand, they made terrifying.”

One thing that I personally gain from working with historic material is that I get to see that history does actually repeat itself. This is both reassuring and horrifying -- reassuring because it shows that the things that make us human are persistent, and we are not alone; horrifying because we seem to never learn some very basic lessons. 

Check out the interview with Mark Bradford here.

19 December 2014

Radical Faeries (1979)


CONSORT (Radical Faeries)
White line woodcut and toner transfer
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3 

The Radical Faeries movement was founded in 1979 in California by Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, and two others. Radical Faeries was not so much a political group as a spiritual one, celebrating and exploring gayness itself as a source of wisdom and initiation. Sex-positive and often rurally based, Faerie circles incorporate elements of paganism, anarchism, environmentalism, shamanism, and indigenous spiritualities in their gatherings, which are called sanctuaries. Today, Radical Faeries embody a wide range of genders, sexual orientations, and identities, with many gatherings open to all, while some still focus on the particular spiritual experience of man-loving men.

At least for the time being, that's the full set of prints for the "Counterspells" chapter.



18 December 2014

GLAD and Lambda Legal (1973, 1978)


BUILD (GLAD, Lambda Legal)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3
 
GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) and Lambda Legal are both non-profit legal rights organizations that work to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. Lambda Legal, founded in 1973, has a national focus while GLAD, founded in 1978 in response to a sting operation conducted by Boston police at the Boston Public Library, centers their work in New England.

An early victory for GLAD came in 1980 when they represented Aaron Fricke, an 18-year-old student at Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, who won the right to bring a same-sex date to a high school dance. GLAD also represented the plaintiffs in the Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health case that won gay marriage rights in Massachusetts in 2003.

Lambda Legal was instrumental in the Lawrence vs. Texas case.

17 December 2014

Dignity USA and Integrity (1969, 1974)


SANCTIFY (Dignity USA, Integrity)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3

Historically, Christian churches have led the charge in the fight to deny LGBTQ civil rights, but there have been denominations (such as United Church of Christ) that have been allies, and several organizations within more hostile denominations emerged in the early years to support LGBTQ members. Dignity USA, founded by Father Pat Nidorf, began in San Diego, California, in 1969 as a "rap group" for gay and lesbian Catholics. And in the Episcopal Church, Integrity was started in 1974 by a gay man named Louie Crew, who came to San Francisco on a teaching fellowship and was looking for a way to meet other gay Episcopalians. For decades, these groups have quietly but consistently ministered to gays who do not want to leave the church even as the church struggles to accept them.

15 December 2014

PFLAG (1972)


HARBOR (PFLAG)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3

Part of a series of prints based on the shape of a triangle celebrating various organizations that helped move gay rights forward in the U.S. during the later 20th century.

PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is the United States' largest organization for parents, families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ people. The group began in April 1972 when Queens schoolteacher Jeanne Manford walked alongside her gay son at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, carrying a sign that read "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children." So much has changed since the 1970s, it's difficult to convey how much courage and resolve Manford's simple act of marching beside her son displayed. The overwhelming response to that act led Jeanne, her husband Jules, and early pioneers of the LGBT equality movement to create a support group for members of the LGBT community, their parents, family, and friends.

The first time I encountered PFLAG was at the First National March on Washington in 1979. As we walked the route, a number of people lined the streets. I saw marchers who had stepped aside to see the size of the contingent and cheer us on, men in suits taking photographs (we assumed them to be government agents of some sort), religious counter-demonstrators holding signs condemning us to hell. And then I saw a lone woman holding a hand-made sign: "I'm proud of my gay child." Tears sprang to my eyes, and I unconsciously took a step toward her. She spotted me right away and moved toward me, and we hugged. It was a moment of healing and connection and possibility that I'll never forget.

Thank you, PFLAG, for holding us.

12 December 2014

Lavender Menace (1970)



FLAUNT (Lavender Menace)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3

Part of a series of prints based on the shape of a triangle celebrating various organizations that helped move gay rights forward in the U.S. during the later 20th century.

A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society (perhaps then, but certainly later) cares to allow her.  …on some level she has not been able to accept the limitations and oppression laid on her by the most basic role of her society -- the female role.  ~ from The Woman-Identified Woman manifesto

The Lavender Menace was formed to protest the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the feminist movement at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City on May 1, 1970. Many of the women involved in the protest were members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). The phrase "Lavender Menace" was first used in 1969 by Betty Friedan, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), to describe the threat that she believed associations with lesbianism posed to the emerging women's movement. Friedan and some other straight feminists worried that stereotypes of "mannish" and "man-hating" lesbians would provide an easy way to dismiss the larger movement. After the protest, the group continued to meet, calling themselves the "Radicalesbians."

The Lavender Menace protest included distribution of a manifesto called "The Woman-Identified Woman," which is excerpted above. The manifesto posited that lesbians, by virtue of their outsider status in society and their journey of sexual self-discovery, were in fact a step closer to fully evolved personhood than heterosexual feminists who were still tied to the patriarchy.

This all happened a little before my time, but as I worked on this print I was remembering an artist/photographer named Tee Corrine who was known for portraying lesbian sexuality in her work, and especially her Cunt Coloring Book, published in 1975, which I just learned is still in print.

Those were the days.

11 December 2014

Black Lesbian Caucus (1971)

IDENTIFY (Black Lesbian Caucus)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3

This woodcut is part of a series of prints based on the shape of a triangle celebrating various organizations that helped move gay rights forward in the U.S. during the later 20th century.

The Black Lesbian Caucus grew out of the Gay Liberation Front in 1971 and is the oldest black lesbian organization in the United States. In 1974 the Caucus reformulated itself as Salsa Soul Sisters, Third World Wimmin Inc, an autonomous group of black and Latina lesbians offering its members a social and political alternative to the lesbian and gay bars, which they felt had exploited and discriminated against lesbians of color. The group identified themselves as ‘womanist’ as opposed to ‘feminist,’ using the term to include race and class-based oppression as well as gender oppression. Now called African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, the group is "committed to the spiritual, cultural, educational, economic and social empowerment of African Ancestral womyn."