On January 22nd, one day after millions of people participated in Women’s Marches around the world, actress and feminist activist Rose McGowan and curator/artist Indira Cesarine hosted a panel discussion, “Art and Activism” at The Untitled Space. Held on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the event drew a packed house and was part of the programming of UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN, an exhibit that features the work of 80 female artists responding to the election. At the talk, artists Ann Lewis, Annika Connor, Audrey Lyall, Cinnamon Willis, Daniela Raytchev, Jackie Maidenfed, Indira Cesarine, Maggie Dunlap and Rose McGowan gave their perspectives on art activism and the future of women’s rights in America in light of the Trumpocalypse. Despite the worrying political climate, artists were optimistic about the power of art to educate and unify. Whether an artist’s work were focused on combatting misogyny, fighting for equality in the work place, raising awareness about climate change, or the role of art in politics, the underlying statement was that the time is now for women to band together in solidarity.
A second artist talk hosted by Indira Cesarine will be held this Thursday, January 26 from 6 – 8pm and features artists Erin Lynn Welsh, Haile Binns, Kat Danziger, Laura Murray, Linda Friedman Schmidt, Mila Rochenner, Rosary Solimanto, Sophia Wallace, Taira Rice and Virgina Wagner.
Check out some of the highlights from the artist talk on January 22nd below and don’t miss UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN at the Untitled Space, open now through January 29th.
On the attack on reproductive rights:
“I use my voice a lot in my art, I have my whole life, that is what I do – I use my voice and my body. My piece is about a woman named Purvi Patel. She is an Indian immigrant who is living in Indiana and under governor Mike Pence, now our vice president, she was sentenced to 20 years in jail for feticide. She went to the hospital seeking help after a miscarriage and was accused of feticide and put in jail for twenty years. Feticide has never been a charge that has existed before, it was an invented law for her. This is my response, I used menstrual blood, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, a magnifying glass and some high speed film and created this with a lovely friend who happens to be Indian and I felt she perfectly represented Purvi now stuck in jail because of a womb for twenty years.” -Rose McGowan
“There is a war on women in this country. Make no mistake. It is real, we have seen it, we see it. I work with Planned Parenthood and I am friends with a woman who did a movie called “Trapped” and it’s all about trap laws and as they pertain to abortion. For instance, abortion clinics have to be two miles away from a school, and a block away from a surgical center or hospital, but they also have to have a surgical suite, even though it’s the safest procedure. There’s all these little things that dismantle the law. Right now in Texas a thirteen year old girl just had to have the baby that she conceived through gang-rape because she had to go to two appointments 800 miles away a week apart and her mom can’t take the time off work to drive her there. I mean this is happening every day and that is an epidemic.” -Rose McGowan
“A lot of woman have a big issue with Trump’s insistance to roll back on Roe vs. Wade and other reproductive rights – to make it illegal to have an abortion in this country. We already have cases now where women are being imprisoned for those very same situations. I think it’s really important to bring awareness to these issues because this is reality right now. This is what’s happening. It’s already happening. We need to be actively creating awareness because it could get a lot worse very quickly. My grandmother actually died of an abortion in the 40’s, my mother was an orphan at the age of eleven and she became a human rights lawyer as a result. She died a horrific death of blood poisoning. She lived in Texas and they refused to help her. That was way before abortion was legal. It’s a real issue and we don’t want to have to go back to women taking their own lives and dying because they can’t get the help they need.” -Indira Cesarine
On the importance of activism and solidarity:
“I wanted to create an inspiration piece about protest and using that as a means to enact change. I think it’s an important reason why we’re all here besides learning about the artists but about how the artwork engages social activism – how can it change the world we live in? How can we have an impact on Trump’s presidency? Can we as artists have an impact. Is it possible? That’s a really important question that we all have to ask ourselves as artists, as individuals. What can we do to promote progression and fight against the situation that we’re seeing with regard to sexism, discrimination, xenophobia, misogyny, everything we’re up against with the next four years.” -Indira Cesarine
“There’s no time for complacency now. If I can see a silver lining post election it is that complacency has been shaken out of the core of anyone who cares.” -Annika Connor
“I want to question the difference between what is really happening and what came to light recently and what we want. We just shouldn’t stop fighting and wanting to achieve and improve the situation. We shouldn’t shy away from who we are and what we are and we should speak up for ourselves.” -Daniela Raytchev
On the environment:
“I think that people need to recognize that the environment should be a top priority issue. Once our environment is damaged our day to day lives will significantly be harder and harder. I saw an article where the author was talking about how when we often talk about the damages to the environment we separate the human aspect from it. We talk about it in terms of, ‘Oh, the trees are going to go away. Oh, the plants are going to die. Oh, the animals are going to go extinct.’ But what a lot of people don’t highlight is the effect that it is going to have on humans themselves. If more people were able to talk about that maybe it would get more into people’s heads. This is why I wanted to represent, in my piece, Mother Nature as more of a human figure. We are also humans, and we are also a part of Mother Nature’s scope.” -Audrey Lyall
On the mistreatment, sexualization & misogynistic ownership of women’s bodies:
“My piece is called One in Five because one in five American women will be raped in her life whether she’s a child or a woman of middle age or old age. This piece was created to represent what that looks like. There’s 50 pairs of underwear of all different sizes and 10 of them are destroyed through various different means. Some of them are soaked in alcohol, blood, there are tears in them because it was an incredibly painful piece to make, The women that I spoke to that had gone through this – many of them said ‘I couldn’t figure out how to scrub it off me, I did everything I could – scalding water, soap, everything.” So all of the underwear, before they were hung, were washed in bleach and hot water multiple times to sort of offer that opportunity for that cleansing discussion that so many women were trying to deal with after their incidents. This is a very emotional piece, it was a very difficult piece to make, but nowhere near the trauma that I’m sure so many women go through.” -Ann Lewis (aka Gilf!)
“My art work shows how women have to struggle with their home life and their work life. Our roles have changed over the years but we are still expected to do everything equally and we are overworked and under appreciated. My piece is holding a bag of groceries because we are always expected to go grocery shopping for the family, she’s holding a plate of sushi because we are also expected to cook when we get home, there’s a broom in one hand because we’re always cleaning, there’s a baby because that responsibility also falls on us. When we get to work men are usually treated as kings so that’s why I put that king up there at the top. The dollars – there’s one that’s short and it’s a little bit smaller than the other and it has a picture of a female and the back has a picture of a male meaning the inequality that we have in our wages. The other hand is holding a bunch of pictures of women being sexually harassed at work. I just wanted to show that we are also being sexually harassed and we shouldn’t be treated as sex objects. The briefcase demonstrates that and also the business side of us. Women get jobs where we’re not getting the same responsibilities or we will get the same responsibilities but not the same titles as men doing the same positions.” -Cinnamon Willis
On art as a catalyst for expression and change:
“In these times it is so essential is for every individual to find their voice and to use their voice in the way that they can do best to create the change that they want to see. If we want something we have to go after it, we have to ask for it, we have to use everything in our arsenal to get it. The battle lines have been drawn and now we have to stand up. I am a painter. I work with oils and watercolor and I paint with very small brushes. I work best alone in my own little space, so the way that I can create change is to protest with paint. In the studio I raise my paintbrushes in protest. I am making paintings that showcase the ideas and emotions swirling up inside of me. As a painter my thoughts are best heard through sight. Tonight I implore you. Use your talents to speak up, to speak out. If you are musician then write an anthem for us, if you are an actress then play a part that speaks to people, if you are a writer then get press for what needs to be heard and said. We all have to use our tools. I want to encourage everybody to reach into themselves and do what they can.” -Annika Connor
“My work deals a lot with taking things like emotion, the history of witchcraft and the history of women’s work and flipping it on its head a bit to repurpose those things as tools of empowerment instead of oppression. I see a lot of times this idea that women’s emotions make them less intellectual than men who have the luxury of maybe not being so emotional about certain issues and I reject that and I think that is really dismissive and awful. Emotions such as sadness and mourning and grief can be just as powerful as screaming and yelling. As women we are told we can do one or the other, we can be intellectual or emotional, and i don’t think that’s true.” -Maggie Dunlap
“When you create an opportunity for someone to have an experience versus something they just look at, you create a lasting impression in their memory. I believe installation art and other forms of art – music is a huge one, theater, when you create moments that people remember, or that they have an experience that they wouldn’t of had without your work – I feel like it can really sink in and offer an opportunity for somebody to take an action. Engaging people, getting people involved in what you do absolutely changes minds.” -Ann Lewis
“It’s important for artists to have their work in some way try to engage people that might be Trump supporters on these subjects. Or men, that need to have raised awareness when they don’t understand why women are so upset. I do think art in a way can open up those dialogues because of its visual intensity, it often can touch on subjects that are really difficult to explain. Artists speak out loud, you can see art and all of a sudden it can elaborate on so many different elements and can bring that all together.” -Indira Cesarine
“As an artist, I feel so lucky to be naturally inclined to create because I feel that it has such a large reach. I’ve been hearing a lot of people expressing that even with protests sometimes they don’t feel fully included. But with art, it can being as this individualized practice and then you have this ability to put it out into the world and so many people can see it, so many people can connect to it, yet it is also something that is so personal to you.” -Audrey Lyall