Betty Beaumont: “Million-Woman March”
Northampton Community College, 3835 Green Pond Rd, Bethlehem, PA
February 16 – March 21, 2015
Northampton Community College will host an exhibit of Betty Beaumont’s work documenting the 1992 March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. Beaumont has for years produced thoughtful and provocative work in a variety of media including photography, installations, public interventions, and new media. Her work challenges global social awareness, as well as socioeconomic and ecological practices. She is also involved with solution-based sustainability strategies, which reflect contemporary, historic, and cultural perspectives and environmental and social conditions.
Beaumont’s exhibition, Million-Woman March, includes a selection of images which focus on the WAC (Women’s Action Coalition) participants, who were mainly a group of women artists from New York City (including Beaumont). The photographs project a number of issues that are as relevant today as they were at the time. Images in the Million-Woman March exhibition will provoke discussion about recent potests such as the Charlie Hebdo march, Germany’s Anti-Islamic protests, Nigeria’s Bring Back Our Girls demonstrations, and the Second Civil Rights movement while simultaneously pointing to historical legislation and social change.
“I’ll Be The Judge,” “Clarence Thomas is a Sex Offender” and “Guerilla Girls Demand a Return to Traditional Values on Abortion” are just a sampling of the many slogans included on the placards that are imaged in the photos. Elizabeth Murray, Marilyn Minter and Ann Philbin are among many art world luminaries in the photographic series. Other supporters include Deborah Harry, Cyndi Lauper and Jane Fonda.
The original 80-image slide work was an element in the multimedia Choice Histories installation at Artists Space in New York City in 1992. During the summer of 2014, each of the 80 transparencies was scanned. Thirty images were selected and printed in 2015 as black-and-white archival pigment prints for exhibition in this solo show.
March for Women’s Lives
On April 5th, 1992, nearly a million women marched together in Washington, D.C. in support of women’s reproductive rights. At that time, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering making a Pennsylvania state law that limited access to abortions, a constitutionalized law. Fear began to ignite knowing that the high court could endorse this state law or even make abortion illegal by overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which made abortion legal. The legalization of abortion had created a controversial and highly emotional public issue. Due to the power of the Republican membership and political influence in the anti-choice organization, the Supreme Court threatened to overturn the 1973 ruling leading up to this massive march rally on April 5th. Soon after the march in Washington, the Court refused to endorse the state law and left the Roe v. Wade ruling intact.
Women’s Action Coalition, WAC, was founded in 1992, when a group of women from the New York art world came together and called for a meeting entitled “Women Strategizing in the 90s.” There were many reasons for their frustration; the appointment of Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment, as a Supreme Court Justice being the main catalyst. WAC’s first official action took place six days after a sexual assault trial involving students from St. John’s University. It was during this time that they created their signature logo, a blue dot that was modeled after the blue dot used on television to obscure rape victims’ faces on camera. Memorable slogans such as “Let women define rape” and “WAC is watching. We will take action” enabled them to be visible and impactful. WAC remained strong until early 1995.
Betty Beaumont has received numerous grants and awards including the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of California at Berkeley, and grants from Creative Capital, NEA, NYSCA, and Pollock-Krasner Foundation. In addition to numerous exhibitions at galleries in Europe, Asia, and the US, she has shown internationally at museums including The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria, Egypt), National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan), Museum Het Domein (Sittard, Netherlands), Bibliotéca Nacional José Marti (Havana, Cuba), Whitney Museum of Art, MoMA P.S. 1, Queens Museum, Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, NY), and Katonah Museum (Katonah, NY). Beaumont has held academic positions at the University of California at Berkeley, SUNY Purchase, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York University, and Columbia University.