Feminists Under Forty show honors novel and neon, Durango Herald, March 21, 2008

BELEN, N.M. – Feminists know the name Judy Chicago.

She is an artist, author, feminist and educator whose work spans 40 years. She pioneered feminist art and education through programs at California State University, Fresno, and the California Institute of Arts.

In 1974, Chicago turned her attention to the history of women and created her iconic work, “The Dinner Party.” This multimedia work was executed between 1974-1979 by hundreds of volunteers and has been seen by more than a million viewers in six countries. In 2007, “The Dinner Party” was permanently installed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Today, Chicago lives and works from her studio and nonprofit feminist art organization, Through the Flower, in Belen. On March 1, Chicago opened an exhibition that she juried, at Through the Flower, which is near Albuquerue.

It provides a glimpse into work currently being created by young New Mexico feminist artists: Maureen Burdock, Kate Carr, Andrea Cermanski, Helen Colton, Shara Hannah Finnerman, Erin Lynn Forrest, Mikhayla Harrel, Kimberly Hargrove, Nicole Kowalski, Emily Kimball, Ashlie Maxwell, Merce Mitchell, Kelsy Waggaman and Sheila Wilson.

The purpose of the show for Chicago is to encourage a younger generation to explore feminist themes through art.

“By looking at the work of young feminist artists, we can see what issues are still unresolved. We see artists working in a variety of media, but they are still concerned with the body; with what it means to be a woman today; with sexual orientation; and with abuse,” Chicago writes on the Through the Flower Web site.

“Although we wish that some of these issues were in the past; that we truly lived in a ‘post-feminist world,’ unfortunately, they are still with us. Until this changes, there must be spaces for Feminist art – and there aren’t enough of them.”

Maureen Burdock and Sheila Wilson were both awarded $500 prizes and solo exhibitions at Through the Flower.

I met Burdock last fall at a Narrative Art Center writing retreat in Carson, N.M., where she shared some of the ink drawings and paintings for her feminist graphic novel series called “The F Word Art: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century.”

Each book tells the story of a super heroine who fights oppression.

Images from Marta and the Missing and Mona and the Little Smile are showing at Through the Flower.

Marta and the Missing is the first book in the series, available from Narrative Art Center Press. Told in English and Spanish, it tells of a woman in Juarez, Mexico, who puts an end to the femicide there (the disappearance of hundreds of women) and saves her own cousin.

The second book, Mona and the Little Smile, told in English and German, is about a girl in the U.S. who heroically and humorously deals with childhood sexual abuse and transforms herself through drawing. Mona sends her magical drawings to other children who are then empowered to get back at their abusers and turn them into mushrooms.

Sheila Wilson creates neon signs that tell a story: “STILL HERE” in bold pink letters, “(sigh)” in flowing blue script punctuated by the parentheses and the elegant green scroll “forget your past.” Each word or phrase is the hiccup between language and storyteller, between fantasy and history, between fact and myth.

This exhibit strives to be more than a hiccup. It attempts to reinvigorate feminist artists and to remind viewers that the goal of feminism is to achieve equality for everyone on the planet. Everyone.

View the art in person or on the Web site. Listen to the political rhetoric between the first woman and the first black man to be on the brink of the presidency and realize that Through the Flower provides an important space for continuing discourse on equality for everyone.

artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

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