Greetings from a weary traveler. By the time this newsletter is published, I will have been around the country several times and to Japan, Canada and Spain. The U.S. trips involved the many exhibitions that took place during this year in which there was unprecedented attention on Feminist art, which was fabulous. The only drawback was that there seemed to be insufficient discourse on the definition of Feminist art, something that I believe is essential if the Feminist art movement (which is now global) is to avoid being either erased or absorbed without acknowledgment that this is a movement with a history, a philosophy and a purpose, which is to bring women and women’s cultural production into the mainstream of art.
My trip to Japan involved an exhibition at the contemporary museum in Kumamoto, in the south, and a lecture at a women’s university in Tokyo, which was attended by over 300 people. The Kumamoto show featured a wall-size photo of The Dinner Party’s permanent installation (courtesy, Donald Woodman), a test plate, a DVD of my Tour of The Dinner Party and text panels. I had some concerns about whether the art would be understandable across culture, geography and language but these were put to rest by viewer responses. Numerous women told me that they really appreciated my celebration of women, which apparently transcended these barriers.
In Canada, Chicago in Glass premiered at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery (which is actually a museum) in Waterloo, which is the tech capital of Canada. Virginia Eichhorn, the curator of the museum, is planning to travel the show and my glass work will be represented by the Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto. Donald also had a photography exhibit in Waterloo, which was a big success. I did a number of public lectures and events during the week we were there, the most exciting of which was a national teleconference organized by the American Embassy in Ottawa. Artists, art museum professionals and art educators gathered at the consulates in all the major cities for what was a national dialogue which was very stimulating, as the level of discourse is so high in Canada.
In Spain, I presented three lectures at CENDEAC, a contemporary arts center in the south. Two were about my work and the other one was Feminist Art in the 21st Century: Content, Context and Continuity, which I first gave at Through the Flower to kick off our 2007 celebration of Feminist art and artists. I also presented this talk at the L.A. Art Fair in the spring, in Tokyo, and will be giving it again at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in April, 2008, in conjunction with my exhibition at Flanders Gallery. CENDEAC will also be publishing the lecture in Spain.
In addition to all of these activities, I have been continuing to work with the Kutztown faculty team on the Dinner Party Curriculum Project. As readers may remember, in June there was a Teacher’s Institute at Kutztown with K-12 teachers from all over the country who toured The Dinner Party with me and worked with the Kutztown team about how to build a broad-based arts curriculum from the rich content of The Dinner Party. Since that time, there have been some submissions by teachers outlining projects that they intend to do, including one unit whose theme is “Art and Memory,” based upon something I said in Brooklyn; i.e., without The Dinner Party, most of the women and their contributions would have been forgotten, a reminder of the importance of art. Marilyn Stewart, the head of the Kutztown team, will be meeting with the board of Through the Flower at our spring board meeting to report on the progress of the curriculum and to help plan the production and distribution of the curriculum materials in 2009, when we will also launch our Summer Workshop Program to train K-12 teachers in the use of the curriculum.
Lastly, as you will see in this newsletter, Through the Flower is holding a New Mexico Feminist art competition and exhibition in early 2008. As there is still considerable resistance towards Feminist art in the art world, our goal is both to showcase and encourage younger Feminist artists, who continue to face difficulties in terms of their content--one reason why it is so critical to continue the discourse as well as Through the Flower’s activities. Women and women’s concerns are still considered minor issues in the world, as evidenced by the fact that women’s care-work is not counted as part of the Gross National Product. This was something that I was hoping to discuss in my November public dialogue with Riane Eisler, author of many important books, including “The Chalice and the Blade” and more recently, “The Real Wealth of Nations.” Unfortunately she was ill and unable to make the dialogue. Instead, I talked about some of the questions that I had about her recent book and opened the discussion to the audience, which provided for a lively dialogue with the over 130 people in attendance.
As Riane wrote: “Much more important, and more resistant to change, are the underlying cultural values and social structures of which economic systems are a part.” It is this resistance that is at the heart of the de-valuing of women’s art and it is this resistance that Through the Flower is working to change.