Musings on Femin • Is

The journey is not yet complete and new paths may still emerge, but November marks the eighth month since the Femin • Is project debuted, so it seems a good time to take a look back, even as I look forward in seeking a venue for the project for Women’s History Month in 2018.

Firstly, what am I talking about? What is Femin • Is? Well, there are two parts to that answer. Femin • Is  consists of a series of audio interviews as well as a series of portraits featuring the subjects of those interviews. I was looking for self-identifying women artists who had spent a significant part of their life in Kansas City, since around the 1960s. I wanted to hear from these women on what feminism looked like in our local arts scene from a historical perspective. Why? It’s relatively easy to find out what was going on in national hotspots during the era of radical feminism of the 1970s, but what was going on here in the Midwest? The national feminist art scene had Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro leading the way, but who did we have here?

Judy Chicago’s seminal and monumental work “The Dinner Party,” installed in what is functionally its own enclosed temple at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at The Brooklyn Museum, NY. I got the chance to experience it in 2016 and was simply left in awe of the scale and detail of the work.

Did feminism in the arts scene look different in Kansas City? And for comparison, what are some examples of feminism in the arts scene today? My initial research came up short. My response to this frustration was, “Well, if this isn’t easy to find, then make it easy to find.” The seed for Femin • Is germinated then and there.

I am a visual artist, first and foremost, so while it certainly imposed limitations on the scope of the project, it was necessary for me to tie this research to my own work. Therefore, the portrait component of the project was key. I say that this imposed a limit on the project, as there is only so many portraits I could create in a finite period, so there are many, many more women who could have easily justified inclusion. In the end, I narrowed it down to a baker’s dozen, thirteen portraits, 18 women in total.

Portraits of individuals include:
Philomene Bennett
Shea Gordon
Cyncha Jeansonne
Elisabeth Kirsch
Janet Kuemmerlein
Jennifer Lapke Pfeifer – Rightfully Sewn
Ke-Sook Lee
Linda Lighton
Paula Rose
Rosy’s Bar & Grill – Joyce Downing, Linda Kay Davis, Carol Smith, Tamara Severns
The Wild Women of Kansas City – Geneva Price, Millie Edwards Nottingham, Lori             Tucker
Gloria Vando Hickok

I asked each women I interviewed to provide me with some kind of written text that held significance in her life, either personally or historically. Poetry, historical fiction, phrases, song lyrics, philosophical treatises — all these I received and translated into portraits by writing and layering the text to create an image. I’d had a bit of practice at this from a series of self-portraits and a public project on the KC Streetcar line.

figurative portrait using layers of cursive writing. The human figure fades in and out with the writing.
Reading Between Lines │Ink on paper │ Text: Streaming consciousness │ 49.5 x 36″ │ 2014
I See You │Art in the Loop: Connect │ Power & Light KC Streetcar Stop │ 70sf │ 2016

Yet, there was more than one catalyst for this project. I had just come back from New York where I had been commissioned by the oldest feminist gallery in New York, A.I.R. Gallery, to create sculptures to be used as awards to honor feminists. I simply loved that my work was being used to honor other women. I also love podcasts and had an itch to start one of my own.

Lastly, I had a conversation with a younger women that left me flabbergasted, a ridiculous word, yet accurate, in this case. She claimed she wasn’t a feminist. I replied, “You don’t think you should have the same rights as a man?” Immediately, she responded, “Oh, of course I should,” but to her, feminism meant that oft-repeated term — man-hating.  That the definition of feminism is, literally, the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, was simply not in her worldview, or at least, in her mind’s dictionary. Really, though, I should thank her. My exasperation led to a need to do something, in my own way, through my work.

So, I received an Inspiration Grant from The ArtsKC Regional Arts Council to record and release the interviews through a podcast I created called KC Art Pie (which will hopefully be the umbrella platform for future seasons of arts-related content).  Each of the interviews gave me clues about how to create their unique portrait.

image of brick wall with row of hung artworks
Femin • Is exhibition in the Crossroads Arts District – July 2017
exhibition of artwork with an audience looking on during an artist's talk
Artist Talk at the opening reception of Femin • Is at The Writers Place

The exhibition of portraits debuted in July at Counter Point in the Crossroads Arts District and continued in September at The Writers Place, which was quite fitting, as the work was literally literary and the co-founder of the institution, Gloria Vando Hickok, was a participant in the project.

As of this article, ten of the thirteen interviews have been released on KC Art Pie. Each of the women expressed their own kind of feminism and its been an honor to talk to each and every one of them, from the quiet feminism found in Ke-Sook Lee’s textile work, influenced by experiences of war, the life of a stay-at-home mother and the passing down of handcraft from generation to generation, to the directness of Linda Lighton’s ceramic sculpture, reflective of coming of age during the peak of the sexual revolution, yet straining under the constraints of a family’s expectations of a what a “good girl” should be.

I learned that national figures of feminism did touch our local scene. Feminist icon Miriam Schapiro juried the first all women exhibition in the region in 1977, as remembered by writer and curator Elisabeth Kirsch, who, as a student, served as the assistant to Schapiro. Honestly, there are too many stories to relate here and that is exactly what the podcast is for!

So, to close out, I’ll share some of the portraits from the Femin • Is series, along with the text that each subject chose (click on a portrait to hear the interview). This was a way to learn more about the thoughts and ideas important to them and to use those values as an expression of identity, rather than photographic likeness. We can’t always control what we look like on the outside, but we can control what we value and treasure. That is what I wanted to express in the portrayal of the identity of these amazing individuals.

 

Femin • Is Elisabeth Kirsch│ Ink on panel │ Text: “Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön │ 24 x 18” │ 2017
Femin • Is Arzie Umali │ Ink on paper │Text:Text: “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” by Linda Nochlin │ 12 x 9” │ 2017
Femin • Is Janet Kuemmerlein │Ink on canvas │Text: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
│ 36 x 36″” │ 2017
Femin • Is Rosy’s Bar & Grill │India ink on canvas│Text (from left to right):
Joyce Downing: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
Carol King: “Ella’s Song”, composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon
Linda Kay Davis: “No More Slavery”, composed by Ed Sanders of The Fugs
Tamara Severns: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Background Text: “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim
│ 24 x 36” │ 2017 │ PODCAST EPISODE FORTHCOMING
artwork of silhouette of seated figure
Femin • Is Cyncha Jeansonne │ Ink on paper │Text: One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd (fiction)│ 17 x 12.75” │ 2017
Femin • Is Paula Rose │Ink on panel │Text: “If I Were a Man” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman │ 16 x 20” │ 2017
 Femin • Is The Wild Women of Kansas City │Ink on paper │Text: (from left to right)
Millie Edwards Nottingham: “We Shall Overcome”
Geneva Price: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Quote by Maya Angelou
Lori Tucker: “With God, all things are possible.”
Radiating Text: Excerpts from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
│ 22.75 x 34.75”” │ 2017
Femin • Is Gloria Vando Hickok │India ink on paper │Text: The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser │ 22.75 x 34.75” │ 2017

Femin • Is Exhibition Opening

Facebook Event

Opening on July First Friday at Counter Point in the Crossroads Arts District, this exhibition presents the visual component of Rachelle Gardner-Roe’s year-long Femin • Is project. This salon-style series of portraits is derived from a series of interviews that Gardner-Roe continues to publish on the KC Art Pie podcast (www.kcartpie.com) of creative self-identifying women. Each participant collaborated to create their portrait by selecting a text of personal or historical significance. Through writing, Gardner-Roe used the submitted poetry, essays, mantras, and more to create imagery reflecting portraiture conceived not of photographic likeness, but rather, an expression of identity through values and ideas.

This process allowed the Gardner-Roe to further learn, beyond the direct interviews, what inspired and influenced the women who came before her as well as those working alongside her. The goal is to present a body of work that dives beyond the superficial and aspires to this: May we be defined by that which we hold dear and hold to be true.

Portraits of individuals include:
Shea Gordon Festof
Elisabeth Kirsch
Janet Kuemmerlein
Jennifer Lapke Pfeifer – Rightfully Sewn
Linda Lighton
Paula Rose
Rosy’s Bar & Grill – Joyce Downing, Linda Kay Davis, Carol Smith, Tamara Severns
The Wild Women of Kansas City – Geneva Price, Millie Edwards Nottingham, Lori Tucker
Gloria Vando Hickok

This project is supported by an Inspiration Grant from ArtsKC.

Friday July 7th, 6-9pm
Counter Point
1903 Wyandotte St.
Kansas City, MO 64108

Webs to Threads Exhibition Catalogue

Whether you missed the recent exhibition at ArtsKC or want to take another look at your favorite work from the show, you can now view the just released digital catalogue for Thread to Webs: The Textile Work of Rachelle Gardner-Roe.

This mobile-friendly publication caters to the casual observer as well as the art collector. Viewers can choose to stay within the confines of the publication, which include an introduction by the artist and exhibition statement, or choose to dive deeper with links for more detailed information about individual works and an online gallery where works are available for purchase. You can now view it all at your leisure.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center – Soft (and not so soft) Sculpture

I have been so busy that it’s hard to even decide what to write for this post. I should backtrack…

The Kickstarter Campaign was successful. Wooo!! After finding that out, I immediately had to race out to Aspen, CO and The Anderson Ranch Arts Center for my course in Soft Sculpture.

Aspen…yes. Beautiful, amazing, and of course, depressing to leave. Time flew. While it did fit in a smidge of site-seeing and one good hike, most of that time was spent in the studio – a beautiful and well-lit loft space.

A few of my studio cohorts! Such a wonderful crew!

Our teacher, Lynn Richardson was (and I’m sure still is) fantastic. She had the great attitude of, “Yeah! Let’s make this!” Exploration and invention was definitely encouraged. Here’s some of her fabric sculpture…

Red State by Lynn Richardson
2005
vinyl, nylon, steel, lights
20′ x 20′ x 18′

On that note, I’ll just start posting some of my experiments of combining casting resins and lace or other fabrics.

 Cast paper lace.  This was a tricky little mold to make, but I enjoyed the crystalline results when backlit. So much so, a studio cohort even helped me shoot a few videos of it spinning in light. There’s no thread in it (just bits of paper), but hey, it’s definitely lace! I am currently making a series of these in black. Small individually, they could fill a wall and look delicious.

 This is a hanging onion orb, if you will, using only red organza. I recently tried casting one in my own lace, but learned the hard way that I must use clear tints when using my lace – ope!

I donated this little piece to the Art Center’s Auctionette, where I heard it was happily snapped up. This is 100% cotton cast in red-tinted resin.       I am currently trying my hand at this technique to make a lace bowl. I hope to get it cast this weekend (fingers crossed).

Here are a few more studio shots of building the molds and mother molds.     

And finally here I am examining my experiments. I suspended all my little tests so by the end of the week I had a curtain of randomness behind me. I also cast a few fishing bobbers and had some fun little results (the intent is to work with the media on a larger scale, but for the workshop I worked on a small scale to conserve materials and make as many experiments as possible). But I’ll save that for later!

Last Week for the Aspen Adventure!

Last Week for The Aspen Adventure on Kickstarter!

We are in the final week for fundraising for The Aspen Adventure – Casting Lace Sculpture! At this point, the project is 43% funded with only a few days left to reach the $1000 goal. Kickstarter is an all or nothing fundraising platform (for good reason), so unless the $1000 mark is reached by the end of Friday, no funds will go towards the project.

What happens then? Well, I will still learn how to cast lace sculpture, but won’t actually be able to make it. This process will require a dedicated studio space when I return from the Arts Center, and I’ve already found the right space at a great price. Without the Kickstarter funding, the project will have to be subsidized by the studio budget.

You’re contribution, no matter how small, has a direct and significant impact on the outcome of this project. So, I’m busy preparing lace samples for testing, such as the lace/felt combo you see above. I’d love it if you could share this with one other person who might not know about the project otherwise!

Few of us are in the position of being major donors to projects like the Kauffman Center or large museums. Here you can be a significant donor to something smaller, but unique. Your contribution will be meaningful in taking sculpture in a new and unique direction.

Here are some images of a few of the rewards for your participation that you may not have seen:

New Reward – Tree of Yours framed in black glass – $20 Reward Level

Bad Vibes Filtration Devices ($25 Reward Level)
Hang a Bad Vibes Filtration Device by your door and let it remind you to stop and release some of those bad vibes before you walk out the door. Stitched with symbolic images of objects that transform, cleanse, and are filled with potential energy, such as lotus pods, leaves, nuts and berries.

 

Blooming ($40 Reward Level) – hand made lace brooch, seen below in “Shimmey.” See Kickstarter Page to view additional color option.

If you haven’t already, please visit my Kickstarter page to see a plethora of lacy rewards, from books marks, prints, and even large textile works!

All support is appreciated, down to the price of a cup of coffee and all supporters will receive credit in the exhibitions that result from this project. We’re in the last few days, so if you’ve been on the fence, now is the time!

View The Aspen Adventure: Casting Lace Sculpture on Kickstarter

I hope you can join me on this journey and see lace in a whole new way.

All the best,
Rachelle Gardner

www.rmgardner.com

And the winner is….

Angela Hicks!

The drawing was 100% random (I entered everyone’s name in a spreadsheet in the order they entered and used random.org’s random number generator), but I have to say it’s a well-deserved pick. The Hicks received a piece of my early work as a wedding present, but it was destroyed in a house fire (along with pretty much everything else).

Now their abode can be Gardner-fied once again! Congratulations Angela for winning “Tree of Mine”!

“Tree of Mine” is Angela’s now!

Last Call on Artwork Giveaway. Plus Bonus Entry!

The contest ends today!
Share, forward and toss gently to those who you like enough to want them to win!

–I wouldn’t mind if you shared with others too, but, you know, I’ll leave that to you.- 🙂

PLUS: TODAY ONLY BONUS ENTRY FOR TWITTER
Retweet Today’s Tweet & get an extra entry!

Tree of Mine / 100% cotton thread / 9 x 9″ / 2012

 You can enter the drawing by doing one or more of the following and posting what you did in the comments section :
  1. Subscribe to my blog via email (click Home & see right sidebar), RSS feed, or Google reader.
  2. Like my Facebook Artist Page (NOT my personal facebook page)
  3. Follow me on Twitter
You must make a separate comment below confirming each action you take. Pretty please. This is how I track your entries!

Each action counts as one entry, so do all three, and get three chances to win! Deadline for entries is May 31, 11:59pm, CST. Open to continental US only.

First Ever Artwork Giveaway!

Yup. This lacework piece based on Can’t See the Forest for the Tress, (now on display at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, KS), could be yours. For free. For real.

Tree of Mine / 100% cotton thread / 9 x 9″ / 2012

 You can enter the drawing by doing one or more of the following and posting what you did in the comments section :
  1. Subscribe to my blog via email (click Home & see right sidebar), RSS feed, or Google reader.
  2. Like my Facebook Artist Page (NOT my personal facebook page)
  3. Follow me on Twitter
You must make a separate comment below confirming each action you take. Pretty please. This is how I track your entries!

Each action counts as one entry, so do all three, and get three chances to win! Deadline for entries is May 31, 11:59pm, CST. Open to continental US only.

First of Ceramic/Fibers Hybrid Series – Neb

Sort of a tester. Just a little guy. First attempt to combine one of the pieces from the pit firing with some wool and silk that I had dyed. The wool was more of burgandy originally, but when carded (will try to post more on this process after July 4th) with pink to purple silk, it created a much better tone, and the silk adds nice sheen to the matte shetland wool.

image of neb front
neb 1 (front) : slip cast, pit fired earthenware; needle-felted silk & shetland wool : 3x3x2"
image of neb back
neb 1 (back) : slip cast, pit fired earthenware; needle felted silk & shetland wool : 3x3x2"

The name “Neb” refers to a spiral nebula, since they kept popping into my head as I felted this. Due to its small size, it’s simply shortened to “Neb.”

Pause After Pause – finished drawing

image of Pause After Pause
Pause After Pause - colored pencil on paper - 2010

This piece is made of two seperate drawings (scroll down to an earlier progress post and you will see). 

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And here is a detail shot …

image of Pause After Pause detail
Pause After Pause detail

Not a wordsmith today. Here’s a little free association about what I’m thinking about here:  staccato motion, constant interuption, inability to move forward or move smoothly forward, one thing leads to another.

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