Art meets activism in a new Carleton College gallery exhibit, Everybody! Visual Resistance in Feminist Health Movements, 1969-2009. Opening Friday, April 1, with a special reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m., Everybody! presents work by artists and activists engaged with the women’s health movement, inaugurated by feminists in the later 1960s and 70s and continuing up to the present day. Featuring advocacy posters and self-education publications, polemical paintings, descriptive drawings, poetic artists’ books and a provocative performance sculpture, this exhibition provides visual evidence of the struggle to define health care as a human right, and the quest to view every body as beautiful. On display through May 8, 2011, admission to Everybody! and the Carleton College Art Gallery is free and open to the public.
Everybody! was originally organized by artist Bonnie Fortune in 2009 for an Illinois venue before coming to Carleton College. The innovative exhibit invokes the heady struggle of the early Women’s Health Movement through posters and ephemera produced by the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, Berkeley’s Inkworks Press, and other activist graphics workshops. Ground-breaking publications, including Our Bodies, Ourselves (1971), and A New View of a Women’s Body (1981) become tangible reminders of the liberating campaign to empower women to know and care for their own bodies. Artists’ books, an innovative format for processing highly personal themes, add an additional aesthetic dimension.
Following the evolution of the movement, Everybody! presents recent creative responses to issues extending beyond women’s bodies to the health needs of women, men, and transgendered people. These include "Constructa/vulva," a large soft sculpture conceived in homage to the 1970s feminist women’s health movement, a wall drawing imagining girls endowed with non-human reproductive organs, wallpaper featuring historical birth control devices, and videos and websites exploring gender transformation and other themes.
In keeping with the dynamic nature of social activism, Everybody! Visual Resistance in Feminist Health Movements will be enlivened by artistic performances presented in conjunction with the exhibit. On Friday, April 1, at the exhibition’s opening reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Art Gallery, Hyla Willis and Faith Wilding of subRosa, a feminist art collective, will present “Constructa/vulva.” Dressed as human speculums, Willis and Wilding will invite audience members to interact with a larger-than-life soft sculpture of a vulva by attaching brightly colored labia, cervix, or clitori to create their “ideal” vulva. More information of subRosa can be found at www.cyberfeminism.net.
The following night, on Wednesday, April 20, members of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck will present “The Hysterial Alphabet: a multimedia history” at 8 p.m. in the Little Nourse Theater, located in the lower level of Nourse Hall. In this one-hour performance, delivered with humor and critical insight, Terri Kapsalis will chronicle the history of hysteria with a “hysterical” version of the alphabet direct from the annals of medical lore. Backed by Danny Thompson’s disquieting film collages and John Corbett’s vinyl manipulations, “The Hysterical Alphabet” tracks centuries of female malady, disproving the theory that time heals all wombs.
Kapsalis, one of curator Bonnie Fortune’s influential teachers from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is an activist, scholar and performer. Her 1997 book, Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum, explores the psychological, sociological, psychosexual, and historical underpinnings of gynecology.
Everybody! Visual Resistance in Feminist Health Movements, 1969-2009 is supported by the Visualizing the Liberal Arts (Viz) Initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The exhibit and related events are free and open to the public. For more information and a complete schedule, visit online at http://go.carleton.edu/everybody/.
The Carleton College Art Gallery is located in the lower level of the Music and Drama Center, near First and Winona Streets in Northfield, Minnesota. For more information, call (507) 222-4342 or visit online at www.carleton.edu/campus/gallery/.