A Quilt is a Public Square
Stitch n Bitch Sunday 08/28/2018 1-6pm
@ Queens Museum S.T.E.P. opening
Cunt Quilt in Saunter Trek Escort Parade group show at Queens Museum 10/28-12/2/2018
Participating Artists/Collaborators Ariel Abrahams + Tal Gluck, Francheska Alcantara, Artcodex (Mike Estabrook + Vandana Jain), Annie Berman, Tom Bogaert, Becky Brown + Annette Cords, Compassionate Action Enterprises (Joan Giroux + Lisa Marie Kaftori), Xenia Diente, Magali Duzant, Katie Etheridge + Simon Persighetti, Brendan Fernandes, ray ferreira, Gudrun Filipska + Carly Butler, Alexander Freeman, David Helbich, Claire Hind + Gary Winters, Lisa Hirmer, Maya Kaminishi Jeffereis, Walis Johnson, Federico Jordan, Kyla Kegler, Kubra Khademi, illesha Khandelwal , Dominika Ksel, gil lopez, Mary Magsamen + Stephan Hillerbrand, Coralina Rodriguez Meyer, Lisa Rose Myers, Kristyna and Marek Milde, Sara Morawetz , Clare Qualmann, Morag Rose + The Loiterers Resistance Movement, Julie Poitras Santos, Marcos Serafim + Jefferson Kielwagen + Steevens Simeon, SleepWalks (Lee Pembleton + Andrea Williams), Stephanie Stinggay, Camille Turner aka Miss Canada, Geert Vermeire + Stefaan van Biesen + Simona Vermeire plus Jevijoe Vitug.
A womb doesn’t make a woman, but it contracts our rights. This November our equality is hanging by a judicial thread. On 8.25.2018 Stitch n Bitch Choice gathered feminists to explore our access to reproductive freedom. Together we created the Scales of Justice uterus hanger Arpillera through a democratic crowd-sourced process. Pinning down our worn out wares, we deliver the 2018 Q3 Cunt Quilt in anticipation of a pivotal supreme court nomination and midterm elections that will define our generation. Millenials stand up, register to vote, call your representatives and your abuelas!
Saturday June 23, 2018
Soaked, sagged and dragged through a tropical depression; the Cunt Quilt (Bridges Not Walls) joined over 3000 protesters at the March to Keep Families Together in front of the Homestead, FL detention center where hundreds of children are incarcerated after being separated from their parents by ICE at the Mexico/US border. On Saturday, June 23rd @aclufl persevered through a lightning storm (where one organizer was struck). They continued organizing marchers in front of the baby jail, and hosted brilliant speakers through the thunder cracks, under a temporary shelter until dusk. An Indigenous leader recounted his powerful separation story and reminds us that “Protest is a Ceremony”, as we bathed our underwear and ankles in asphalt puddles. After two water logged hours, the Cunt Quilt bridge structure snapped like a bra back. Like our democracy, it must be repaired to survive the daily structural violence this administration is inflicting on children.
This 7 months pregnant anchor baby barreled through the tropical deluge praying for an opening in the clouds. We spent the remaining sunny evening after the march in downtown Homestead at my favorite childhood Mexican restaurant. Although gentrification has begun to creep into a predominantly immigrant farm town, it is good to see vibrant latinx businesses serving their communities and the historic Seminole Theatre finally open. I painted my first public mural on it’s facade in 1996 to stir interest in fundraisers to open the once dilapidated theatre. My childhood identity came full circle when a young latinx theatre worker informed me that Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” (writer of Hamilton) was on view with local performers.
While some women may cringe at the idea of someone handling their dirty knickers, another is on the hunt for them with a new project, aptly named, “Cunt Quilts”.
In December 2016, New York architect-turned-artist, Coralina Meyer, called upon the women of America to send their disused drawers to her. This political call-to-action, named the Old Glory Underwear Audit, is a survey of citizenship in the aftermath of Trump’s election. Working under the name Lambastic, Meyer is curating a series of four “Cunt Quilts” that will piece together underwear from the nation – bodily fluids, stains and wear-and-tear welcome – to create, as she says, “a shameless anecdotal patchwork of the soft, digital self, and the stern body product”.
The first quilt in the project will be put together during a “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” and is set to be raised before president-elect Donald Trump, as part of the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January – a mass demonstration the day after Trump’s inauguration in the name of women’s rights, with more than 200,000 expected participants. The march will also feature the pink knitted pussyhats of the Pussyhat Project.
Speaking to Hyperallergic, Meyer explained: “My artwork is a ménage a trois between public trauma, intimate memory, and consumer history.
“Our generation is uniquely positioned as consumers whose political exhaustion from tactical trauma can be transgressed with matrilineal armor. As an artist, it is my job to make hidden histories accessible. The project has multiple phases: the Underwear Audit accounts for our bodies, the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch airs our grievances, and the Cunt Quilt is an association formed.”
The quilts are part of Meyer’s ongoing project, City of Today for Feminine Urbanism, a dystopian project on identity politics that combines the history of cities with the history of feminism.
Got a spare pair of dirty pants? The project will be ongoing for the next four years – more information here.
As women in the art world rise up against abuse from collectors and others, will the culture that’s protected predators shift?
When the American artist Betty Tompkins was a senior at Syracuse University in 1966, one of her painting professors asked her what she was going to do after she finished school.
“I’m going to move to New York and be an artist,” Tompkins, now 72, told him.
His reply: “The only way you will make it in New York is on your back.”
“I did graduate school and moved to New York,” said Tompkins, who forgot all about this sexist comment, but it resurfaced in her mind with today’s current climate of sexual harassment allegations in the arts.
“I hope the men who have habitually abused their position of power are nervous,” she said. “I hope they are rethinking how they function in the art world – it is entirely possible they are not.”
Sexual harassment in the art world is nothing new, but since October, a number of cases have brought new visibility to the problem. Most recently, the art collector Steve Wynn – known for spending millions on art, like a $28m Jeff Koons sculpture – resigned as CEO of his casino company after sexual harassment claims surfaced on 7 February. But it’s not only Wynn.
Just as Harvey Weinstein wielded his power as a producer to take advantage of aspiring female actors, it seems those in the seat of power in the art world are no different. The Canadian art collector François Odermatt has been accused of rape by one woman and sexual harassment by 11 others. The rape allegation, which Odermatt denied, was investigated by police and no charges laid. The British gallerist and art collector Anthony d’Offay has been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour from three women and stepped down as curator of Artists Rooms in December. The Los Angeles art dealer Aaron Bondaroff, who co-owns the Moran Bondaroff Gallery, recently resigned after three women accused him of sexual misconduct.
It isn’t just the collectors and curators, it’s also artists like Chuck Close, who is facing allegations from several women who say he made sexual advances and inappropriate comments during their business meetings, and amid these sexual misconduct allegations, the National Gallery of Art in Washington cancelled his forthcoming exhibition. The renowned fashion photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber are accused of sexually abusing male models in cases brought forward in January, which has led to major publications dropping them. A new code of conduct for models and photographers has been released by Condé Nast.
A public letter was published in the Guardian on 30 October by the campaign group We Are Not Surprised under the headline “We’ll stay silent no more over sexual harassment in the art world.” The letter read: “We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favours. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticise, minimise and hide sexually abusive behaviour by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition. We are not surprised when we are retaliated against for not complying. Abuse of power comes as no surprise.”
The group, which is founded anonymously, has had artists like Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman sign the letter, among thousands of others. The group wrote a second letter on 8 February, against the publisher of Artforum magazine, Knight Landesman, who is accused of sexual misconduct by several women including Amanda Schmitt, who was photographed by Time magazine as one of “the Silence Breakers”. The group are calling upon artists and art industry workers to boycott the magazine until it removes Landesman as a co-owner and retract the motion to dismiss the lawsuit from Schmitt.
It reads: “We support the recent editorial work of Artforum’s writers and editorial staff; unfortunately, such content appears as little more than a façade of feminist, anti-abuse and anti-racist rhetoric and posturing so long as Artforum’s publishers and lawyers fight to erase Amanda Schmitt and many, many others’ experiences of misogyny, harassment, and abuse of power. We’re tired of the sweet talk and empty politics.”
But moving beyond the public letters, what actually needs to change to move things forward? Alexandra Schwartz, a curator who teaches at Columbia University, was one to sign the initial letter which published in the Guardian.
“The letter is power to the professionalization of women in the arts,” she said. “Every segment in society has been affected by it and there needs to be more of a procedure and protocol in place. There could be some guidelines from the Association of Art Museum Directors to the American Alliance of Museums.”
That procedure could help protect workers in the creative arts in ways they haven’t been before. “When I was in my 20s, in the art world, it was assumed you would run into harassment,” said Schwartz. “The fact that it can change and this assumption you don’t have to deal with unwanted attention, I think that’s incredibly important.”
To feminist artist Judith Bernstein, who has been working in the art world since the 1960s, she says the letter published in the Guardian was a necessary step. “I stand in solidarity with all of the individuals, and in all of the issues brought up in this encompassing letter,” said Bernstein. “I’ve experienced discrimination over the past 50 years of my practice, especially with my sexually and politically charged work. We’ve seen how things have retrogressed from Obama to Trump and this tsunami will have legs only if it continues full speed ahead.”
This solidarity born out of the letter could further help women in the art world. “I’m certain if we continue to support each other, all of us in the arts industry can walk through the thorny path of growing together,” said Natasha Le Tanneur, the founder of an art firm called ArtPaie, “and redefine previously accepted behaviors that can no longer be tolerated.”
Coralina Rodriguez Meyer, a New York artist, stresses that new procedures need to come into place. “One way to move away from supremacy and make the art world a better place is becoming more comfortable with complexity and multiplicity,” said Rodriguez Meyer.
“Intersectional, non-binary thinking and political participation will help viewers, curators, critics, collectors, institutions and the public reflect on their own position within society as more empathic and democratic.”
The structure of leadership in art institutions needs to change, too. “The directors of institutions can hire more diverse and non-traditional staff and assistant curators of major institutions can do more studio visits with artists working outside the Ivy League system and outside the visual standards or popularity contests that benefit their social media feeds,” said Rodriguez Meyer.
As for Tompkins, who now boasts an international art career, she hopes the exposure that the We Are Not Surprised and the #MeToo movements will put an end to all the sexual harassment in the art world – and beyond.
“One of the most positive things to come out of the #MeToo movement is that it gives a framework and a vocabulary to egregious actions that I feel was missing before,” she said. “Many women are now tuned in. That alone is a very positive step.”
Stitch n Bitch (Bridges not Walls) at Flux Factory
Flux Factory, Long Island City Queens 39-31 29th street
Long Island City, NY
Saturday April 7, Noon-4pm
Saturday April 7th, a motley crew of Queens residents ranging from artists, lawyers, doctors to tech enthusiasts gathered to create a Cunt Quilt flag made of donated and worn-out women’s underwear- honoring the Queens based immigrant community (one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US). Attending the Stitch n Bitch, were some 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who shared their family stories in the Flux Factory salon.
After hours of discussion around immigrant’s rights, labor and shifting citizenship paradigms, the group of strangers bonded over snacks and a Queen sized bedsheet to craft the quilted bridge image. The group concluded on the bridge after considering logos for immigrant rights organizations, as well as graphics representing the path to citizenship. “Build bridges, not walls” a participant remarked as he corrected the position of the water colored underwear beneath the bridge outline. Questions of representation, outsourcing and access to political processes were raised as participants pinned the unfamiliar underwear into the recognizable form. At dusk, a procession across the street to the community garden ended with the raising of the official flag for the City of Today for Feminine Urbanism as part of the Air Rights exhibition curated by Flux Factory artist in residence Christina Freeman. The adjacent Cunt Quilt (Hourglass) will be surrendering to the elements and flapping in the wind at the Flux Factory Community Garden until May 12th.