Nestled in the bustling business district of Oakley Square, C-LINK Gallery is host to The Power of Us and all its fem glory. On display all too briefly, this socially centric exhibition features fifteen artists from May 11 – June 2 of this year. Extracting optimism from the formidable, curator Pam Kravetz brings together a collection of works focused on the pride and positivity found amidst today’s political climate. Diverse in representation and execution,The Power of Us unites the quilter and the Tweeter, the protester and the prayer all under one roof.
The Politics of Positivity
Positivity in its finest form is the age-old practice of pageantry. Gracing the mantels of many homes are childhood trophies earned for academic, athletic, or artistic accomplishments. Historically, awards are earned through earnest effort and welcomed eagerly by the recipient. Karen Saunders takes this ceremonious rite and flips it on its head.
Cheeky and stark, Saunders presents us with an altar of unsolicited accolades. Positioned approximately waist high, ceramic trophies crowd the top of a homey table, one not too different from your own. Beyond the fleeting reflex of nostalgia and warmth, the viewer is confronted with a collection of searing superlatives. Gold plaques adorning the decorum read:
“You run like a girl”
“Been nice too long”
“Where’s my 21%”
Now even more lackluster than before, the white trophies are no longer adorations, but accusations. Through this shrine of pomp and circumstance, Saunders explores the implications of titles assumed rather than earned. She puts on display the inequalities found in political infrastructure, the injustice of accepted social norms, and the on-going disparity in gender equity. Just when the viewer thought they could walk away uninvolved, they are faced with a moment of self reflection, a mirror bearing the words:
“Respect my existence or expect my resistance”
Sticks + Stones
Language, body, and art: three powerful means of communication. To some, the ability to express through one (or all) of these is a right, for others a privilege. In a post-election era, the value of these devices has significantly increased, and we see that beautifully here.
In a series of gouache figurations, artist LizzyDuquette explores the ever-growing importance of voice and choice. Layering the visual with the rhetorical, we are presented with the idea of ownership as it pertains to the individual, the collective, and everyone in between. Posited in a metaphorical limited landscape, we see gender neutralized into an ambiguous medley. The dialogue of “YES” and “NO” shifts from figure to piece, from piece to piece, from piece to viewer, and then back again, creating a complex linguistic interplay. Who is saying “NO”? Is it the viewer to the figures or vice versa? Are the figures experiencing subjugation through other’s words or liberation through their own? Aesthetically smart and conceptually sound, Duquette’s work promotes self and social consciousness by putting the person before politics.
Happy Mother’s Day
The exhibition’s opening fell just several days before Mother’s Day so I couldn’t help but think about how motherhood weaved its way into the meaning of the show.My own mother was a quilter and a sewer and a fine one at that. Self taught and frugal at heart, she not only made her own wedding dress but her entire bridal party’s, as well. Her fibrous history tells us that she expended many of her talents on baby blankets, gifts, andbatiks for her home. She would be amused (and somewhat flattered) to find that these very crafts have made their way into the oh-so-serious art world. But this re-birth of fiber arts is timely as ever, not just for artists but politics, as well.
Jenny’s Ustick’s Preexisting Persistence Hat embodies this coincidence of political and artistic movements. Worn at the Women’s March on Washington, this cotton and dye fabrication transforms the domestic into protest-ic. We see the very craft of our mother’s being utilized in a modern and empowering way. We also watch as the “GREAT” red hat epidemic of the 2016 campaigns is countered with a truly greater hat, one that is tall and pink and yes, shaped like a tampon. Witty and redemptive, Ustick’s hat is a symbolof all things fibrous and feminine.
When you look at the scientific definition of “positive” (mind you, I’m no expert) schoolbooks tell us that negatively charged matter attracts positively charged matter. When you think about “positivity” it art making, you think about the development of a photograph to its original qualities: color, light and all. A positive response, then, to the current political climate is not one of sentiment or disposition; it’s one of reason and integrity.
A special note from the writer:
To my mom, Mary Davis:
This is the first article I’ve written since your passing and what better way to remember you than through a piece about female strength and resiliency? Thank you for always inspiring me to write and bearing through my childhood poems about Jesus and democracy. You are dearly missed and my articles will never be the same without your eyes reading over them. I love you and here’s to you.