This show, these artists, their art, the conversations and the community that formed around it all ... one of my most powerful curatorial experiences to date.
Karen and I (Gutfreund Cornett Art) looked to employ artwork as weapons in the fight for
basic human and civil rights, which have been abridged and jeopardized within a judicial system that has eroded confidence and trust, and with racism propagated through groups that have systemic power to institutionalize prejudice in the forms of laws, policies, and ideologies that exclude and oppress others. Human rights can no longer be thought of as separate and belonging to a privileged few, but rather that these rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible for all. We believe the artist voices will help to foster these important dialogues.
Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All
Saint Mary's College Museum of Art
September 18 - December 11, 2016
In Conversation with the Artists, September 18
Exhibition Reception, September 18
Curators: Sherri Cornett and Karen Gutfreund, Gutfreund Cornett Art
Special Recognition Juror: Sandra Fluke, social justice attorney and women's rights activist
For more information about this exhibition https://www.gutfreundcornettart.com/info-social-justice.html
Thank you to all who came to Saint Mary's College Museum of Art yesterday!
What an uplifting, powerful, inspiring, community of artists and visitors at our In Conversation with the Artists and Reception for Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All! Seventeen of the artists from this exhibition participated and were asked to respond to two questions: 1) Is there a specific event that motivated you to do activist-themed/social justice focused work? 2) What was the most meaningful reaction you have received to your work? Community members listened and then joined in. What followed was an emotionally-charged exchange that supported and bonded our community.
We began our In Conversation with the the Artists with a viewing of your VIBE's "Power to the People". We should have provided boxes of tissues. It set the perfect tone for the artists sharing why they do activist work and reactions to their work.
Finding hope, love, and encouragement to counter the despair so prevalent in our media.
Just home from the opening of Karen's and my "Vision: An Artist's Perspective" and still processing the candid and touching stories shared by the artists about their works and motivations and personal experiences behind them.And now, I am writing my essay for our upcoming "Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All" exhibition.
I am immersed in the power of art, all of the positivity, the community, the sharing of stories, the honesty, the earnestness, the compassion, the empathy, the call to action. In today's research, I found again the blog conversation that several of our delegates to the China project, "Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art", had as part of our participating in Open Engagement 2015. Thank you again Kay Kang, Mido Lee, Neda Moridpour, Sandra Mueller, Brenda Oelbaum, Priscilla Otani and Christine Giancola for that conversation and the reminder that action, even small steps, can lead us to a better world.
With recent tragedies, horrors and stories of hate and divisiveness, it is all the more important for us to share our perspectives, with whatever tools we have. As we know, art is a powerful way to start dialogue, to overcome language and cultural barriers.
At our Democracy show opening, a Turkish man came up to me to talk about the show. He was visiting his daughter in NYC, or more accurately, he was spending as much time in NYC as visa regulations allowed, escaping his beloved country due to the increasing fear and the loss of rights and democracy there. He was not an artist, but, that evening, he wanted to be in a place where democracy was being discussed, to be comforted that there are still safe venues to talk about concerns, about what is right and what is left, or remaining, of civil rights, human rights, dialogue. That brief conversation is why Karen and I do what we do with Gutfreund Cornett Art... creating opportunities for artists to start and add to conversations, to engage others to think more deeply about issues, to create community.
What's Right, What's Left: Democracy in America
Phoenix Gallery, Chelsea, NYC
January 6-30, 2016
Curators: Sherri Cornett and Kren Gutfreund, Gutfreund Cornett Art
Juror: Dr. Kathy Battista, Founder and Director of the MA Contemporary Art program at Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York
Artists with works in the gallery:
Nic Abramson, Ransom Ashley, Michael D'Antuono, Cat Del Buono, Justyne Fischer, Lindsay Garcia, Shawna Gibbs, Ruthann Godollei, Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch, Emily Greenberg,Gracie Guerrero-Bustini, Shreepad Joglekar, Sinan Revell, Monika Malewska, Victoria Helena Mihatovic, Kate Negri, Gina Randazzo, Nick Schmidt, Laura Sussman-Randall, Dan Tague, and Eike Waltz.
FLOW: Interactive Exhibition and Community Project
Another big project ... another endeavor to encapsulate the many woven together parts of rewarding and meaningful community engagement.
It began with a big, but, initially, manageable goal, given our backgrounds - to bring more people into the gallery and to engage them across departments, across the city and between the two institutes of higher education in Billings around the theme of water issues and focused on the Yellowstone River. Early on, we consulted MSU Billings' long-range plans, goals, & strategies and ... Leanne Gilbertson, a Ph.D of Art History and Nothcutt Steele Gallery Director at MSU Billings and me, an artist curator with a passion for community engagement, were soon neck deep in conversations with potential partners, who were enthusiastic and willing to sign on.
The gallery was set up as a laboratory and nexus for exploration and dialogue with an exhibition of my Grottoes - mixed media wall sculptures with video meditations on water - and juried works by students and alumni. We commissioned two students, Bonny Beth Luhman and Ariel Grossfield, to create an animated short about river users. Art Ed students discussed water issues with the Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls and other K-8 students, who then made 5 x 7 panels with their responses. Presentation of research by Rocky Mountain College students. Precious MacKenzie, teacher of English at Rocky Mountain College, donated her water-themed children's books to the MSU Billings library, which became the anchor for pre-school readings there. Poetry and jazz students held a water-themed reading and improvisation night. Northern Plains Resource Council and Eric Warren presented his film "Mixing Oil and Water" featuring conversations about oil & gas development along the river. Dr. Susan Gilbertz offered a course for students from both campus about the findings from the Yellowstone River Cultural Inventory, which was part of the 16 year, most comprehensive study in the world on a watershed, our Yellowstone River, which was the basis for our keynote symposium, which included Dr. Gilbertz' students, some of the key scientists of that study (Warren Kellogg, Burt Williams and Kayhan Ostovar) as well as a beautiful argument for personhood rights for rivers.
The amount of creativity and information shared and the community of collaborators, brainstormers, participants and supporters was a heart-warming overlay and reward for the intensity of coordination: Gerard Baker, Sue Beug, Karin Calabrese, Reno Charette, Michelle Dyk, Teresa Erickson, Megan Fetters, Samantha Finch, Karen Gutfreund, Leanne Gilbertson, Ph.D, Susan Gilbertz, Ph.D, Ilene Goddard, Ariel Grossfield, Tami Haaland, Ruby Hahn, Joy Honea, Hannah Hostetter, Warren Kellogg, Luke Kestner, Korilynn Kessler, Carrie La Seur, Ph.D, J.D., Jodi Lightner, Bonny Beth Luhman, Larry Mayer, Precious McKenzie, Joel Miller, Patrick Mueller, Kelsey Nix, Carolyn Ostby, Kayhan Ostovar, Mara Pierce, Ph.D., Megan Poulette, Tabetha Rindahl, Brent Roberts, John Roberts, Maria Selvig, Stephanie Slavin, Rebecca Summers, Peter Tolton, Patricia Vettel-Becker, Ph.D., Eric Warren, Burt Williams, Patrick Williams, Dylan Woods and so many more who came to share their thoughts, listen and expand the dialogue around water issues, rights, access and conservation in our region.
Project overview page with links to further details at https://www.sherricornett.com/flow-interactive-exhibition-and-community-project.html
When Priscilla Otani and I decided to piggy back on the success of her previous postcard projects for the Women's Caucus for Art and the United Nations, we had no long range goals other than to give women, men and children a chance to consider the impacts women have had on the economy, human rights, education, the environment, world health religion, the arts, sports, politics and peace. We were inspired by the work of the UN Women's HeForShe campaign and its Beijing+20 program, celebrating the First World Women's Conference.
The call went out and the cards came in - steadily and from around the world, starting with a post card making gathering at my house and including gatherings in the Bay Area and classrooms around the country. The growing collection traveled, in 2015, to the WC and CAA Conferences, to the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference and our International Caucus UN Program parallel event there, to Honey's Cafe in Red Lodge, Montana, and, in 2016, to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in DC, the Women's History Month Exhibition at St. Louis Florissant Valley Community College (near Ferguson), Arc Project Gallery in San Francisco and ... all were collected in our online gallery. Some samples are above.
The resulting mosaic of cards is a rich and inspiring diversity of media and message and women!
Thank you to all who nurtured this along its path, including Maureen Burns-Bowie, Janice Nesser, Maggy Hiltner, Kerry Wolfson, Cherie Redlinger, Michael Yochum, and Stephen Wagner.
More information and photos of events at https://www.sherricornett.com/women-do-it-traveling-postcard-exhibition.html
As part of the processing of our massive project in China, "Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art," several of the artist delegate leaders and I applied for and received a panel at the annual Open Engagement Conference, the artist-led initiative committed to expanding the dialogue around and serving as a site of care for the field of socially engaged art ... this year at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. Here is the conversational blog we created for the conference catalog:
In April 2014, artist volunteers from the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) created an exhibition and interactive events for women artists in China and the U.S. at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, China, entitled “Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art (HTS:IISPA)” We were invited by the academy’s president and gallery director, who wished to create a dialogue between artists and their works about women’s issues. WCA has a 40+ years history of activist art, yet the choices about the collection of art and the events we brought to China were greatly influenced by the political and cultural restrictions there. Here is a conversation about our decision-making and reflections over time about our experience from some of the thirteen working delegates who went to China as key figures in this project
PRISCILLA OTANI: We had a serious debate just prior to our social practice art interactive pieces. I recall that we felt conflicted and debated as to whether we should cancel or go forward with the performances. In the end, we decided to go forward. I felt our discussion, and what ensued, was an important milestone. Some of the unease came from a cultural sensitivity, a feeling of not wanting to impose Western values and standards on Chinese students, artists and academics who may not have the same perspective or readiness. I remember making a comment that our role was to “sow the seeds of discomfort,” to bring forth concepts and ideas that may be new, strange and uncomfortable. Of course I didn’t know if in fact we would have any impact at all, or if we would have even an audience. In the end, I felt very good about the events of the day. And after viewing the short video created by Mido Lee, I was surprised at how much of an impact we did have, and based on recent letters, how the women-based exhibition and performances continue to have on students at the Luxun Academy.
Nearly a year after our Half the Sky project, in what ways have your views and opinions about what happened with our socially-engaged events at the Luxun Academy changed or evolved?
Hye-Seong Tak Lee, a Korean Women's Caucus for Art Member-At-Large, independent curator, artist and lecturer at Gwangju University, spontaneously flew over to Los Angeles for the Women's Caucus for Art Conference and, in particularly, to attend the inaugural meeting for the newly formed International Caucus, for which I was the Director. She had no room at the hotel, so I offered her my extra bed. What she added to this already whirlwind of a kickoff, was a proposal for a collaboration between WCA artists and Korean women artists for exhibitions in South Korea. I had never directed an exhibition, especially an international one, but, my natural instincts to say YES and have faith in my abilities as a quick learner won out. This conference was in February of 2012 and the exhibitions, just concluded!
With Priscilla Otani's guidance, and many odd-hour conversations with Hye-Seong, with her as director and me as co-director, we tackled the complicated international logistics:
Woman + Body explored the range of sexual identification - female, transgender, and male - with a contemporary, 21st century view. The subject of the female body was well-explored in the 1960's and produced many discourses in the 90's, related to such issues as AIDS, cosmetic surgery, stereotyping and discrimination, but what is new?
1) Woman's Body as Subject: unabashed exploration of women's bodies and women's desires- unaltered, unadulterated images that set a new standard of beauty.
2) Transformation and Crossover: Bodies altered through cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, tattoos, sex change, cross dressing, costuming and other means to achieve a metamorphosis.
3) Man's Body as Subject: a woman's view of the male body - affectionate, lustful, critical, envious.
There was little English spoken, but, somehow, even when Hye-Seong was not there to translate, we communicated our collective thoughts on living as self-identified women. Shared meals and a night of Karaoke (with many repeats of the song "Gangnam Style", since we were in the Gangnam section of Seoul and the song is bi-lingual) broke down many barriers. The obvious matriarch of the South Korean artists was Park Youngsook, who graciously toured us around the Bukchon Hanok Village historic area and invited us to tea.
The short time line for this project was crazy-making, but the end product and the reception by the women artists there were deeply rewarding.
I created a video of the exhibitions: vimeo.com/99755522
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]