My latest thoughts on activist curating: "Beyond Hegemony"
... my essay for the RISE: Empower, Change and Action! exhibition catalog.
"I admit to a fascination with word play, linguistics, and derivations and that the upswelling of termininology that is aimed at moving us beyond our past—as with post-colonialism, post-capitalism, post-feminism, postmodernism, post-identity, post-heteronormativity—sends me down lengthy rabbit holes of investigation. While I do believe such exercises can expand one’s understanding, the most powerful and empowering actions and interactions come when we take the “Think Globally, Act Locally” motto to the intimate scale— sharing our personal stories and our art and in face-to-face
I am grateful to the writings, actions and suggestions which kept these musings evolving:
~Maura Reilly "Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating"
~Bently Spang, who recommended John Brown Childs' "Transcommunality: From The Politics Of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect"
~The artists from RISE, whose work supported these thoughts: Carolyn Doucette, Marisa Govin, Gina Herrera
~The perpetually stimulating work of Linda Nochlin
~And the lecture and conversation with Linda Nochlin, which Maura presented at the University of Sydney’s Curating
Feminism conference in 2014 https://vimeo.com/113864836
Exhibition curated by Gutfreund Cornett Art (Karen Gutfreund and myself), Suzanne Whitney-Smedt (Owner/Director, Whitney Modern Gallery) and Marianne Kennedy McGrath (Curator of Art at New Museum Los Gatos).
Whitney Modern Gallery, Los Gatos, California, July 18 – August 31, 2018
Reception: 12:30 - 2:30, Artist Talk: 2:30 - 3:30, Saturday, July 21, 2019
Catalog available via Amazon
Info about the exhibition
Thank you to our artists Priscilla Otani, Doerte Weber, Tessie Barrera-Scharaga, Shannon Wright and Carlos Cartagena, the staff and faculty of Santa Clara University and all those who attended from the community. Our Community Conversation with the Artists brought forth many stories to further dialogue around immigration, migration, assimilation and deportation and why and how we, as artists and curators, do such work.
Powerful art and emotional reactions leading to continued sharing of stories at the reception of our "Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration". Thank you to our artists, the SCU faculty and staff and the engaged community.
Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration
Santa Clara University
January 8 - April 7, 2018
Exhibition Reception: February 2, 2018
Curated by Sherri Cornett and Karen Gutfreund, Gutfreund Cornett Art
Migrations of humanity, whether instigated by war, conflict, persecution, poverty or climate change, transport peoples from the known, their homes, families and communities, to the unknown. Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration explored the personal and observed narratives surrounding the struggles of flight, the immigration process, asylum, assimilation, deportation, threats of violence and the perception of being “other” within the American culture. Despite the complex assortment of legal, social, emotional and physical challenges, increasing numbers still trade these risks for the chance of safer, better lives for themselves and their families. Beyond Borders acknowledged the dignity, dreams and sacrifices of these people and reflects on where we are going, individually and as community.
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.
“It is a big question, a question of the work we have to do to eventually get to a place where there is freedom in the world. It is a huge question and it calls for a huge answer, but that huge answer consists of small steps and we can begin engaging in those small steps today . . . I have always discovered that it is artists who guide us into arenas that we have not necessarily known before . . .” Angela Davis
Though there are certainly improvements on many social justice fronts, the frequency and intensity of injustices, directly experienced or brought in front of us via the myriad news and social media sources, can be paralyzing and exhibitions, like this one, can provide us a place to contemplate, discuss and formulate responses to these injustices.
From my exhibition catalog essay "Why" for our Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All:
"Artists have many media into which to place these emotions, to process our distress, share our concerns and implore viewers to take action. Karen and I, through our curatorial partnership Gutfreund Cornett Art, are channeling our anguish, as well as hope, into the creation of exhibitions such as Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All . . . [The communities that form around these exhibitions] may only be temporary or they might ripple outward from the gallery spaces into permanent bonds. But, they are born within the structure of activist-themed exhibitions, such as this one, and pull us back into our genetic need for connection, the comfort of a collective experience and the satisfaction of common-focused work and problem solving. They give us hope and reassurance that others in the world are concerned and evaluating and determining their next steps, along with us. They are also asking themselves and us how to best navigate through the world and be an engaged citizen. Interacting with others strengthens our beliefs in cooperation that may lead to better decision-making and policies from the local to global arenas. This sense of community can empower those least likely to speak out, to do so and to respond and take action with whatever skills and insights they have. We are creating a space from which action moves forth from these communities to larger ones. As Berthold Brecht has advised, we are showing the world it is capable of changing."
For more about the exhibition: https://www.gutfreundcornettart.com/social-justice-it-happens-to-one-it-happens-to-all-2016.html
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.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]