I’ve moved my blog to a new website. You can now find me at http://cherigaulke.com/.
I was quoted in the recently published book A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements by Nicolas Lampert, The New Press, New York, London, 2013. In fact, the chapter “The Living, Breathing Embodiment of a Culture Transformed” derives its title from my words. On pages 231-232, Lampert talks about the Woman’s Building in the 1970s:
This separatist space and separatist feminist movement was needed. Women artists and designers were not deemed equal in the art world and the workforce. In the early 1970s, the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists reported that out of 713 artists who exhibited in group shows at the Los Angeles County Museum only 29 of them were women. Out of 53 solo exhibitions, only one was a woman’s. The Woman’s Building and the Feminist Studio Workshop supported women artists forging their own paths. It supported collectivity and collective action. All decisions at the Woman’s Building were made by a council that included one member from each group and tenant in the building. Cheri Gaulke writes, “Collaboration was a means of production, but at its best, it was also a living, breathing embodiment of a culture transformed. In many ways it represented our utopian vision of the world, where people were truly equal and everyone’s contribution valued.”
He concludes the chapter:
In 1991, the Woman’s Building project came to an end. Its influence, however, was felt by the tens of thousands of people who had passed through its doors as students, instructors, performers, artists, and visitors. It influenced an untold number of artists’ groups and spaces that formed during and after its incredible run. Cheri Gaulke reflects, “We were concerned with changing the lives of real women through our art, our activism, and our very organizational structures.” The Woman’s Building, along with Womanhouse and the Feminist Art programs, achieved this goal; they each served as a safe space where a separatist movement could be nurtured, as well as critiqued and expanded upon.
I am also quoted in the “Public Rituals, Media Performances, and Citywide Interventions” chapter reflecting upon Ablutions, perhaps the first performance art piece about rape. You can also see me in four of the photos from the 1970s and 80s. Check out those old hairdos!
Lampert’s book is a wonderful overview that was put together over a number of years starting in 2003 when Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States suggested he do so. Congratulations to Nicolas Lampert and to all the activist-artists and artist-activists to whom he dedicates the book.
In 2003, I was commissioned by the Bridge Improvement Program to create designs for three San Fernando Valley bridges over the Los Angeles River that would be undergoing reconstruction. Now two of the bridges are complete and one is nearing completion. I am delighted to be sharing the design concepts and photographs of the work. The public art project was overseen by Los Angeles’ Cultural Affairs Department, Becky Snodgrass, project manager. I approached this project in the same way I approach most every project. I started by doing historical research about the streets and surrounding areas. I wanted to use the opportunity to tell stories about the community that contemporary residents might not know. I discovered some interesting things some of which are expressed in a representative style and others more abstractly.
Tampa Bridge Design, 2012, Los Angeles River, San Fernando Valley
Twenty-four circular medallions with six different designs are embedded in pylons at the four ends of the bridge. Each is a tribute to the indigenous people, plants, animals, birds, and fish of this section of the Los Angeles River. Silhouettes of a hawk, trout, coyote, oak tree, butterfly and cattail stand out against a background of names which form a kind of visual poetry of taxonomy. Porcelain enamel on steel, each medallion is 24” x 24” x 1”.
Winnetka Bridge Design, 2012, Los Angeles River, San Fernando Valley
The Winnetka Bridge design is a tribute to Charles Weeks, a visionary and early developer of this area. A founder of Winnetka, Illinois, he came to the San Fernando Valley in 1920 at the invitation of the Chamber of Commerce with a utopian vision of self-sustaining farms. His development was called Charles Weeks Colony. Each medallion has a short text drawn from Weeks’ theories which he published in a book called One Acre and Independence. The earth-toned graphics are reminiscent of early 1900s illustrations. The chickens, bees and pear refer to Weeks’ formula for a successful farm. The larger panel depicts Weeks and his son surveying the land. Porcelain enamel on steel, medallions measure 42.5” x 36” and 42.5” x 50.5”.
Vanowen Bridge Design, 2013, Los Angeles River, San Fernando Valley
Vanowen Street got its name as the main thoroughfare between Van Nuys and Owensmouth (later renamed Canoga Park). The movement from place to place inspires two design motifs—the circle/wheel and the wave. The wave represents the river water ever-flowing beneath the bridge. Circles are powerful symbols found throughout all time and all cultures. They represent the sun, the earth, cycles, seasons, wholeness, community. When a circle becomes a wheel it adds the quality of movement—of time, progress, westward expansion, transportation. The wheels depicted on the bridge tell the history of the area—wagon wheels for settlers, gears for industry, film reels for movie production, tires for suburbia, and bicycle wheels for the new bike paths and energy-saving commuting. Cast concrete, metalwork, bridge measures 5’ x 80’ x 1’.
We were delighted to receive the Art is a Hammer Award from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics on October 20, 2013. The ceremony took place at an event called Celebrating the Art of Resistance at the Professional Musicians Union, Local 47 in Hollywood, California. The award’s name was inspired by this quote: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” by Vladimir Mayakovsky. Curiously, the same quote has also been attributed to Bertolt Brecht. Writer Terry Wolverton presented us with the award. The event was a wonderful gathering of activists and artists and it included a silent auction of a vast array of political posters. We purchased two: Sheila de Bretteville’s Pink poster and one with the Art is a Hammer quote (attributed to Brecht) by design firm Helvetica Jones. At the end of this blog post you can read the biographical notes that were in the program as well as our acceptance speech. We were thrilled to have so many dear friends and collaborators in the audience and grateful to our employers, Harvard-Westlake School and Otis College of Art and Design, for their support of the event. The CSPG is a wonderful organization doing fantastic work by preserving and archiving political posters in which artists contribute so greatly to social movements.
On September 7, 2013, we attended the awards ceremony at the Women and Media Conference put on by the Veteran Feminists of America, We were there to celebrate Joannie Parker, long-time feminist activist and former head of Women’s Studies at Westlake School for Girls, now Harvard-Westlake School. The event was organized by another former colleague Martha Wheelock. We were surprised when we were given medals for our work in the arts and at the Woman’s Building. Our daughter Xochi was thrilled to meet famous civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.
Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry Biographical Notes from the CSPG Program
Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry met at the Woman’s Building, a feminist art center, in 1977 and have been a couple since 1979. They have worked individually and collaboratively as artists, activists and educators. At the Woman’s Building they often collaborated on programming and graphic design projects. They conceived the media event to hoist Kate Millet’s gigantic Naked Lady sculpture to the roof, which made the front page of the Los Angeles Times. In 1981, they cofounded Sisters Of Survival, an anti-nuclear performance group who wore nun’s habits in the spectrum of the rainbow, and used public performance and graphic design to network with artists and activists in North America and Western Europe. Gaulke and Maberry have also collaborated with their daughters, Marka and Xochi, on artworks about lesbian family.
Maberry was a program director both at the Woman’s Building and at the Armory Center for the Arts. After receiving a Masters in Library Science, Maberry became Director of the Library at Otis College of Art and Design in 1992. There she has led efforts to incorporate the use of new and developing web technologies within the college. She received a grant from the Getty in 2000 to begin digitizing the Woman’s Building archive and make an image bank available online. She then created the TLC (Teaching Learning Center) to assist and train faculty in the use of technology in the curriculum. The TLC received a Center of Excellence Award from New Media Consortium in 2007 for their groundbreaking work in instructional technology. She has continued to make visible the history of the Woman’s Building as co-curator of a Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time exhibition at Otis College in 2011-12 that included the publication of two catalogs, video oral histories, and extensive online resources.
As an artist, Gaulke brings a feminist perspective to a variety of issues working in such media as video, performance, artists’ books, and public art. She cofounded performance group Feminist Art Workers in 1976. She made a video with LGBT teens, designed the first U.S. memorial to Filipino WWII veterans, and created environmental video installations such as LA River Project with teens from East LA. She has completed ten permanent public art works including the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Metro Station that celebrates the role of water in Los Angeles.
Gaulke has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, California Community Foundation and LA’s Cultural Affairs Department. In 2011-12, her work was featured in Pacific Standard Time exhibitions at LACE and Otis.
At Harvard-Westlake School, Gaulke has facilitated students to create award-winning videos as teacher, Upper School Head of Visual Arts and Director of Summer Film. As Artistic Director of The Righteous Conversations Project, she brings together Holocaust survivors and teens to produce public service announcements about social injustices. Recently, with Friendship Tours World Travel, she took students to Laos to make documentaries about the Secret War and will travel to Rwanda for the 20th anniversary of the genocide in 2014.
Cheri Gaulke and Sue Maberry Acceptance Speech
(Sue) Thank you to Carol Wells and the Board of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics for honoring us today. We are humbled and grateful. The work of this organization is so very important and we hope you will all continue to support it. Thank you to all of our friends who are here to celebrate with us. Thank you Terry for that wonderful introduction.
(Cheri) We asked Terry to introduce us because we share a common core. For us the stereotype of the lone artist struggling in the studio could not be further from reality. Artist and activists flourish in a community and the Woman’s Building was that for us. We feel profoundly lucky to have been born at an historical moment of second wave feminism that gave birth to this place that in turn nurtured our development.
(Sue) At the Woman’s Building there was always something activist to do. There were exhibitions and educational programs to organize, and art projects of all kinds to work on with other people. Making art collaboratively was in and of itself a political statement. And it was fun.
(Cheri) We particularly acknowledge our Woman’s Building mentors: performance artist Suzanne Lacy, designer Sheila de Bretteville, and the late great art historian Arlene Raven. We embraced her definition of the function of feminist art, which applies to all activist art: to raise consciousness, invite dialogue and transform culture. We are grateful that so many organizations, such as CSPG, continue to exist and support activist art.
The spirit of the Woman’s Building lives on in our hearts. Its roots are deep. Many of the relationships forged there continue and over the years new and equally strong relationships have grown. That includes many of you here today. A network of new connections continue to spiral out. And it’s pretty great that we found each other there and began a life-long relationship and partnership in all things.
(Sue) We have been able to bring what we learned at the Woman’s Building into new settings. We both found supportive organizations where we could continue to be creative, as artists, activists and educators. We are grateful for our positions at Otis College of Art and Design and Harvard-Westlake School.
(Cheri) I am also grateful for my collaborations with The Righteous Conversations Project and Friendship Tours World Travel. I would also like to acknowledge my parents who supported me to pursue my passion for art and my mother for introducing me to strong women artists such as Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Kathe Kollwitz.
(Sue) And to our beloved twin daughters Marka and Xochi who couldn’t be here today because they are away at college. They have learned the value of community and have joined us in taking up the hammer.
(Cheri) A colleague recently said to me, “We need to find something fun for you to do.” He was referring to my recent work with survivors of the Secret War in Laos, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and a new program about domestic violence. I said, “But Jim, this is fun for me! Raising awareness about these issues, and getting teens excited about doing the same — that’s my idea of a good time.”
And now to be receiving an award on top of it all! What could be better? So here’s to lots more fun for all of us in the future!
Please join me this Sunday, September 22, 4-6 pm, for the opening of the exhibition Tapping the Third Realm and the premiere of my latest video work.
SEPTEMBER 22 — DECEMBER 08, 2013
An exhibition spanning two galleries and college campuses exploring the spiritual, metaphysical and alchemical in contemporary art.
The Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) and the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) are pleased to present an exhibition of contemporary art entitled Tapping the Third Realm on view September 22 through December 8, 2013. Opening receptiontakes place on the fall equinox, Sunday, September 22, 3pm-6pm (3pm-5pm OTIS; 4pm-6pm LMU) followed by three months of related exhibition programming.
A large group exhibition, Tapping the Third Realm presents the work of thirty-four artists who deal with ideas of spirituality through four main avenues: conjuring, communication, collaboration and chance. It explores how artists tap into another dimension, whether it be a place of spirits, ideas of heaven, or the collective unconscious. Elements of magic, witchcraft, and profound attention or intuition are evident in the artists’ creative processes. In this collection of work there are portals to the spirit world, communications with the dead, spells manifested in glass, prayers as drawings, potions as paintings, and dreams transformed into sculpture. This exhibition is curated by Meg Linton, Director of Galleries and Exhibitions, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design and Carolyn Peter, Director and Curator, Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University.
Artists in the Exhibition: Ruth Ann Anderson, Annie Buckley, Christopher Bucklow, John Cage, Linda Ekstrom, Clodagh Emoe, Amanda Yates Garcia, Cliff Garten, Cheri Gaulke, Zach Harris, Philip Havice, Alicia Henry, Gilah Yelin Hirsch, Kyle August Lind, David Lloyd, Dane Mitchell,Christina Ondrus, Naida Osline, Sohan Qadri, Ron Regé, Jr., Ross Rudel, Liza Ryan, Betye Saar, Marie Schoeff, Kenzi Shiokava, Linda Stark,Andrés Torres-Vives, Dani Tull, Linda Vallejo, Anne Walsh and Chris Kubick, Bryan McGovern Wilson, Tom Wudl, Rebecca Tull Yates