Their art is for womens sake
(Editors Note: This
article from Chicago
Today discusses women's art collectives with special
attention paid to the Chicago Women's Graphics Collective.)
ART collectives are blooming everywhere now. A group called Artists
in Residence has just opened the first feminist art gallery ever
in Manhattan, Penelope and Sisters share space and materials in
a shop on Fourth Street in Philadelphia, and Womanspace in Los
Angeles rents an exhibition hall to provide special low rates
for shows by: women painters, photographers, and filmmakers.
Chicago, tho, the collective has found probably its most complete
expression so far in a group of women who work from a tiny studio
tucked away above a beauty parlor.
Women's Graphics Collective, 852 W. Belmont Av., is unique because
members design and execute each piece of work together as well
as share office space, materials, and a distribution system.
, one of four original members of the collective, explains their
rationale: "People have this image of the artist be slaving
away in his own studio, trying to cleats the Great Masterpiece.
But women are seldom encouraged to fill this stereotyped role,
and personally we feel stifled by it. So we are working to build
a new culture based on mutual suggestion and support."
group's entire output is in the form of silk-screen posters..
["We believe in producing good art at a price everyone can
afford," Leslie says,]
IDEAS FOR the posters develop at marathon poster-thinks
held regularly one a week. Heres how the process works:
On a particular Friday evening in early spring, a dozen or so
women sit in a circle around a big, blank piece of white paper.
They have a definite assignment: Come up with a poster to promote
a maternity center.
artists are united in their support for the work of this center,
so they are able to proceed directly to. the question of what
kind of design they'll use in developing the poster.
we're very diverse," says a member named Estelle. "So
sometimes half the night is spent arguing about what we can agree
to say artistically on a subject like... pollution, the war, abortion,
slogan is decided first. "Let's keep it simple," someone
says. "How about:
birth in comfort at home...
Let's write it in Spanish, too. A lot of the center's clients
don't speak English."
design must be simple and straightforward to go with the slogan,
it is agreed.
begins sketching. She is a new mother herself, so the others kid
her about her "special perspective."
human figures appear on the white paper-all female: a mother,
a doctor, and a newborn baby. The style is a little like proletarian
realism of the '30s.
looks right, everyone agrees, except... "We need a few softer
edges," Estelle suggests. "And the mother looks so grim.
She's supposed to be happy, remember? She just had a baby."
EDGES ARE softened: The to adult women in the picture take on
Madonna-like appearances. Their heads bow, ever so slightly, toward
is discussed. "The faces shouldn't be too pale and WASPish.
But we don't want them too dark either, or you won't be able to
see the features,"
a light, gold-brown is used and there's just a hint of almond
shape in the women's eyes, the figures will look... well, international,
the artists decide. The mother and her child could be black or
Oriental or Mexican or maybe even Greek or Italian.
SHADING will be decided later when the silk-screen stenciling
is finished. Everyone will share in the printing and in the cleaning
see, this way of creating really does work," Leslie says
to a visitor. Her face beams with the enthusiasm of the new project,
"Instant feedback from professionals you respect just naturally
makes ideas come faster," adds Estelle.
says Tibby, another member, you feel so much accomplishment
when you can point to 10 posters and say I worked on all
of those in the time you would have needed to do just one
piece working alone.
OF THE collective's work so far has been directly or indirectly
political, more often than not related specifically to the women's
beginning to break away from that now, tho, a little," says
Estelle, "as the group gets larger." They're also considering
printing the private work of individual members occasionally,
and they have thought of making some T-shirts and bumper stickers.
and Tibby are paid by the collective to do necessary administrative
tasks but nearly all the remaining money from sales is poured
back into materials or expansion of facilities. "We're getting
a darkroom next month," says Tibby. "Until now, we've
had to use my bathtub."
members take various odd jobs- from taxi driving to carpentry
to bread baking- to pay individual rents and buy groceries. "Our
goal," says: Estelle with crossed fingers, "Is someday
to make this place our sole support.
OF THEIR products are distributed for mail order, and ads are
placed in womens magazines, underground papers, and community
bulletin boards. Posters [$1.50 each] are also sold on contract