Posters That Express the Reality of Being
(This article originally appeared in the February 11, 1973 edition
of the Chicago Tribune)
that make these posters belong to women, though you wont see
a signature to prove it.
in a cluttered, friendly little room in a part of old Belmont Avenue
that nobody dares call New Town. They print everything by hand, sell
their work for pennies, and find buyers in a segment of American women
that grows every day.
B. Anthony were turning 23or even 83instead of 153 on
Thursday, she might want a WOMEN WORKING poster for the
wall above her bloomer drawers.
Womens Graphics Collective, which makes these posters
and many more, began in the fall of 1970 when a few young Chicagoans
banded together in joint despair over their situations as women,
as artists, and as women artists. though some of the members
have gone and new ones come, the group has developed into a
unit very likely unique in this country.
won't find a signature on any but a few experimental posters
because, as the collectives catalog puts it, Were
all in charge here.
four core members and four more casual ones plan their ideas
at gigantic poster thinks sessions in which
people toss thoughts around until designs appear. Everyone shares
in the dirty work, the silk screen stenciling, printing, and
idea of women jointly cleaning is easier for us to understand
than the thought of joint creation. Art, after all, was always
supposed to be the expression of some mystical kernel of self,
some artistic erogenous zone stimulated in private for the tangible
sublimation of the socially sanctioned ego.
women, however, had enough of that before they found each other.
Stilled by the thought of working alone in quest of the Great
Masterpiece, they decided to combine their talents with
their concern for womens politics, price the objects within
nearly everyones reach, and address themselves to a new
audience that doesnt have to know an artists
name to recognize a good painting.
have to drive taxis, paint storefronts, and do commercial graphics
to live, but the examples on this page prove how well their
message is coming across. The collective studio is up the old
marble stairs at a door marked 852 Belmont Av., above a beauty
parlor. Almost any time of any day, someone from the collective
will be working in Room 8 under the rows of colored clothespins
and amid the ink, stencils, silkscreen equipment and nonviolent
the collective members all draw something in their own
styles, then try each othersan exercise which
Estelle Carol praises for helping us experience someone
elses vision and making our own burst out in other ways.
Estelle, whom the group has sent to classes so she can come
back and teach the rest, insists she has learned more from the
collective effort than in the years she spent at the Art Institute.
times they have grumpy sessions, in which they can
vent the hard feelings inevitable when many minds must agree
on one productthough Tibby Lerner says criticism
is so much easier to take when the poster is not one persons
Carrillo, who found it hell to be a woman artist when
females are so seldom encouraged, adds that emphasis thus
shifts from traditional competition to the more good stuff
Nevraumont got interested after the birth of her daughter, Simone.
Suddenly l was a woman with a child. The whole thing just
hit me, like something attached to my leg. l needed day care
centers, other help. So the posters express needs that come
from concrete personal experiences.
agrees: If were doing art that comes from our own
lives, then art isnt a mystical thing that a few people
h e s e fourplus newcomers Nancy Boothe, Susan Galatzer,
Wendy Garber, and Cynthia Staplesfind posters to be the
most inexpensive way to reach a mass audience. They have plans,
however, for printing bumper stickers and T-shirts. Greeting
cards are already available at $2 for 10.
posters, which sell for $1.50, include optimistic messages about
sisterhood blooming and more militant outcries against
inadequate health care, for abortion, against imperialist wars,
for lesbian pride, and against calling women chicks.
of the more recent ones approach more general issues because
Women cant just be limited to womens issues
but must be in control about every part of the world.
catalog is available by writing the collective, though tell
them were sick of getting letters addressed Dear
Sir. Since most of the money from the poster sales
goes back into the operation, the collective also will print
commercial jobs and will make a silk screen on someone elses
the women are always looking for new peopleeither as artists
or to help them meet the heavy printing load. Theyd like
to have enough people to help other collectives start doing
their own work.
women should come at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. If possible. You dont
have to know how to silk screen because the collective will
teach as the need arises. You just need patience,
B. Anthony, who died 14 years before women got the vote, would
understand that one.