Forty years ago in San Francisco, the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) was formed by female members of the College Art Association (CAA) as a backlash to the appointment of an all-male board. Today, WCA has 25 chapters across America. On September 8th, 2012, four WCA California chapters are celebrating the 40th anniversary by hosting a conference and juried exhibition at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. The title of the event is ‘Honoring Women’s Rights’ (HWR).
WCA has helped change the gender landscape in the art world, but this election cycle shows that the unconscionable forces pushing back against women’s rights make this conference not only timely, but urgent. Can an art-focused organization help stem the tides of the regressive right wing? How can we, as artists, amplify the drumbeat to maintain our unalienable rights?
In the early 70’s, civil rights were embedded in the collective consciousness. Women recognized that when men were in control of everything, the women were left out. If women wanted to be part of the mainstream, they had to become decision makers. In the 80′s, the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of fine art feminists, did a penis count of major NYC art institutions. They found only five percent of the exhibited artists were women, while 85 percent of the nudes were female. They went on to document that the numbers were comparable is major museums, blue chip galleries, university art departments, and auction houses despite the fact that 60% of graduating art student were female.
When they published their results, the activist group famously asked, “Do ladies have to be naked to get into the Met?”
The WCA chapters’ anniversary celebration acknowledges the Women’s Rights movement by lending an artistic voice to struggle to preserve and sustain personal freedoms in all aspects of women’s lives. While WCA is not natively a political organization, the conference organizers pointed out to me, “It always takes a political movement to move women’s rights forward. For instance, American women’s suffrage was only recognized in 1920 after decades-long political campaigns. That effort is a direct ancestor to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979 where women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right. And then last year, President Obama enacted the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
After 40 years, WCA is an established prominent, vibrant community of women artists, committed to recognizing the contributions of women in the arts.
SAVE THE DATE for the Honoring Women’s Rights conference & exhibition, 9am – 9pm at National Steinbeck Center, 1 Main Street, Salinas, Monterey County, CA on September 8, 2012.
As a painter and a long time nature-lover, I try to shun the pangs of guilt when painting, not for the art I am creating, but for the resources I use and toss away after the creativity burst subsides and I am cleaning my California studio. I began to wonder if it is worth supporting the standard style of creating art, with paint, paper, and canvases.
I turned my eye to the paint manufacturers and decided to do an investigative piece on what seems to be the best of the best at being green and still produce quality paint. I chose Golden Artists Colors. I started by making the trek out to their paint factory. Because the elder Golden restarted his paint manufacturing career after he retired upstate NY, the large Golden paint factory grew in the middle of a bucolic country setting, surrounded by 10-foot tall waving sunflowers.
There every worker has some degree of haz-mat costuming, from simple goggles to full white, zip-up suits. They hired an efficiency expert to streamline production floor work habits, filter all their water run-off for re-use, and hood any bin that could waft pigment powder into the facility. They take it a step farther and go to the county hazard waste recycle center to pick up all wet paint. Back at the factory, they reconstitute acrylic-based paints into house paint then repackages it into 5-gallon buckets for donations to whomever needs free house paint. The oil-based paint gets re-routed to an incineration facility that reclaims the generated heat as energy.
There is also a page on their web site to help the studio artist stay environmentally safe, when using their paints. A paper posted on their website, goldenpaints.com/justpaint/jp3article3.php, shows you how to assemble a fairly simple water filter to clear out paint solids from your rinse water. Great! That assays my initial pang of guilt. I can remain a painter and not sully my local water plant with dirty rinse water.
Golden Artists Colors is not trying to become the poster-child for eco-friendly paint manufacturers. They are just trying to be good corporate neighbors and employers. Mark Golden said, “This is the right road to sustainability,” and after all, isn’t that what is at the essence of living in harmony with the world?
If you care about clear water and being a good Earth citizen, you need to hear about industrial pig farms and the damaging impact to ground water and the huge mess the surface runoff causes. Then maybe you’ll put “stop buying pork” at the top of your “Be Good to the Earth” list.
Industrial pig farms manage all waste products by piping anything not attached to a standing hog into enormous plastic lined open pits called “lagoons”. What justifies calling something enormous? Eight friggen acres, that’s what! Evidently that’s what it takes to “hold” 25 million gallons. I grimly quoted the word “hold” because the hog waste only stays until there is a really bad rain storm and then the goo flows over the top, or worse, the earthen walls give way and let the Pepto-Bismol colored, sulfur-rich, bacteria-laden waste slurry out onto what ever the surrounding areas may be. This slurry is not only pee and poo. It’s also heavy duty pharmaceuticals, still-born and crushed piglets, and afterbirth. No wonder it’s red and not brown.
After a horrendous 8-acre red goo spill happened in North Carolina, the North Carolina Senate and House unanimously passed a ban on any new lagoons. Wow! Can you imagine being in the room when they all agreed? And they did it twice – the House and the Senate? Now we know how bad things have to be, to get all the politicians in agreement to fix a problem. Things have to be really, really, REALLY bad- runny, sticky, stinky, red goo (saturated with live bacteria) has to flood through woods, farm fields and into rivers.
What about those plastic liners? You would hope they don’t really want this stuff to seep into the ground.
I’m here to tell you even thick plastic can’t last forever, especially over acres and acres and left unattended. There isn’t any safety inspection at the bottom of the lagoons, like you do with any other safety liner. It’s a joke! I know lots of geologists and geophysicists who will tell you (at the drop of a hat) the Earth moves and rocks tear holes. There is nothing done to the pits and the contents – skimping on money may not be the only reason – how and who handles a gigantic pit of poisonous red goo like that? When someone falls into one of these things, they die and anyone who jumps in after them dies too. And that is another fact – I looked it up.
Industrial pig farms don’t have to pollute ground water and kill rivers, they can just hold surrounding farm-families hostage with the industrial-strength stink. Near another factory hog farm, eleven neighboring old-family farms jointly sued and after 10 years, they each go a million bucks. I like money, but not that much. But you know what? I don’t think 11 million dollars is going to make that top hog man cry too much. His company makes over 10 billion a year. That’s with a B – billion.
I hope that just because you don’t live near one of these incarnated hell-holes you don’t forget all about it. I implore you to keep these modern factory style hog farms in the front of your mind. Try living without that Easter ham or going without bacon for a year and see if you feel just a little better both in mind and body. That’ll be one small step for clean water activism.
At “Elements: An Eco Art Conference,” water will be the main topic. We are seeking to bring artists – and our work – together so that we can help our planet. We have a duty to ensure that the water in our world remains able to sustain healthy life.
In the Western world we take clean water for granted. We have easy access to it. Although many of us rather not drink directly from the tap, our tap water is rather good. Growing up in Ecuador I would have never dreamt to drink water directly from the tap. We boiled our water daily. And we were the lucky ones. We had access to rather clean water that needed only some boiling.
A significant number of people do not have access to this. As a matter of fact, the United Nations recently announced that dirty water kills more people than wars. Clean water cannot be taken for granted. The lives of countless people and the life of our planet depend on it.
This is why it’s imperative that we treat the world’s waters with the respect they deserve. I’m not talking only about fresh drinking water, but also the ocean water. Plankton, after all, sustains all life on Earth. Therefore, I find it reprehensible that a gigantic mass of garbage is currently floating in the Pacific Ocean.
A while back I contacted environmentalists to see if it would be possible to fish out the plastic and have artists use it somehow. I was shot down because the plastic is not that easy to fish out. Not being a scientist, I figured I would let the experts deal with it. I am glad that the Seaplex expedition is trying to do something about it. (You can follow them at http://twitter.com/seaplexscience.)
Now, you can only imagine how irate I became when I learned about the CubeSail parachute project. This contraption is basically a small satellite with a massive sail. Its mission is to clean debris from space – things like old satellites, rocket parts, etc. – that floating around endangering newer technology and interfering with satellite communications.
The CubeSail is yet another example of how we look up to the skies more than we do to our own surroundings. It’s horrific that we have the technology to clear outer space, but not our oceans. Outer space enables our communications, yes. But it’s the ocean and its waters that sustain life on Earth, including our own. How about we rethink our cleaning priorities?