|Courtesy WARM |
|Work by Michelle Runyon, Andrea Martin and Marcie Soderman |
The Women's Art Resources of Minnesota
is celebrating 40 years with a gallery show juried by three original members of the organization -- Vesna Kittelson, Jantje Visscher, and Sandra Menefee Taylor -- featuring artwork by WARM artists at the Robbin Gallery in Robbinsdale.
It's no coincidence that the WARM show coincides with an exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery. "The House We Built: Feminist Art Then and Now" was curated by founding member Joyce Lyon, along with Howard Oronofsky, and examines feminist art from the 1970s through today. The two exhibitions are interwoven in many ways, as both exhibits give recognition of WARM's 40th anniversary and four decades of feminist art.
|Courtesy WARM |
|Layl McDill's Baked Bikini|
When WARM was first getting started, "there was a general bubbling of interest and urgency across the country," Lyon recalls. Many of the women who became involved with feminist arts organizations had come up through Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam protests, and the zeitgeist of community agency and change that marked the period. "At some point, women realized they had been making coffee for too long," she says.
WARM began in an informal way when visual artist Diane McLeod put up a notice asking if there were other female artists who were interested in talking to her. A group formed, began having discussions, and, in 1973, hosted the "Women's Erotic Art Show."
A year later, Judy Chicago was invited to do an interim session at St. Catherine's, where there was also an exhibition of her work. "To some of us, she had quite radical notions of what women weren't getting out of the current structure. She said if it doesn't exist, you may get to invent it," Lyon says.
Lyon joined WARM after a call was made for people interested in being involved in a group show. In order to participate, you had to go to two WARM meetings. Part of those meetings included consciousness-raising circles. "The circle is incredibly empowering," Lyon says. "Everybody gets to make their piece. It sacrifices short-term efficiency for longer-term substance."
At the time, there were two conversations happening within the organization. On the one hand, they talked about how women weren't being given the opportunity to exhibit in museums and art galleries, and there were very few teaching positions in art programs at colleges and universities. The other discussion had to do with how women artists could express their own experience through art, exploring what that meant "in terms of breaking traditions or changing actual forms and the content of what artwork was about in order to have a women's perspective," says Lyon.
In some ways, the original goals of WARM are still being carried forward, Lyon says. For example, in the 1980s, they started a mentorship program (at the time it was called rent-a-mentor), which still exists today. The program was invented because in those years there were so few women teaching in higher institutions, and role models weren't accessible. Many of those mentors went on to teach at local arts schools and in art departments.
|Courtesy WARM |
|Work by Carolyn Halliday|
Robyn Hendrix, the current board member and co-chair of the exhibitions committee of WARM, says the mentorship program is now a core aspect of the organization. When WARM lost their first gallery in the 1990s due to rising rent, the mentorship program is what sustained the organization.
WARM has 193 members according to the last count. Today, WARM still provides a spectrum of voices exploring feminism and how artwork can contribute to that dialogue. Many WARM artists are looking for professional development and networking opportunities, in addition to the mentorship program. But more than that, "in today's political climate, where women's bodies seem to be under attack in an extreme way, women's voices still need to be heard," says Hendrix.
IF YOU GO:
4915 N. 42nd Ave., Robbinsdale, MN