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!W.A.R. Women Art Revolution! A Film on Feminist Art

!W.A.R. ! Women Art Revolution is a new film by Lynn Hershmann Leeson. In case you didn’t know, Lynn is a much respected artist whose works often explore feminism, consumerism, and privacy. She’s been making ground-breaking art since the 1950’s, and has been a key player in the feminist arts movement. In other words, she’s a pretty rad lady.

I got to see this film on it’s last day of screening at the NW Film Center. I’m saddened I didn’t attend earlier so that some of you could run out and see it. It’s worth your time and money. I knew something about the feminist art movement, specifically, the things happening for women during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, but nothing to compare to what this documentary showed me. Even more gratifying, was the very intimate look at real movers and shakers of this time period. I felt like I was in their living room, and we were old friends laughing about our glory days. This makes sense, as Lynn does know many of these women personally. She’s warm, and puts people around her at ease… truly candid camera.

For example, I’ve seen some of Judy Chicago’s works, and knew that she started the first feminist art education project in 1970 at Cal. State. I didn’t know exactly how much she shook the core of the so-called American Value System, and rattled some very powerful politicians. I think you really get some idea from watching this how hard it was for them to demand, and actualize any fair treatment in the art world. I always wondered… why more male artists didn’t stand up for them. I mean, if the art is good, you’d think they’d embrace them as a peer on the merit of their work. Certainly, some did. Did the men feel threatened? Yes, but it’s not as simple as that. These women weren’t just challenging the inherent sexism. They were challenging the entire body of the art world: motivation, content, and style.

Lynn Hershmann Leeson

Basically, at this time in art history, Minimalism ruled, and it was not very conducive to feminist art. The ideas behind it never really inspired me. One blue circle on a yellow wall, personally, isn’t very stimulating. It’s also the idea that beauty should be functional. Oh look, my solid green rug doubles as a heating blanket! Of course, some of it is more complicated, but in essence it embraces emptiness. There’s no social dialogue, and relishes lack of meaning. Feminism is almost ALL social dialogue, and completely full of meaning.

The art being made by these women was brave, shocking, and sometimes difficult to look at. It’s lush, colorful, emotional, and stabs a kitchen knife right into the apron of sexism. These works are an experience, and sometimes a confrontation. You find yourself resonating with the struggles of the women who created them, and therefore analyzing your own sexism and brainwashing on the roles of women. None of the high and mighty museums knew what to do with this. Certainly, there weren’t really women curators with enough power to usher the inclusion, and many were afraid by speaking out, they’d loose their jobs and reputations.

The movie is full of slides and clips of art I’ve never seen before. The array is mindblowing! I especially liked looking at the art of Howerdena Pindell, who talked about the struggle of being black and feminist. Also, Ana Mendieta, a Cuban American artist, made some breathtaking work. She died in 1985 by going out a window to her death. I’d never known that her husband, Carl Andre,  was suspected of killing her. He’s also an artist, but he had significantly more clout. There was an alcohol tainted argument between them, and a woman outside the room testified she heard Ana scream, “No No No!” Most of her friends and family are sure she was murdered, but Carl had overwhelming support, and was acquitted. At Carl’s next showing, protesters stormed the museum and covered it (including Carl’s work) with pictures of Ana. Needless to say, this is a touchy subject.

So, see this, it’s fascinating. Some of these works and interviews can be found nowhere else! You can tell that Lynn started this out as a documentary that included her voice, but wanted to focus on the movement. You can also tell, that when she started putting it together, it became more of a personal diary. She wasn’t going to feature her work, but ended up doing so. As it moves toward the present day, the depth diminishes slightly. It was nice to see Miranda July being interviewed, but it had little to say about anyone in younger generations. As the movie became more biographical, less was covered about artists outside Lynn’s experience. This isn’t such a bad thing. It makes the film incredibly intimate. I felt engulfed by the struggles of these women.

Carrie Brownstein does the soundtrack, and I also noticed Mary Timony on some of the vocals. You’ll here a few classics… and even The Gossip. It’s evident how much love went into this movie. Unfortunately, it’s on tour until the end of the fall, but should be available to everyone soon. I’ll post a link to it’s homesite below, and you can check out the schedule. There are some great clips posted as well.

Clearly, the fight for equality is an uphill battle. There’s a little bitterness displayed towards young artists who don’t want to be identified as feminist. I understand that, although getting bitter does nothing proactive. The film itself IS proactive though. It might make young people say, “These women are amazing! If that’s what feminism is, then that’s what I want to be!”

!Women Art Revolution Homesite

Lyska Mondor
ps – The picture below is of Ruby Rich. She’s a film critic, and all around smart lady! She’s one of new favorite people!

Ruby Rich

4 comments to !W.A.R. Women Art Revolution! A Film on Feminist Art

  • Dimitri Medina via Facebook

    its good 2 see that todays weomen stand up to the important subject good 4 u lynn u got this guys support 🙂

    • Wow,I can’t believe how you pretend to stand up for women and their rights,Not only are you a sexist ,You Clearly abuse women!….I have experienced it first hand!!You are a Disgusting,pathetic excuse for a man!

  • Razzle Dazzle via Facebook

    I really wish this had been reviewed at the start of its run, so that readers could have found out it was playing in Portland and gone to see it themselves.

  • Totally, I kicked myself afterwards… For some reason I didn’t know about the screening. However, at least the movie isn’t going anywhere. I’ll post as soon as it’s available. It is screening in Seattle soon.. the tour dates can all be found from the website.. just click on it from the blog. Thanks! and sorry.