Politicized art was not what Community Art Project vice president and curator of exhibitions Jennifer Griffiths had in mind last November when she planned an all-women’s art show for the CAP gallery located within Wells Fargo Bank.
Given President-elect Donald Trump’s well-known attitude toward women, she just figured it was a good time to put local women artists in the spotlight.
With curatorial tweaking and a change of title, the show morphed into full-tilt protest art. Yet when Griffiths presented her concept to fellow board members, they nixed the project and cancelled the show.
“While the concept was appealing, a show with any sort of political content should not be held at the bank. It is a public space, like a library, and we did not want to incur possible complaints by the public,” said CAP president Faye Baglin.
Anything interpretable as political activity is prohibited in their contract with Wells and CAP’s bylaws as it could imperil the group’s non-profit status, Baglin said.
Griffiths disagreed and was undeterred. “I offered to censor incoming works to make sure nothing was offensive or even political, but the rest of the board elected to cancel the show,” she said.
Griffiths resigned her CAP positions, retitled the show “Women on Word: a visual liberal forum for these times” and found a willing venue at BC Space, a downtown Laguna Beach gallery known for exhibiting provocative art. “This is a fantastic group of artists, regardless of what they come up with,” said owner Mark Chamberlain.
The show opened earlier this month and runs through July 30, open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 235 Forest Ave.
Griffiths chose works by local artists Hedy Buzan, Darlene Campbell, Sandra Jones Campbell, Andrea Lee Harris McGhee, Dana Herkelrath, Bette MacIntire, Colleen Kennedy Premer, Karen Feuer Schwager, Sheryl Smith Seltzer and herself.
Darlene Campbell wrote “This Color Does Not Run” above her contribution to the exhibit, a depiction of a fierce looking bald eagle wearing a pink “pussy hat.” She explained that the headgear, now emblematic of the January Women’s March on Washington and a response to Trump’s taped vulgarity about women, is a symbol of female strength. The eagle represents underlying reality that the environment is even more imperiled under Trump than women’s standing in it. The title also tweaks another political, flag-waving slogan, “These Colors Don’t Run.”
A painting of a verdant meadow with the letters “SOS” cut into it elaborates on Darlene Campbell’s message of an endangered planet.
Selzer, a printmaker, first resisted adding words to her woodcut prints. “I never used words in my work before, but my dismay at last year’s election results motivated me,” she said. She wrote passages from the U.S. Constitution into “Election Tornado” and conveyed the sad energy behind words like “upset,” “confused,” “chaotic.” “I did not use my own words, but let others express their feelings,” Selzer said.”
Known for her expressionist style, Sandra Jones Campbell said she was deeply affected by the election’s outcome. She created collages from newspaper headlines surrounding the event and its aftermath including the standout, “Dick Weed.” Here a smiling mother earth-like woman is weeding her garden of tiny trumps. The term itself is a relatively new insult slung at obnoxious men.
Premer builds on a fear that the current administration will roll back social mores to the 1950s when conformity ruled. There is personal poignancy in pieces such as “The Backside of Silence,” that depicts a shadowy image of a person wearing a target. Premer salvaged delicate vintage sewing patterns and imprinted them with the target wearer framed by phrases from letters her mother wrote before her death. “What does it feel like to be vulnerable?” she asks.
Griffith included her collage “Shady Dealings,” where she combines pictures of men’s sunglasses with adjectives affixed to the Trump administration: “Delusional,” “unbalanced,” “ignorant,” “predator.”
However, the show’s best work goes to Hedy Buzan for her series of 12 women, whose words exemplify their efforts to make America truly great. Buzan combed through historic documents and paintings to find her candidates. Using her own techniques to portray them and surround them with quotes denoting their contributions, she created a stunning statement that includes science writer Rachel Carson, civil rights activist, poet and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. Her ode to kindness is augmented by the statement, “One person plus one typewriter constitutes a movement.”
Oils Mix with Social Commentary
Clowns have been objects of fascination, derision, sources of amusement and even phobias.
A gray-suited, red-nosed, unsmiling clown carrying a briefcase and pulling a child’s replica of a circus clown is currently on display at the Laguna Art Museum, among the museum’s selections from its permanent collection.
Created by Laguna Beach artist Jorg Dubin, it is titled “The Sandman,” inspired by the Roy Orbison song “In Dreams.” The work came into being in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, fueled by the machinations of Wall Street.
Dubin’s clown embodies the delusional seduction that a clown towing a child’s toy bodes no harm. Reality proved different.
“We have yet to recover fully from their pernicious under-handed dealings,” said Dubin. Nine years later, “we have another candy colored clown driving our republic off the cliff.”
The painting, acclaimed when exhibited at the Peter Blake Gallery and BC Space, was purchased by Laguna Beach resident Michael Ray, a former Wall Street banker, real estate investor and Indy columnist. It is on loan to the museum.
“The clown captures an attitude that only Jorg can fully show. He always gets at the real person or situation; he nails it,” said Ray.
Intrigued by its quality, uniqueness and historical relevance, the museum’s director, Malcolm Warner, had wanted it for the museum.
This story was revised Friday, June 30.
The sidebar “Oils Mix with Social Commentary,” that accompanied the article “CAP Refuses Protest Art,” initially incorrectly described Jorg Dubin’s work “Sandman.” The painting has been on loan to the museum since 2016. Its permanent acquisition has yet to be approved.