It’s like Lilith Fair. Minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

Valentine’s Day could be the most contentious holiday on the calendar. Most holidays enjoy a tepid scale from ‘like’ to ‘obligated’ to ‘don’t care.’ But Valentine’s day (or, ‘V.D’ as I shall from now on refer to it) provokes intense reactions from people of all walks of life. No matter what your religious/cultural/political stance, odds are pretty good that you either LOVE it or HATE it.

As a kid, I loved the holiday- cinnamon gummy hearts? I get to wear EVERYTHING pink? There are balloons in the living room for NO REASON? All wins! At a certain point, however, I began to see everything that was ‘wrong’ with the holiday and found myself approaching each February 14th with dread. Coincidentally, this was during those magical, quasi-goth-wannabe-alternative preteen/teen years where my greatest aspiration was to be EDGY and COOL and to give ZERO fucks.

As seen here, circa 2002.

As seen here, circa 2002.

At some point during college I accepted that I will always be irrepressibly optimistic and happy and that dorkiness was not only in my personality, it was in my very genes. It was then that I abandoned my attempts at ‘cool’ and took up the banner to combat the rampant haterism and ironic apathy that seem to be making the rest of my generation fairly miserable.
Part of this Mission of Sincerity was reexamining my feelings towards V.D.  Now that I’m old enough to hold two contradictory opinions at once I can acknowledge that yes, on some levels Valentine’s Day is kind of terrible, but, as it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon, we might as well look for and celebrate the parts of it that aren’t terrible.
To illustrate my point, I’ve made the following Venn diagram:
vday_diagramI also find that around this time of the year, I am in desperate need of some hi-fun/low-risk art projects. And at any time of the year, I am always in need of some new historical heroines. Last year I set myself to creating valentine’s celebrating awesome contemporary women artists. It was so much fun, that that I decided this year to make it an annual tradition. This year’s theme was ‘Suffragettes of America!’ Chosen purely because the suffragette song from Mary Poppins was stuck in my head, it actually turns out to be fairly pertinent, as Feb. 15th is Susan B. Anthony’s birthday!
So whether you’re looking for a belated Valentine’s day card or a note to cheer up a friend imprisoned for trying to vote, feel free to print these out and pass them on! Click on the images below to learn more about each woman.

This badass lady gave 75 to 100 speeches a year during her prime. When fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election, Anthony refused to pay any of it. She said so during her trial, with a speech so stirring that the US Government never enforced or tried to collect the fine- they were too embarrassed. BAM.

This badass lady gave 75 to 100 speeches a year during her prime. When fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election, Anthony refused to pay any of it. She said so during her trial, with a speech so stirring that the US Government never enforced or tried to collect the fine- they were too embarrassed. BAM.

Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth went on to become a famous abolitionist and women's rights activist. Her most famous speech 'Ain't I a Woman?' was delivered right here in Ohio!

Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth went on to become a famous abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Her most famous speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ was delivered right here in Ohio!

Who says feminists have to be women? Among his many causes, Max Eastman helped found the Men's League for Women's Suffrage in 1910. Hawt.

Who says feminists have to be women? Among his many causes, Max Eastman helped found the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage in 1910. Hawt.

galentines_MaudPark

As the youngest person at the 1900 National American Women Suffrage Association convention (at 29), Maud realized the movement needed more young supporters. She subsequently began touring colleges looking for student support. Gotta love a lady who recognizes the power of youth.

As a nurse working in the slums on NYC's East Side, Sanger saw firsthand the havoc that unplanned/forced pregnancy could wreak on girls and women and fought to legalize birth control, end unsafe abortions, provide sex education and just, in general, give women control over their own bodies. In the 1920's. BAM.

As a nurse working in the slums on NYC’s East Side, Sanger saw firsthand the havoc that unplanned/forced pregnancy could wreak on girls and women and fought to legalize birth control, end unsafe abortions, provide sex education and just, in general, give women control over their own bodies. In the 1920’s. BAM.

An all around Progressive reformer, Madge was the Vice President of the National Women's suffrage association, President of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association and, along with her husband (editor of the Lexington Herald) used their position to promote Progressive political and social causes. Now that's what I call a power couple.

An all around Progressive reformer, Madge was the Vice President of the National Women’s suffrage association, President of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association and, along with her husband (editor of the Lexington Herald) used their position to promote Progressive political and social causes. Now that’s what I call a power couple.

Long before Angelina Jolie, Izetta Jewel used her position and fame as a stage actress to champion political change. At the 1924 Democratic Convention Izetta became the first woman to address an American political party convention.

Long before Angelina Jolie, Izetta Jewel used her position and fame as a stage actress to champion political change. At the 1924 Democratic Convention Izetta became the first woman to address an American political party convention.

Ida B. Wells could be my new hero. Journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, early leader in the Civil Rights movement. This hardcore lady, a former slave, risked her life to  document lynchings after three of her own friends were lynched.

Ida B. Wells could be my new hero. Journalist, newspaper editor, sociologist, early leader in the Civil Rights movement. This hardcore lady, a former slave, risked her life to document lynchings after three of her own friends were lynched.

Another journalist, Emma Bugbee covered the Suffrage movement, nicluding the famous Suffrage hike.

Another journalist, Emma Bugbee covered the Suffrage movement, including the famous Suffrage hike.

Happy Galentine’s Day everyone!

(note: these are but a small sample of the kinds of brave ladies that fought for our right to vote. They were chosen purely for the ease with which I could make puns out of their names. Check out this article for a more complete picture of the nearly 100 years struggle for suffrage.)

D.O. for that B.O.

This past week, my coworkers learned a few of my dirty secrets, namely that for weeks (and in some cases, months and years) I have not bought or used commercially available face wash, deodorant, shampoo or conditioner. Rather than be horrified and confirm all my deepdark fears that I actually do smell like an armpit, they were surprised and then fascinated. After an in-depth discussion about what I use to get un-funky, I decided to start a series of posts I’m calling;

How to Make Your Own Damn Hygiene Products That Are Petroleum-Free, Cruelty Free, Cheap as Hell, Unlikely to Make You Rashy and Which Will Help You Take on the Hygiene Industry Patriarchy All While Meeting Your Own Personal Standard of Beauty*

Are you a stinky, dirty, itchy, oily person who has to interact with other humans and thus must meet at least the minimum standard of hygiene acceptable to the majority of society? Does thinking about all the strange chemicals and potential animal cruelty that went into your hygiene products really bum you out? Do you have the sensitive skin of European aristocratic babies that wells up into hives at the mere mention of, well, anything? Do you wish you could afford products with ingredients you could pronounce and which would leave you rash-free, but have tragically woken up once again to find that you are still not Gweneth Paltrow and don’t have an artisinal woven basket full of fair-trade rubies to trade in for said products?

Good fortune! You can solve (most) of these problems with cheap-ass ingredients from the grocery store and the barest minimum effort required.

Throughout this series I’m going to not only share recipes I’ve tried and found to be successful, but also some of the facts, figures and history surrounding each product. Turns out most of what we take for granted as ‘necessary hygiene products’ have absolutely fascinating history.

Like, for example,

deodorant.

Humans have been using things (herbs, oils, salves and what have you) to cover up body odor for as long as we’ve been sweating which, since sweating is a biological function, means probably for as long as humans have been humans. The first commercial deodorant, however, appeared in 1888, thanks to those saucy folk, the Victorians.

"I say- nothing breathes quite like layers of crinoline, velvet, fur and societal shame!

“I say- nothing breathes quite like layers of crinoline, velvet, fur and societal shame!”

Antiperspirant, on the other hand, was invented soon after, but didn’t really catch on until 20 years later. Covering up one’s sweat with other smells? Historical (and prehistorical, even) precedent, totally fine. Stopping one’s sweat entirely? Newfangled witchery! Besides which, Victorians were all about not talking about things, so even admitting that one needed antiperspirant was a taboo. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that antiperspirant became common, when a school girl teamed up with a Bible salesman to create what was essentially a whisper campaign to scare self-conscious women (and eventually men) into buying the product.**

Today, antiperspirants and deodorants are a huge industry, pulling in 18 billion dollars. 18 billion dollars! Imagine 18 billion of anything- then turn that anything into dollar bills- that’s how much we as Americans are afraid of sweating and/or smelling.

As a moist, nervous preteen with no concept of money, I would’ve paid 18 billion dollars (or tacos) to find the thing that would save me from the social ridicule I feared lurked just minutes away at all times. My average body temperature has always been a few degrees high, and as a kid this made me feel like a superhero (no socks ever! See how I go without a hat all goddam winter and tremble at my powers!).  A few years, a new school, and a flood of confusing hormones later I found that, my powers had turned against me. Suddenly, not only was every classroom A HUNDRED DEGREES, but I found myself with a new found social anxiety which, coupled with obsessive tendencies, created a terrible, sweaty cycle. Faced with the prospect of talking in front of/being around/thinking about people, I would start to sweat. Sweating would beget panic which would only beget MORE SWEATING which would beget more panic and so on until I would find myself holding my shirt to the hand dryer while washing my armpits between classes (#thingscrazypeopledo). Did anyone ever actually tease me about being sweaty and/or smelly? Of course not, probably because they themselves were also caught in some sort of self-conscious panic/cycle involving some minor ‘flaw’ that I was to busy panicking to see. Alas, middle school.

By the time I got to college, things had mellowed a bit. Art school, with it’s endless projects/deadlines/all-nighters gave my everbusy brain a focus outward, while art students, with their varying degrees of weirdness helped me to relax into my own skin. Around this time I took a science class about food that sparked a lifelong interest in food systems, food politics, ecology and specifically, how what (or who) we eat can affect our bodies, mind and world*** (‘wtf Cat, weren’t we talking about deodorant?’ yeah, just stay with me.). Over the next couple of years this interest led me to reevaluate and readjust not just what I put into my body, but also what I put on it as well. This was also when my hormone levels began to subside and where I once had tough-as-nails, sebum-covered teen skin that welcomed gallons of Bath and Bodyworks on the regular, I now had sensitive grownup skin that broke into a welts whenever I even looked at something with fragrance, or more than three ingredients in it. Enter Toms of Maine.

Also, this.

Also, this.

That, friends, is the tail end (trust me, it looked much jucier in its early days) of a mysterious and painful armpit rash that came out of nowhere and responded to nothing but time- time and a break away from my new, all natural deodorant. Having diagnosed myself with everything from eczema to cancer (thanks Webmd) I eventually settled on hives and/or allergic reaction. But Toms of Maine, you were supposed to be free of heavy metals and scary chems and (in this case) even fragrance! You were made with tears of joy cried from massaged and grass-fed cows or some other such miracle substance, right? Further internetting revealed that rashes from Toms of Maine’s deodorant are not super common, but also not totally unheard of. The next couple of months found me holed up at my computer, icepacks in my pits, looking for any sort of all natural, cruelty-free and fragrance-free deodorant with high recommendations from my fellow sweaty/rashy-folk. This search led me to another moment of self-realization-
I am cheap as shit.

fancyassdeodorantSo, faced with either supporting an industry who made me feel icky, oozing sores or spending fourteen donuts worth of dollars on deodorant, I decided what the hell, maybe I could make my own? After a bit of research, online and off, I found a recipe which, in addition to being cheap, seemed fairly easy as well. The original site has, alas gone down, but the recipe looks something like this:

HOMEMADE CHEAP-ASS FRAGRANCE-FREE DEODORANT RECIPE

In a small jar, combine 4 Tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot and 3 teaspoons of baking soda. (note: if you find this is ineffective, up the amount of baking soda. If you find this too harsh, decrease the baking soda) Microwave jar for 30 seconds at a time until the coconut oil is melted. Stir to combine everything, and let cool until solid again. To use, swipe a bit onto your finger and schmear into your pits. In the summer, or if you live in a hot climate, you may find the deodorant reverting to a liquid state. Either store in the fridge or just know that you’ll have to wait a few minutes between application and putting on a shirt. 

And that’s it. You can add fragrance or bees wax or the blood of a virgin to yours to make it extra smelly or solid or imbue it with powers, or you can use magic to somehow finagle it into an empty roll on deodorant container, but, should you wish to put forth the barest minimum of effort for satisfactory results, this is it. I’ve used this deodorant recipe for well over a year now and not only have I had no complaints, smell-wise, it also has not given me a rash so far.****

Success is how you define it. I define it “Not rashy, so far.”

Go forth and sweat!

*Suggestions for a shorter and/or catchier title welcome.
**In some ways, it’s nice to know body-shaming in advertising isn’t a new phenomenon. In others, it’s entirely depressing.
***…but more on this later.
****DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a physician, dermatologist, beautician/etc. These are recipes which I’ve tried and while they work for me, they may not work for you. This may be because your skin/hair/pits are different from mine or because your ingredients are from a different source or hell, because the moon is gibbous over Capricorn- I don’t know. I went to art school. If something’s not working for you, use common sense- either tweak it a bit or quit using entirely.

Hey LADY

Hey LADY

There are a lot of reasons to hate Valentine’s Day, but then there are a lot of reasons to hate a lot of things.

For me, Valentine’s represents an opportunity for ridiculous Non-Serious Crafting. In the midst of the past month’s website buildingpseudohistorical performances and proposal writing, this girl was in serious need of some Non-Serious Crafting.

Smooshygooshy forced romantic overtures aside, it’s also nice to have a reason to tell people they rock. Especially in the form of mixed media collage. Especially in the form of mixed media collage featuring lady artists who (almost) as badass as your friends.
And most especially with puns.

galentines_bul

Lee Bul, contemporary sculptor who represented Korea at the Venice Biennial. WHEN SHE WAS ONLY 35.

galentines_beax

Cecilia Beaux, portrait painter with an outsized work ethic.

galentines_Kahlo

Frida Kahlo. Painter. Revolutionary. Personal Fashion Icon. Ask me sometime how much I love this lady and I will infovomit all over your face. Then I’ll tell you ‘a lot.’

galentines_mann

Sally Mann, photographer and mother who quietly and unintentionally created controversy with photos of her children being real children, and then totally rocked it.

galentines_bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, sculptor and founder of confessional art. Also awesome
galentines_ono

Yoko Ono, the most unknown artist you’ve probably heard of. Like Valentine’s, there are a lot of reasons most people hate her, but even more to love her. Before John was in the picture (and after) Ono was a super badass fluxus artist, feminist, musician and peace activist.

galentines_rainer

Yvonne Rainer, an American performance/dance artist. When told that her lack of turnout and less than ideal body would prevent her from ever joining an established company, she pulled herself up by her capizio laces and created brand new work that was ‘challenging’ and ‘experimental.

Sarah Sze, one of my favorite installation artists who is also a CERTIFIED GENIUS.

Sarah Sze, one of my favorite installation artists who is also a CERTIFIED GENIUS.

Happy Valentine’s (or should I say Galentine‘s?) Day! Here’s hoping you spent it staying warm and telling people they’re awesome.

Hey, did I mention YOU’re awesome?

Tuesday Top or Bottom: Mariko Sakagu vs. Lee Price

This week’s Top or Bottom is inspired by Claude Cahun, whose name I recently stumbled across in this month’s ARTnews and who. is. awesome.

Autoportrait, Claude Cahun, 1929

Photographer, surrealist, writer, feminist, radical activist and total badass, “..winning new moral freedoms, the rights of the human being repressed after enturies of ferocious superstitions.”* During the Nazi occupation of her French hometown, this lady distributed leaflets denouncing the war, sometimes slipping them INTO NAZI POCKETS!
And her photos are pretty great too.

So in honor of Claude Cahun and badass self portraitists everywhere, I give you

from One Hundred Views of Bathing by Mariko Sakaguchi.Click to see the full series.
via.

vs.

Self-portrait with Chinese Food, oil on linen, Lee Price
via.

 

*Claude Cahun, ARTnews, April 2012

Upcoming show: Deconstructing ‘F’

If you happen to be in Cincinnati next Thursday, May 17, be sure to stop by Deconstructing ‘F’ brought to you by PoMoCo, a ‘Feminist Art Imaginary’ (which may be the most delightful name for ‘group’ ever. Imaginary!)

The show poses the questions What does it currently mean to be female? feminist? feminine? woman?

The Perfect Gentleman (Ian Flemming), Cat Lynch, 35mm print, 2010

The piece I have in the show was originally part of a series done for a photo class a few years back, but is still pretty relevant to my (sometimes confused) feelings about ‘f’. With each piece* I created two photos, based on the front and back covers of pulp novels**. Rather than show the woman as either a perfect, frail victim, or a dangerous seductress, here the model is dressed in plain black, with a direct, blank stare (thinking of Manet’s “Olympia”).

For the left, or back cover, I used my own image, dressing up to portray six real pulp authors. The biographies of these authors were simplified, twisted, added to/subtracted from to create common male stereotypical roles. While the front replaces a stereotype with a real person, the back replaces a real person with a stereotype.

 

If that’s not enough to entice you, maybe it’ll help to know that the fabulous Allison Beunger will also be showing some new work?
Yeah, I thought so.

Oh, and if you still think this might not be an event for you, check out this Duke University campaign on why feminism is relevent (to ladies AND dudes) The responses are varied and thoughtful and just wonderful. You go Duke.

lovelovelove. click for more

 

So readers, what does it currently mean to you be female? feminist? feminine? woman?***

*there were six total, the rest of which can be seen here
**LINKS A GO GO
***cause I could use some help figuring it out

 

“i’m gonna pull out my tampon and start splashing around*”

Feminist.


There. Said it. What are you thinking of? Susan B. Anthony? Lesbians in leather? Central Core Imagery? You’re thinking of something. There are few words I’ve found to be more polarizing, especially among artists. Say that you’re a “feminist” making art about What It Means to Be a Woman, and you’re met with uncomfortable shifting, eye-rolls, even assumptions about your sexual orientation or how often you shave your legs.

My local library reminded me a few days ago that March is Women’s History month (thanks library!) with a shelf full of theme-appropriate books. It also reminded me of Ball State’s Nina B. Marshal memorial Women’s Art Show. Every March, the female faculty put on a show with selected female art students. The pieces of work frequently address “womenness” but sometimes don’t. The only garunteed common thread among all the pieces is that each is done by a woman associated with the Ball State Art Department. And, every March comes the chorus of “It’s not fair” and “why don’t we have a men’s show?” to which the answer is always “every show is a man’s show.” Not that there isn’t truth to this. There is. But it just feels like the same argument over and over and over-

Then, one day, I had a conversation with a friend about why she objected to the women’s show-
“I don’t know, I mean, it’s nice on a resume, but aren’t we past that? I’d like to think my work can stand on its own whether I’m a woman or not.”

Are we past it? The art world is still very much an old boys club, and violence, discrimination, condescension  and just general crappiness are still a part of women’s lives everywhere, but really, how many middle-class American white girls have ever been truly oppressed? I’ve been condescended to, talked down to and thought of with low expectations, but not necessarily because of any particular part of anatomy I did or didn’t have.  So while I want to get angry and make art about Being a Woman and a Feminist, because of the INJUSTICE of the past, it just sounds hollow. And Silly. Even to me. And also I don’t really feel all that angry. Just vaguely perturbed and mostly confused.

Thanks to the suggestion of the aformentioned themed library shelf, I recently started reading Simon de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.** I’ve only finished the introduction so far, but I’ve already decided de Beauvoir knows her shit. After fifteen pages briefly outlining the ways in which women have been thought to be and treated as inferiors, she then stops to caution that

We must not, however, be any less mistrustful of feminists; arguments: very often their attempt to polemicize robs them of all value. If the ‘question of women’ is so trivial, it is because masculine arrogance turned it into a ‘quarrel’;when people quarrel, they no longer reason well. What people have endlessly sought to prove is that woman i s superior, inferior or equal to man…Every argument has its opposite, and both are often misleading. To see clearly, one needs to get out of these ruts; these vague notions of superiority, inferiority and equality that have distorted all discussions must be discarded in order to start anew.”

The generations  of feminists before us ensured we’d be able to vote, wear pants, make decisions about out own bodies and even be taken seriously as artists. Yes, maybe, we are ‘past it.’ So can we retire feminism? Can we tuck it away into history only to be taken out everyonce in a while to be lovingly patted on the head like a crazy old aunt?

Or, maybe, it’s just time to shift feminism’s focus. We’re past it and onto bigger things. While you (reader) and I might be so privileged, we’re a minority. The site Global Issues.org has an entire section on Women’s Rights (or lackthereof) around the world, with depressing facts and quotes like this one, from Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization in 2010,

“Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), many girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to realize rights recognized by law. In many countries, women are not entitled to own property or inherit land. Social exclusion, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course

And even better, is this video of author Isabel Allende’s TEDTalk.

So, Ladies (and gentlemen!), this month (or any month, really), let’s be silly. Let’s be loud, let’s put on make up or shave our heads or both- Let’s cook and clean and write manifestos, let’s be loud, let’s scream Ani Difranco, argue about the meaning of the word ‘feminism’ and burn any undergarments that might be at odds with our political ideals. But most importantly, let’s be grateful these are all options. Let’s educate ourselves about the women who aren’t as lucky and pay it forward.

  • Global Issues – wiki-esque site littered with links to related topics.
  • Madre– NY based organization with projects in countries all over the world. Also a great educational site.
  • AWAKEN, Inc. – Afghan Women and Kids Education and Necessities. Not for profit that works to provide schools, medical facilities and ocupational training to women and kids in Afghanistan. They’re also the charity I’m running for this year, which you can read about over at my other blog, See Sheep Run. Want to feel lazy? Read about Awaken’s fantastic founder, Bibi Barami.

While I’m grateful to pioneer artists like Judy Chicago, who were loud and furious because they were first and had to be, I agree more with my ever-hero Eva Hesse who declared
“The best way to beat discrimination in art is by art. Excellence has no sex”

* Swan Dive.
**Not only is it one of those “you must read this if you have ovaries and a pulse” books I’ve heard about for forever, but I have a weakness for anything French or elegant. And the cover is both)