OUR HANDS STATEMENT
This is a multi-disciplinary project of photographs, performances, and conversations centered around queer and feminist space. Parts of it have shown at Women & their Work Gallery (Austin), Leslie-Lohman Museum (New York City), PARMER (Brooklyn), and the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (Brooklyn). Images from the series have also been featured in publications such as Capricious, No More Potlucks, Feministing.com, and Art Papers.
This series draws its title from Lesbian Land, a collection of writings by lesbians who founded or lived in women's intentional communities, sometimes called "womyn's lands," in the 1970s and 1980s. The project was originally installed at Women & their Work Gallery in Austin, Texas. I took the history of the gallery as a jumping off point to ask viewers to consider the nature of queer and feminist space in the past and present. The gallery was founded in the 1970s by a feminist collective, including lesbian artists, who wanted to create a space for women and people of color who had been excluded from mainstream white- and male-dominated arts venues. While spaces and publications dedicated to feminist activism and artwork were all the rage in the 1970s, fewer survive now. This project asks: what did a feminist collective space look like three or four decades ago? What does one look like now?
This project also considers how individuals have historically worked to create non-traditional living spaces (through intentional communities, collectives, land trusts, and other methods of pooling resources to buy land or buildings) that exist, at least ideally, outside of a market economy. At a time when conversations about gentrification, real estate development, and sustainable communities are omnipresent, this set of images and conversations asks us to look at the past to imagine a different future.
The exhibition combined documentary photography and staged reperformances of images from 1970s-80s lesbian feminist zines with a rural bent, such as Country Women, Lesbian Connection, Sinister Wisdom, Womanspirit, and other publications. Some of the photographs were taken on womyn's lands that are still in existence. Copies of the magazines were available in a reading area for visitors to access.
On the night of the gallery opening in Austin, together with audience members, I built a new collective women's space (in the form of a wood structure inspired by the architecture of womyn’s lands -- better known as the "lesbian shack") as a performance piece. Tools were put out and viewers were invited to add to the piece in whatever way they saw fit during the run of the show. I wanted participants to consider how we continue to build collective space, but it also required them to ask: Who is allowed to be involved in these projects? Who identifies whom? Who is able to identify as a woman or as a feminist?