BENNINGTON>>From now until mid-May, Jacqueline Mabey is the artist-in-residence at Bennington College as curator of the "Utopia Is No Place, Utopia Is Process" art exhibition in the Usdan Gallery—a series of mediums surrounding feminist pedagogy inspired by the college's history of primarily women enrollment.
A little over an hour of video art from about a dozen female artists from Canada and across the states contributed to the installation as well as a site-specific piece by Ella Dawn McGeough, a D.I.Y. printing press by Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden and two framed pieces by Lorraine O'Grady.
Genevieve Belleveau '07, Hannah Black, Adrienne Crossman, Kate Gilmore, Gabriella Hileman, Ann Hirsch, Nicole Killian, Jen Liu, Kristin Lucas, Divya Mehra, Sunita Prasad, Legacy Russell, and Angela Washko supplied the collaboration of video work that explores violence, romance, science fiction and failed utopias, according to the college's website. Flashing images of female bodies and the phrase "my body" from excerpts of various songs is included.
"The video is special with feminism in making video art and has shaped the field," Mabey said. "I like to do different things in traditional exhibitions."
For the crowd-sourced library, individuals shared what books were important to them when thinking about gender and feminism. For example, Catherine Morris chose "Delta of Venus" by Anais Nin because her mother had it when Morris was a teenager and her father disapproved of the literature. She wrote, "my first experience with explicit writing about sex was written by a woman, and it was complicated."
"I knew that I wanted some sort of small library so I started looking at the syllabus for gender studies 101 feminism 101," Mabey said. "I wanted to instead communicate the corrality of feminism and that people come to feminist consciousness in lots of different ways. There's not a right path."
Another benefactor, Dr. Mariko Silver, the president of the college, selected "The Bluest Eyes" for a book report off her parent's bookshelf in sixth grade. She wrote that she struggled with it, even as an adult, but that it "opened my eyes to a/our system of compounded oppression with women of color at the bottom."
The Crossest Library donated books to the exhibit and part of the project will remain at Bennington College once the exhibit closes.
O'Grady's two framed pieces titled "The Clearing: or Cortez and La Malinche, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N.and Me, 1991/2012" are associated with issues of hybridity, diaspora and black female subjectivity. The left panel displays an interracial couple floating in the sky and the right shows a skeletal figure looming above an African American woman.
Aside the rest of the art sits a pilot press in which visitors are urged to publish what they wish by printing and binding paper.
In conjunction with the exhibit, a pop-up one credit course titled Feminist Praxis is offered, taught by Robert Ransick and Mabey on Monday's and Thursday's from 2:10 to 4 p.m.
"I'm curious to see the impact this [exhibit] will have on each other [the students]," Mabey said. "It's a platform for the actual community to see what's produced."
Opposite the pilot press hangs 13 silk banners covered in fossilized coral. McGeough said the amount is a "witchy number" and stems from her research on Medusa. The middle banner is different from the rest and the right set are horizontal opposite of the other side, she said.
The opening reception was held on April 18 and Lindsay Howard '08 will speak on May 3 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Howard is a curator who explores the contemporary shift in culture and how the internet shapes art. Her work has been featured in TIME Magazine, The New York Times and Forbes, to name a few.
On May 7 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., artist Jen Liu will discuss video work among visual arts, painting and performance. Her recent piece "The Red Detachment of Women" showcased at the Whitney Museum of Art last year.
Drop-in office hours with Mabey will be available on May 4 and May 11 between 1 and 5 p.m. in the Usdan Gallery. Additionally, there will be an opportunity for D.I.Y. Utopias on April 30 and May 7 from 1 to 3 p.m. in which the public will self-organize conversations, study groups and other creative tasks. Lastly, a brown bag lunch series will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on April 29, May 3, May 6, and May 10.
Mabey, co-founder of the campaign Art+Feminism, aims to better women coverage in the arts on Wikipedia. She also works under "failed projects," with a strike through the title, that is a "school within a school around feminism," and has 10 years of post-secondary education in art history and cultural studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, McGill University, and The University of British Columbia, according to failprojects.net.
Mabey typically "parachutes into a place," as she stated during her curator talk on April 18, and focuses on purging words to surface complexities of digital pieces.
Previously she has presented on The Art of Subversion: Tackling Gender Inequality in the Arts at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, was the keynote speaker regarding gender with two others at Columbia University's Teacher College in New York, and presented the 2016 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
"Utopia is No Place, Utopia Is Process" at Bennington College, 1 College Drive, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. until May 12. For more information visit bennington.edu.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.