September 23, 2011
LA Weekly, September 23, 2011

LA Weekly, September 23, 2011

I was raised in a family that believed in equal rights for women, which was very unusual for that time. The bad news was they never bothered to tell me that not everyone else believed in that, too. In 1957, when I went to UCLA, I first began experiencing sexist attitudes. Whenever I tried to bring gender up, I was met with derision. People would say, "What are you? Some kind of suffragette?" In order to make a place for myself in the L.A. art scene, I had to excise from my work any hint of gender. And I did.

I used to hang out with the Ferus Gallery artists at Barney's Beanery. I was practically the only woman on the scene, and Billy Al Bengston was the first real artist I ever met. Much to his chagrin, I used to follow him around. Years later, I ran into Billy Al at a party. I hadn't seen him for 20 years, and I said, "I really want to thank you. Even though you gave me a lot of shit, I did learn something from you." He said, "I know, Judy. It's because I was such a male chauvinist that you did everything you did." I burst out laughing. I said, "Don't take all the credit."

All through the '60s, I was told, "You can't be a woman and an artist, too." Well, what was I supposed to do, saw myself in half? By the end of the decade, I was sick and tired of it.

I met with the head of the art department at Cal State Fresno. I said to him — and this happened to be true, just not the whole truth — "I'm concerned about the paltry number of women who come out of graduate school and start their own art practice. I want to do something about that." But I knew I was planning to start a feminist art program. Though I'm not sure the term "feminist art" had even existed before that.

I wanted women students who wanted to be artists, and I wanted to take them off-campus. After a couple months, the studios just exploded. In the spring, we had an exhibition and a whole lot of people trekked up to Fresno from CalArts. John Baldessari came, and years later one of my students told me that he stuck his boot in the crotch of a sculpture of a prone woman spread-eagled. CalArts offered to fund the whole feminist art program, and in the summer of 1971 there was a caravan: Me, my students, their boyfriends, their husbands, their pets — we all moved to L.A.

I talk about how unbelievably sexist Los Angeles was, but there was also an incredible feeling of self-invention there that allowed people to imagine alternatives. That I could imagine an alternative like a feminist art program? I don't think that would have been possible in the East.

—As told to Catherine Wagley

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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