Friday, May 2, 2014

The Guerilla Girls invade Tacoma

The Weekly Volcano, May 1, 2014

The biting, satirical, outrageous feminist art group Guerilla Girls will present a live performance sponsored by Tacoma Art Museum and University of Washington Tacoma. The event is called Guerilla Girls: Not Ready to Make Nice. What they will do is anybody’s guess, but rest assured it will be provocative, entertaining and educational. It happens Saturday, May 10 at Phillips Hall, UW Tacoma.

Plastering New York in the mid to late 1980s with provocative posters, billboards and banners and putting on in-your-face performance art pieces while wearing gorilla masks, the Guerilla Girls stunned the New York art world by skewering the establishment with outrageously humorous presentations of undeniable facts — a typical example being a poster plastered all over town with a picture of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ famous nude “Grande Odalisque” wearing a gorilla head and holding a phallic feather duster and with the headline “Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get in the Met. Museum?” and in smaller type, “Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section are women but 85% of the nudes are female.”

Another famous poster is the one listing the advantages of being a woman artist, which include, among others, “Having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs, not being stuck in a tenured teaching position, seeing your ideas live in the work of others,” and finally “Getting your picture in the art magazines wearing  gorilla suit.”

Protecting their identities with the masks, the Guerilla Girls use the names of deceased female artists. One of the girls going by the name Georgia O'Keeffe said, “We wanted to play with the fear of guerrilla warfare, to make people afraid of who we might be and where we would strike next. Besides, ‘guerrilla’ sounds so good with ‘girl.’”

They are known for wearing short skirts, high heels and fishnet stockings in addition to the gorilla masks. One of the girls using the name Emily Carr said they wear those clothes with a gorilla mask in order to confound “the stereotype of female sexiness.” 
The Guerilla Girls’ website describes their philosophy on activist art: “We try to be different from the kind of political art that is angry and points to something and says ‘This is bad.’ That's preaching to the converted. We want to be subversive, to transform our audience, to confront them with some disarming statements, backed up by facts —and great visuals — and hopefully convert them. We carefully craft everything we do. We try to twist an issue around and present it in a way that hasn't been seen before.”

In Gloria Steinem’s words, “If I had to name a group that symbolized the best of feminism in this country, I would say, 'The Guerrilla Girls.' Smart, radical, funny, creative, uncompromising, and (I assume) diverse under those inspired gorilla masks, they force us to rethink everything.”
Guerilla Girls will be selling merchandise at the event. They’ll have a selection of books and posters outside the auditorium. 

Tacoma Art Museum anticipates a sold-out show and recommends purchasing tickets in advance. Tickets will be sold at the door only if the event has not sold out. Cost: $20 ($15 for Tacoma Art Museum members, students, senior, and military).

The show starts at 1 p.m. at Phillips Hall at University of Washington Tacoma.

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