I create artwork in response to the social climate. In this version of Public Debt to the Suffragette we take to the streets with chalk. I engage a cohort of diverse women artists to promulgate the right to vote through drawing and social engagement at the Pacific NW Chalk Fest (concept drawing above).
With limited funds and technology, the suffragettes used chalk to write messages, slogans and to disseminate times and locations for meetings. Inspired by the Suffragettes practice of chalking, we chalk to draw attention to current day issues of voting rights. The suffragettes of 1917 are transported to 2017 to reaffirm this basic right, currently under scrutiny by the newly formed “Election Integrity” Commission. Clad in white Victorian dress, we will engage the public in conversation while we chalk a patriotic drawing that features key figures from voting rights history, such as Susan B. Anthony, John Lewis and Frederick Douglas. The images appear within a map of the United States, within the US flag. We will actively register people to vote while creating our painterly tribute.
My fantastic performing artistic partners: Alison Farmer, Anna Macrae, Esther Ervin, Jane Speelers Herrera, Lisa Myers Bulmash, Maura Donegan and Teresa Getty.
Join us at the Pacific NW Chalk Fest at Redmond Town Center August
Thank you Seattle Office of Arts & Culture! I’m thrilled to be on the new Public Art Roster. And not to forget ArtsWA. Looking forward to creating art with the state too. You can see some of my work at the Public Art Archives here
The vulnerability of our nation is woven into our emotional relationship with the flag.Through time the 2nd Amendment has been re-framed to fit individual arguments. Today’s legal interpretation is but ten years old. While it’s come to be understood in many circles to support individual gun ownership, this is a very recent interpretation. As time passes, context changes, as we do as a people. This is the full content of the 2nd amendment. History is story telling. The truth is illusive.
Disunion is about the state of the nation. We are a nation in disunion. While the flag is meant to represent unity, divisions have claimed it and shroud it in disparate meaning. This work literally presents the full text of the 2nd amendment, a short two sentences that has been reinterpreted through time to meet individual agendas. My intent here is to question our assumptions, to look at everything in context. The amendment, laid bare, is up for individual interpretation. Surrounded by barbed wire, the flag puts forward a question of boundaries, borders, self-defense, and entrapment. The split stars reflect our partitioned thinking as a nation.
Currently the NRA is winning the narrative battle over the 2nd Amendment. They have created a story-line that would have you thinking that the 2nd amendment means that every citizen has the right to own a gun. If you ask a historian to explain the amendment, you would find that this historically has not been the interpretation. In fact over time there have been several Supreme Court cases that have gone against provisions based on this ideology. Our current acceptance of this narrative is less than 10 years old, based on a 2008 Supreme Court case ruling, the District of Columbia vs Heller.
The amendment itself is similar to a living organism. It’s meaning morphs and adapts to meet the popular narrative and to match our personal values. In a split court, this 5-4 decision protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected to militia. One hundred years ago this would have been a stretch in thinking. What the framers were referring to is a right and responsibility to have guns to protect the community from other powers. The colonies rejected standing armies and held that instead, by holding citizens at the ready, they could come together to defend a society from outside forces, like Europeans. These weapons were muskets and could be reloaded to shoot three musket balls per minute. Today an assault weapon can be reloaded to shoot up to 150 shells per minute. Everything in context.
Woodie Guthrie wrote This Land Is Your Land in 1940 as a sarcastic response to the overplayed God Bless America by Irving Berlin. The original lyrics included two lost verses. The song was recorded and released in the early 50s, during the days of McCarthyism, and the lines were excluded, a decision made by others. In solidarity with women across the nation, this is my sarcastic response to these times, to claim our position of equality in this land. During this time of upheaval and division, Guthrie’s words remain timely for many reasons. This land is your land, this land is my land.
“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me. The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’ But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing. This land was made for you and me.”
“One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple, by the relief office I saw my people. As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if God Blessed America for me.”
KISS FEAR is a multimedia exhibit with poetry, sculpture, video, and performance by poet Daemond Arrindell and artists Mary Coss and Holly Ballard Martz that presents touching, powerful and sometimes darkly humorous ruminations on America’s weapon of choice, guns. Supported in part by a grant from 4Culture.
Thank you Big Freak Media for writing an Artist Spotlight on Mary Coss and KISS FEAR You can read it here