January 31 - March 15, 2020
The year 2020 marks the centennial milestone when women gained access to the political process with the right to vote. But despite the passage of the 19th amendment, women of color did not gain that right and vast numbers of women are to this day still disenfranchised and excluded from the political process. How much has changed in the intervening 100 years? Access: A Century After The Right to Vote examines this question with art and archive and considers women’s roles today and their access to positions of power.
Artists in the exhibition: Kim Abeles, April Bey, Joey Forsyte, Erika Rothenberg, and the Las Fotos Project.
Access is organized in partnership with the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women and is curated by guest curator Ani Ohanessian and Ara and Anahid Oshagan.
These works are part of the Atlantica series. They are documents of altered history created within the Afrofuturist concept of Atlantica. The works are digital compositions superimposing Beyonce and Solange's faces over suffragette protesters depicted in historical photographs. The American Women's Suffrage movement began in the north as a middle-class white woman's movement with most of their members being educated white women primarily from Boston, New York, Maine, and the Northeast. Women finally secured the right to vote nationwide in 1920, but black women were for decades after that routinely turned away from the ballot box. In 1965, with the Voting Rights Act, and with subsequent court decisions, the tools of disenfranchisement that targeted Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)—including poll taxes and literacy tests— was outlawed.
In the summer of 2016, I took my 8-year-old granddaughter Isabella to Seneca Falls, New York to see the site of The Declaration of Sentiments, that demanded a vote, declared at the 1848 National Women’s Rights Convention. In the year that the U.S. expected to see its first female president, I wanted Isabella to understand that the right to vote was an enduring struggle, that lives were risked, and for many, the risk continued for decades.
Seventy-two years after Seneca Falls, the 19th Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing U.S. women the right to vote. On August 26, 1920 at 8 o’clock in the morning, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the amendment into law, without ceremony at his home in Washington. From the History Channel website, “None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present when the proclamation was signed and no photographers or film cameras recorded the event…That afternoon, Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Suffrage Association, was received at the White House by President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson, the first lady." Sounds very cookies-and-tea to me.
It was so striking to read that the document was signed into law with no fanfare, especially after all the years of struggles by so many individuals and group efforts. As a side note, Catt’s National American Suffrage Association, and a group led by Alice Paul, Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, were at odds with each other for many years. Alice's organization was more radical. They were the women who picketed day and night as the Silent Sentinels in front of Wilson's White House. Catt, not Alice Paul, was invited to tea.
I made the Seneca Falls Lock video from my sorrow, and I made Signing the 19th Amendment from my anger. I made the series, Self-portrait with Files, to wrestle with these burdens and to insist on courage. My work always embraces the physicality of its subjects as if I am an athlete for the aesthetic process. The female in the artworks is presented as a determined psyche pushing through a social system that is self-satisfied with its inequality. Strength for this woman manifests through unstoppable actions: the lock opens, the burden is lifted.