Edelson was an active member of WAC formed in response to several events including the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and a number of gang rape trials.
Membership grew to 3,000 in New York City (active January 1992 to November 1995) and Edelson participated in events and photographed many of their actions that brandished the slogan “WAC is watching, women take action.” WAC activities and protests addressed issues of oppression of women, people of color, and those who identify as queer.
These WAC images include a meeting at the Drawing Center, a march against rape, and a 1993 protest sign aimed at Pace Gallery in which Edelson made a poster using The New York Times Magazine cover of all the white men represented at the gallery.
In 1994 with the support of Creative Time, Edelson established "Combat Zone: Campaign Headquarters Against Domestic Violence" to develop self-defense workshops for victims of domestic violence. This three-month project provided classes for local women and provides a model for others around the country.
Additional programming focusing on women in prisons, violence against the queer community, and the first online conference on domestic violence. Edelson has noted that many friends and WAC members assisted in the undertaking including Janet Henry and Diane Dwyer.
In the Introduction to this documentary book written after their original exchanges, Edelson (with editing by Lacy) wrote that they were seeking international collaborations with like-minded feminist artists: “As a group we sought each other out based on our common interests in sociologically based art concepts, with particular focus on contemporary mobile cultures including Bedouin Nomads, Anatolian Turkish immigrants, US inner city homeless, and our own evolving international network of feminist artists. We viewed our group as a metaphor for the nomadic experience, since feminist artists had begun to travel from one city or country to another to seek out and create a ‘tribal’ feminist network.” (Edelson, 2003, 3) Edelson has used the term tribe or tribal as a way to describe groups of women or representations of women that were such a significant aspect to her work and organizing as a feminist activist and artist. The group’s project for the Centre Pompidou was to establish a temporary community for which each artist would build their own shelter, remain for the duration of the performance, and rely of the public for necessities such as food. The collective living environment of women artists would be on display, as well as the social interactions among them while each produced their own work. The habitats and detritus left behind would act as documentation of the piece. Edelson wrote, “Our curiosity about our personal and group limits made us willing to radically position our bodies in public. Besides, we were performance artists, immersed in an understanding of how our bodies were representative of conditionings and readings and subject to forces often far beyond our individual lives. The subversive nature of this venture lay in unblocking boundaries, and in producing new social contracts,” as they were to rely on the public for necessities and interaction. (Edelson, 2003, 4) While the IFC proposal was never realized, Edelson found the collaboration among the artists a significant part of the historical record of feminist art during the 1970s to compile the documents decades later into a book, but also because she felt the issues confronted continued to be pressing as these five women represented Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Atheist backgrounds.
Written by Dr. Kathleen Wentrack
(c) 2019 Kathleen Wentrack
Kathleen Wentrack, PhD, is a Professor of Art History at The City University of New York, Queensborough CC and the editor of the forthcoming book "Collaboration, Empowerment, Change: Women’s Art Collectives." She recently published “1970s Feminist Practice as Heterotopian: The Stichting Vrouwen in de Beeldende Kunst and the Schule für kreativen Feminismus,” in "All Women Art Spaces in the Long 1970s" edited by Agata Jakubowska and Katy Deepwell (Liverpool University Press, 2018). She is a contributing editor to Art History Teaching Resources and Art History Pedagogy and Practice and a co-coordinator of The Feminist Art Project in New York City.
Produced by Erica Galluscio
Photography of studio space provided by Kolin Mendez Photography
Accola Griefen Fine Art exhibition photos courtesy of Accola Griefen Fine Art: Rob van Erve
Images of "Goddess Tribe" installation courtesy of David Lewis New York
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