Bonnie J. Smith – She Votes
Embed Gallery, Chatsworth
through November 14
Written by Genie Davis
With what is undeniably the most important election of our lives approaching rapidly, an incredible collection of artists’ works has been gathered for the art book She Votes.
Featuring 113 works by 69 different female artists, participants include: Patti Akesson, Ulla Barr, Jennifer Bentson, Deanna Beye, Carol Bivins, Anna F. Bowers, Mary Sherwood Brock, Andree B. Carter, Vivian Wenhuey Chen, Cheryl Christopher, Christine Cianci, Debra Dobkin, Merrilyn Duzy, Paula Dwyer, Joan Elliott, Cathy Engel-Marder, Melody Epperson, Ellen Erenea, Bruria Finkel, Dellis Frank, Dwora Fried, Anna Friesen, Rosalie Friis-Ross, Shelley A. Gazin, Suvan Geer, Carole Goldman, Maria Grazia, Laurie Talbot Hall, Susan Hannon, Shelley Heffler, Brenda Hurst, Ann Isolde, Beanie Kaman, Susan Karhroody, Susan Kurland, Noreen Larinde, Nancy Goodman Lawrence, Susan Lentz, Ava Letterman, Lynn Letterman, Lynda Levy, Hannah Mandel, Aline Mare, Karena Massengill, Lisa Michot, Freyda Miller, Sandra Mueller, Barbara Nathanson, Mary Ornish, Priscilla Otani, Laura Paul, Stacey Rasfeld, Melissa Reischman, Jane Reiter, Sinan Revell, Marleene Rubenstein, Karen Schifman, Durba Sen, Heather A. Sepanih, Bonnie J. Smith, Kerrie Smith, Andra Stanton, Martha Stevermer, Ann Storc, Holly Stucznski, Olivia Patricia Terrell-O’Neal, Kathleen Thoma, Rachel Tirosh, Nancy Kay Turner.
The images are each 4” x 6” and focus on the importance of voting rights for women. Ranging from painting to collage, drawing, and photography, the art reveals our differences and our “common ground.” They were created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Self-taught artist, curator, and author Bonnie J. Smith, with the help of the Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art Board, spearheaded the project. SCWCA is one of 27 chapters of the Women’s Caucus for Art, which is the leading national organization for women in the visual arts professions. Non-profit and feminist, it’s dedicated to every aspect of art created by women.
Smith was off and running as soon as the Board approved her project, she relates. “For many years, I have wanted to create a community project. Having been involved in [these types of projects] myself, I know that feeling you get as an artist, when you help someone with a voice bring a project forth into the world.”
Smith invited every SCWCA member to participate, and she opened the call for art to any other Women’s Caucus for Art member, as well. “Many times, I have participated in other Chapters’ art exhibits,” she explains. With that in mind, she was inclusive of all who wished to participate. “I accepted every piece of art sent to me. They were all wonderful and very appropriate for the She Votes book.”
An artist herself, as the creator of the book, Smith feels the book is a good way to encourage and honor voting in this election. “I decided to post pictures of members’ art on my Facebook page, my blog and the SCWCA Facebook page many times a week. I felt this action would make people aware [of the importance of the election] and think about voting this fall.” Smith adds that 100 years after women fought for the right to vote “It has not been lost on me that one hundred years later we are still fighting to vote, but in a different way, in our 2020 Presidential Election.”
An online video is one way to experience the book, and it is currently visible on the SCWCA website. SCWCA will also have a catalog available in the future. “We do realize how many people want to see the images and have their own copy for history. Keeping records of how women recognized and celebrated this Centennial is very important for the future.” She also notes that the creation of the original book, and its viewing have both affected many people. The video viewing link is noted at the end of this article.
The book fully support the mission of the SCWCA organization, Smith says. “The mission of Women’s Caucus for Art is to ‘create community through art, education, and social activism.’ I believe the project covers that pretty well.”
While she finds every work in the book powerful, she names a few pieces that are particularly resonant for her. The bustier knitted from fine red plastic thread by Cheryl Christopher was one piece that grabbed her. Titled “Breathe,” the woven work is enscribed with the word “Vote.”
According to Smith, “When I received that artwork I just sat and studied the bustier.” She describes the complex image as “very clever, with so much thought placed into it.”
Smith also fell in love with Holly Stuczynski’s series of artworks, with visceral images such as a bare-breasted “Liberty Embraces Her Baby.”
“That series just stopped me. I felt like those artworks summed up the entire women’s movement for me.”
Smith also cites the lush “Swimmer,” a watercolor by Deanna Beye, that evokes dreamy themes of submerging and reemerging. “Swimming for me is about having that time to let my mind wander, regroup, and think of new artworks.”
That said, she describes all the artworks as standouts across the board. “When the mail would arrive, I would just be bursting with pride that so many artists sent me the ‘little gems’ as I call them, and that they wanted to participate.”
As to the viewers of the exhibition and book, Smith says “I want people to know I created this book to represent anyone who identifies as a woman. This is our history. We should embrace it and celebrate this occasion of the Nineteenth Amendment Centennial.”
Being invited to have the She Votes book in the Common Ground exhibit at Embed Gallery has been especially meaningful for Smith. Calling the exhibition significant, Smith thanks curators Sandra Mueller and Suvan Geer for the invitation to be a part of it. “I believe the book fits the parameters of the exhibit well.”
Isn’t it time to cast your vote for art? View the book on video.
Or see the book at Embed Gallery virtually. The gallery may be visited in person, by appointment through November 14.
Embed Gallery – 11:11 A Creative Collective
9410 Owensmouth Ave, Chatsworth, 91311