Won’t you help me lighten my heavy bouquet?
Connie Butler chats with artist Lorraine O’Grady in the Art Radio WPS1.org broadcast studios*
© P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Museum of Modern Art. 2008
Abbreviated version of a WPS1 radio chat with curator Connie Butler. Published in the P.S.1 Newspaper Special Edition for “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” Winter/Spring, 2008, P.S.1–MOMA, Long Island City, NY.
Connie Butler: Thinking back on this past year, there have been so many exhibitions, projects and activities based around feminist art. Lorraine, you were able to go to Los Angeles where WACK! debuted. I thought maybe you could reflect a little bit on all of this.
Lorraine O’Grady: Well, I have to say that I was a little surprised at how big that opening was. It really kind of took me aback.
CB: We all were.
LOG: I had no idea! I had been teaching in southern California at Irvine and I had no idea that there was that large a latent interest in feminism. In fact, it’s probably not surprising because one thing that I had sensed while teaching was that although students were preparing themselves for the reality of the market place, they were doing it reluctantly. Still, they had come into art for the old reasons; they wanted to make meaningful work, yet they were starved for meaning and the opening to express meaning. So, I suppose it’s not such a shock that what they saw in that show answered some rather deep need.
It must have been very exciting for them to see work that operated from another basis of art-making but was also legendary; works they had only heard about and have never had the opportunity to engage with in a visual tactile way. They had it all in one place and at hand.
CB: I was overwhelmed, too, by the response on the part of students, but also younger artists, and I think “latent” is a good word because theirs was a real sense of: “We’re longing for this material but we don’t actually know what it is.” And I think you’re right, seeing it in the real was quite a powerful thing. Can you talk about your project included in the exhibition?
LOG: In the early 1980s I did a guerilla performance called Mademoiselle Bourgeoise Noire, which is French for “Ms. Black Bourgeoise.” She wore a gown and a cape made of 180 pairs of white gloves. She carried a whip, a cat-of-nine-tails, made of white macramé that was studded with chrysanthemums and she gave these away during the course of the performance while smiling and saying, “Won’t you help me lighten my heavy bouquet?” When she entered with her crown and her gown and ( . . . )