This portfolio exchange was organized by Noah Breuer on the occasion of the Mid-America Print Council 2020 Conference at Kent State University. While the conference and the completion of this print exchange have been delayed until 2022 due to the coronavirus, this page documents this group's work (both finished and in-progress) and will be presented as part of the MAPC Remote Symposium: October 17-18, 2020.
In this exchange portfolio, artists were invited to create printed, vertically-hanging banner-flags on paper, fabric or other substrates that broadly relate to the Mid-America Print Council 2020 Conference themes of Resistance and Revolution. Artists were invited to create prints in any medium no larger than 11”x18” and affix their prints with ¼-inch grommets attached to the top corners for hanging.
Prints could be cut into a variety of shapes in order to reference medieval banners, sports pennants or maritime flags. Because all of the flags are affixed with grommets, they are able to be displayed from a wall by pins or nails or along a horizontal string or hung from the ceiling. Each of these flags reflects the participating artist’s unique take on the MAPC 2020 Conference themes through the lens of identity, community, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or political agenda. Together, the flags act as a public declaration of the participating artist’s values, beliefs, or aspirations.
Disfrasismo is a term used to describe a grammatical structure phenomenon in the study of some Mesoamerican languages in which two words work together to form a phrase of new meaning. As a person of mixed heritage – Mexican and American/German – duality is a state of being with which I am constantly identifying. Often l'm searching for the rich and empowering messages underlying this state and how that can help carry on cultural history and traditions. Here the large Frontera (border) Figure stands guard over the printing press below. They are a representative of "Cultural Workers" but also of cuitlapilli ahtlapalli (in Nahuatl) which translates to "the tail, the wing," but really means "the people/ the common folk." Chicago is my home in many ways. I wanted to present the pride I have in my culture, my city, and the printmaking community that bridges across borders.
Full text translation from print:
I am a
Of one body, of one soul
"the tail, the wing"
The people / common folk
We cannot be divided
Workers in every home
I am curious about the relationship between humans and the environment during this extraordinary time of destruction and isolation. For several years, I have used the image of an iced coffee as a symbol of modernity, excess and indulgence. In my prints, paintings and installations, the iced coffee motif acts as a secular icon of upwardly-mobile freedom. That extra $5 to purchase a pick-me-up. This container allows the coffee to be photographed well, it remains cold and soothing, and it’s made of plastic: a material closely linked to our planet’s destruction, used just to make the experience slightly more comfortable and convenient.
I am interested in how the trappings of modern comfort both support and suffocate us. The American ideal is a sated consumer with an iced coffee in one hand and a screen in the other. However, in this time of pandemic, reckoning with our responsibilities for social justice and rapid climate change, our cognitive dissonance is being revealed as we wrestle with what we hope for in the world and what we are willing to sacrifice personally. We find ourselves wholly reliant on the modern comforts of TV and home delivery and internet and Zoom everything. And it is exhausting. The iced coffee implicates the viewer as complicit in all of this overconsumption and positions he/she/they as a wistful dreamer, longing for what was and what could be. Iced coffee remains wildly frivolous as we re-acquaint ourselves with our immediate survival. This flag renders these treats as half-gone and wasted status accessories; undrinkable protagonists in a story that is still being written.
Both of my parents died a few years ago. I could never forget the emotional rollercoaster my sister and I rode together while going through their stuff, everything accumulated spanning over three generations in an old two-story house my grandfather built. From a drawer in my mom’s bedroom, I found a stack of telegrams she received when she turned twenty, which is a monumental rite of passage in Japan. Some were from her older aunts and uncles. Not only they congratulated her becoming an adult, but also said, “しっかりおやりなさい(shikkari oyarinasai)” which roughly means, now brace yourself, work hard, be the best you can and make your life right.” Hard work is so valued in Japanese culture. Perseverance is admirable and it is the epitome of Japanese spirit that enabled the country to rise up from the charred rubble after World War II.
In this current, ever shrinking world, powerful corporations are destroying and taking over traditional crafts and artisans that are unique to each region. Delicate and sensitive culture is slowly being erased by choosing convenience and speed. Is everywhere in the world going to look the same by this gentrification? Although advancing technology is inevitable and necessary in some ways, there are always irreversible effects. My project is to “remember” where I came from and pay homage to the past generations that brought us all here.
Dazzle patterns, first employed as a defense mechanism for military ships during WWI, were intended to disorient and confuse. With possible origins in cubism, this motif is certainly representative of the abstracted from, multiple viewpoints, and a broken perspective. In the present day, dazzle patterns have been used to stifle AI and jam surveillance. This is the basis for A Flag for Now: An elusive banner for the 21st century. Embedded into this flag is an image of Bootleg Bart, whose origins in the early 1990s remind us of how appropriated forms have empowered those who are marginalized and underrepresented. This sketch represents the final flag design, which will be screenprinted on two layers of Tyvek, assembled, and sewn.
The printed flag entitled, K.O. POTUS, brings attention to climate change and the concept of giving legal rights to nature. This idea was introduced by the American legal scholar, Christopher D. Stone, in the 1970s and has gained traction in various places around the world in recent years, such as Ecuador, and New Zealand. Because flags are usually associated with legitimately recognized countries this flag is a symbolic gesture of giving nature a voice and recognition.
This was the starting point for a series of flags entitled Natura Morte, that was exhibited at the Abiko International Open Air Exhibition in Japan. This particular flag is in the shape of a boxing glove.
The flag was produced during my sabbatical in Austria, and the image on the front depicts an octopus while the text on the backside plays on the German spelling of oktopus and is an anagram of two acronyms: K.O. POTUS (Knock Out President of the United States).
Is a response to the NAACP’s original message;
“A MAN WAS LYNCHED YESTERDAY”
Comparing these statements takes breaking them down to their most basic form to find similarities and differences. In each, the subject is negatively affected by the verbs. In the original, lynching results in the end of the man’s life, and any actionable response is too late for the deceased.
In my response, and perhaps a causal point to the problem, exploitation can happen repeatedly to the individual Black Woman. This underestimation of ability because being denied equal pay and opportunities for advancement result in a generationally compromised self-worth. Society historically fails to credit Black Women’s achievements. We, as Black Women, have been taught that exploitation is commonplace and to overcome this one must overachieve to get a fighting chance at meritocracy. This veiled existential death by a thousand cuts has had a significant effect on the foundational pillar of the Black family, its psychology and how others see and perceive Black Americans.
Timing is an important factor to consider in these statements as well. Both imply that the action took place in the past, but the relative proximity to the present is what is at stake. The need for action is now. The need for this statement to exist as editions cannot be underestimated. The power an individual can have in owning this message helps fund the solution both by investing in the growth and expansion of a Black Female owned business and by reminding the collector to work toward equity in the future of our society.
Part of my strength as a Black Woman lies in the fact that I, too, have been exploited. I recognize this as a shared attribute among my gender and race. Contributions Black Women make to society are easy to identify, but their presence is grotesquely absent atop industry leadership and in decision-making roles. My goal in making this print available is to fund the growth of my collaborative art practice and to lead by example.
I am an expert, fine-art screenprinter because of exceptional educational and professional apprenticeship opportunities. That along with absorbing the professional knowledge of my family in the fields of chemistry, journalism, and social work are why I find sharing this message more pressing now than ever.
Structure opportunities for improvement: This tension brought to light in my response flag aims to clarify solutions to a broken society.
A flag can identify, celebrate, commemorate, and allude to territory. It is a marker. In his 2019 book, Remembering Emmett Till, Dave Tell writes about the 1955 abduction and murder of the fourteen-year old African American boy who whistled at a white woman outside a country store in Money, Mississippi. The author details the 50+ years of Till scholarship and Till commemoration that try to make sense of and find truth in the witness accounts of the events that transpired between Till’s abduction and the discovery of his body days later in the Tallahatchie River. A speedy trial, stacked jury, and subsequent acquittal of Till’s murderers predated, and some say ignited, the Civil Rights Movement.
A large part of Till scholarship is the drawing and redrawing of a map that covers three different counties. Within these counties are flat lands, fertile soil, and rolling hills which are associated with the vast racial and socioeconomic disparities of the time. These varied maps try to prove how and where Till’s life ended, and they hold within them the overlapping concepts of race, place, and memory.
Markers, or flags, on the Mississippi Freedom Trail are a way that some Mississippians have acknowledged, rewritten, and remembered Emmett Till’s death. No matter the intent, these markers identify, commemorate, and allude to territory. I am not a Till scholar; my goal in making ELT, 1955 is to meditate on how flags and maps overlap within the context of uncertainty and memory.
This prayer flag is meant to disrupt and reverse the direction in which wealth flows in this late stage of capitalism. It includes sigils to redistribute wealth and capital. And includes a warning as to what will happen when the people can no longer support themselves. The phrase “eat the rich” is from a longer statement. "When the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
All humans are created equal and endowed with certain rights at birth: the right to live peacefully, be loved, give love, and to be free. This flag is meant to celebrate our rights in the United States and at the same time remind us that not everyone has access to them. The last layer (not pictured) will be the words “Nobody’s free, until everybody’s free.” Those words belong to civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and are meant to serve as a reminder and call to action.
When we received the exhibition prompt for Banner Flags of Resistance and Revolution at the tail end of 2019, the theme already seemed urgent. In my own practice, I wanted to look back into my own history and community as a white American and figure out how to contribute to the current climate in a meaningful way: not with platitudes or empty slogans, but to lay out what commitments I will make to begin the process of creating equity in a country built on a history of white supremacy, racism, and slavery. With the events of 2020 this personal work, if not the exhibition itself, moved to the forefront of my life. These systems are deadly–it has always been this way, but it is finally obvious to those of us living inside our privilege what destruction the current systems of white supremacy that exist in the United States wreck on our fellow citizens and their communities.
I wanted to forego the subtlety of my larger body of work. There is no place in our society for the current systems of capitalism that engender the racism and xenophobia that are deadly for POC living in and entering the United States or for a police force intent on upholding white supremacist laws and protecting the property of the elite. There is no place for fascism in our lives. My piece represents a promise on my part to work to undo these systems and to consider what radical change will bring about a country (and society) that is truly equitable for all of us.
Bioremediation is the process of removing toxic material from our environment. Through fostering relationships with living organisms, we can pull hazardous waste from our soils or water systems. For example, sunflowers can be used as a living, blooming drinking straw that draws up lead from contaminated soil. Can we use these biological practices to remedy toxic images or ideas from our environment? Over the summer months, artists Ashlee Mays and Riley Douglas have been growing natural dyes at the Museum of Infinite Outcomes. Hopi Sunflowers produce a deep dark dye while marigolds shine through with a light-fast gold. Through the fall, the two artists have been processing the flowers, seeds, and stems into natural pigments. Following the 2020 November election, they will be collecting up the aftermath of a tumultuous year, and submerging it in the dye. This body of work examines the material and aesthetic ways in which our relationship with biological practices can help us heal.