Hunter Levinsohn builds a campfire from newspaper in the middle of the Guilford College Art Gallery.
She folds each page of the New York Times and metaphorically lights it ablaze with a piece of neon orange duct tape on each end. Facing away from the paper flame sits a simple, gray lawn chair. Inside the chair’s cupholder, an editorial hides away, rolled up.
“It talks about, by doing nothing,” Levinsohn explains, “you are contributing to the cruelty and inhumanity of this time.”
This seat, Levinsohn says, is not somewhere the viewer should probably sit.
Levinsohn’s piece, one among a dozen, fills the Guilford College Art Gallery in an exhibit titled Twelve Places: Redux. The show, which opened on Sept. 20, revamps a similar show of women’s art held in 1979 — 40 years ago — at the Art School in Carrboro.
The original Twelve Places involved a dozen female artists from Center/Gallery, an all-women’s group of artists who worked out of the Triangle in the late ‘70s. The collective gathered as a response to a lecture from Lucy Lippard — an author and art critic who focused on feminist issues — during her visit to UNC’s campus in 1978. Like a piece from the early ’70s by Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party,” which utilized tableware to discuss women’s history, Twelve Places featured each woman using a chair and the wall nearby to represent herself.
Now, the reworking of the original exhibit features many of the same women who showcased their artwork, like Levinsohn, as well as other original members of Center/Gallery along with women they have mentored over the year. While some omit the chair idea, many seats still remain scattered throughout Guilford’s art gallery.
In this rendition, Koala Phoenix replaces her original antique oak chair with a transparent one. A mannequin torso rests on the seat, a kaleidoscope of silk strands reaching out from where its heart would be. Each fabric bit connects to a map of the United States, long nails tacking them to important places in Phoenix’s life. She mentions that connections remain important to her, and to her identity as a woman. Redux, to her, embodies those connections, much like its predecessor and the artistic movement it took influence from.
“It was really the beginning of feminist art, or women in art making a claim to being female and using that as a part of their subject matter,” she says.
Virginia Tyler, a member of what she calls the “second wave” of Center/Gallery, also sees art as a connector. Her metalworking piece, “Tribute to the God Tree III”, combines a practice of creating papercasts of trees with her experience of studying metalcasting in Ghana. The slabs of patterned bronze branch up to the ceiling, modeled after a particular tree found in Kurofrofrom Village, Ghana, whose bark can be used to make a fever-reducing tea.
“Art, for me,” Tyler says, “is not a solitary experience.”
Tyler, a mentor herself, finds the creative conversation extending, with the inclusion of the newest generation in Twelve Places: Redux. One of her students, Blair Gray, hangs her work up on the front wall. Gray says art acts like an autobiography, illustrating each facet of a person’s identity. Her work, “Junkanoo Rosa,” quilts together her life experiences as a Bahamian woman through the lens of the annual Bahamian festival holiday. Large shapes and bold outlines form patterns around the border of a tapestry, with fringe hanging from the sides. The shapes collage together into faces and flowers, which sprawl across a bold yellow backdrop.
“Junkanoo Rosa” sits on the opposite wall as “Tribute to the God Tree III.” Gray says displaying her work nearby the work of the woman who taught her means the show will not end after the closing date.
“Being part of another generation shows that this can be continued,” Gray says. “There can be another 12 women who have the opportunity to do another show.”