Michele Pred: Equality of Rights
By COCO DOLLE October, 2022
Equality of Rights
At Nancy Hoffman Gallery
Closing reception at Nancy Hoffman gallery: October 28th, 5-7 pm
“Abortion is Healthcare” performance 10.28, 1 pm at the Brooklyn Musuem
In the wake of the mid-term election, California-based conceptual artist and feminist activist Michele Pred organized a complexe art scenario comprising of a solo exhibition, performances and billboards around the country to question the suppression of women’s rights and inspire people to vote for legal abortion.
Starting in New York with a solo exhibition titled Equality of Rights at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, the artist’s mission pursues with a public performance art parade topped with a tight curation of feminist art blown up over large billboards in states were abortion is now illegal, Vote for Abortion Rights.
Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme court last June, fifteen states have curtailed the rights to legal abortion in America. By eliminating this longstanding constitutional rights and limiting federal standards on abortion access, women’s right to general medical protection are seriously at stake. For instance in Texas, doctors who perform abortions can now be sentenced to life in prison.
Born to a political family, Michele Pred’s father was an internationally known university professor at UC Berkeley. He wrote numerous books about race, capitalism and social justice. Her mother was Swedish and gave her early notions of equality from her native country where women are given eighteen months of parental leave and their partners three months. She started doing works on abortions rights in college in the 90s, she was making wearable pieces. Part of her practice today is to participate in working with politicians and policies, to support candidate that support pro-choice. She regularly donates her signature electro-luminescent wire purses to raise funds for Women’s organizations. In 2017, her VOTE bag wound up in the hands of Hillary Clinton.
This sense of justice prevails in all of Michele’s works. In her solo exhibition at Nancy Hoffman gallery she presented large wall installations from her long-term project including the Wage Gaps from Art of Equal Pay, her Pussy Grabs Back neon feminist bags, large blown up abortion pills, vintage quilts covered in packets of birth control pills titled Sexual Revolution, and a striking large-scale installation of mid-century metal eagles powder coated in bright pink.
Her billboard project which debuted in New York this week, is presented in partnership with Save Art Space. Billboards with messages including “Abortion is Healthcare” by Holly Ballard Martz and “Vote for Reproductive Freedom” by Lena Wolff and Hope Meng, will be presented in 14 cities and twelve States across the United States where abortion is now illegal or heavily restricted, including in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Additionally to her visual arts, Michele has been organizing performance protest marches since 2017. Her first one was held spontaneously in Miami during the Art Basel Fair. She gathered women artists she admired. Parade Against Patriarchy was her first social practice project growing a community in solidarity for women’s rights. She says: “ It’s really important to me for women to lift each other up. After the We Vote parade in 2018, I included several artists’ works from the performance in the display window of my gallery exhibition. I wanted to present something positive and inclusive.”
This year, following the opening of her exhibition, Michele invited her peers to join her at Washington Square Park to march for abortion rights. Joined by Diana Mashia from Invest in her Art, a curated marketplace focused on underrepresented artists, and Gabrielle Senza from Walk Unafraid, this edition had recurring participants. Sarah Cascone, a senior writer from Artnet and a long-time supporter of feminist artists, marched along the troupe with enthusiasm. Overall the feeling of joy and solidarity prevailed within a colorful mosaic of artists in attires. I chatted with a few while we were marching.
The mystic Wildcat Ebony Brown considers her work an extension of herself matching her daily clothes with her paintings. Ebony’s themes revolve around feminine divine energies. For this edition of the parade she embodied a fierce warrior in a bright green color palette to represent women of different ethnicities and cultures. She held a totem stick ornate with two female heads decorated with green beads, fabrics and paint. She explains: “The first one on the right with the pom pom hair was born a few months ago, she is the green Goddess guardian of adolescent abortions. She was inspired by that story in the news of the 10 year old girl who was raped, which the politicians came after calling her a liar. I heard some really alarming statistics about how many adolescents have to have abortions. So I thought about the need for protection. These are goddesses that are being born to protect the divine energy of Women's rights.”
Channeling her sentiments of passion and fury, Yvette Molina created a wearable gown with black, red and orange leathers sewn together to resemble a volcano. “The original inspiration for my volcano gown and painting series comes after a speech poet Ursula Le Guin gave at Bryn Mawr College in 1986: “We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That's what I want - to hear you erupting.” I love that symbolism of we're creating the future, recreating the new world that we wanna live in by being volcanoes, by honoring both our capacity for passion and fury, which is often symbolized by fire, but also by creating future nourishment and fertility for creative expression.”
Artist and curator Rebecca Goyette is a popular voice in the troupe. She held a large fabric flag stitched with the words “Abortion Without Apology” made by London-based artist Shireen Liane. This piece, she explains, was presented over the summer in Rebecca’s exhibition “Abortion Stories”, a show she curated at Lump Project Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also organized a story share circle inviting the audience to speak their abortions stories to be recorded and added to the library of Congress. Pro-choice organizations participated included members of the ACLU who were in town to help with voter suppression. North Carolina was on the cusp of loosing abortion rights and Roe.v.Wade got overturned by the courts while the show was up. Rebecca expressed how devastating it was: “When we brought our artwork to North Carolina, we felt we were helping. Obviously the people who go to galleries are still on our side, but they're afraid to talk about abortion. I think that's a big reason why we're losing in some states, is that we don't talk about it. I was told people would love to share their story, but were afraid to speak for other people involved in their abortion lived in this town.”
Artist Ann Lewis looked into theocracy and wore a black cape train inscripted with The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteenth United States of America that she rewrote in a female version of the Constitution. Focused on bodily autonomy she calls it “The Unanimous Declaration of Bodily Autonomy”. She explains: “I felt it was important to rewrite the Declaration of Independence because it is male centric and it was written for the colonies. It feels to me we are in a time where we need to reclaim our independence from those who claimed it from King George.”
Michele Pred’s performance gatherings are important reminders to keep a collective spirit of art and feminism alive. WM
Coco Dolle is a French-American artist, writer, and independent curator based in New York since the late 90s. Former dancer and fashion muse for acclaimed artists including Alex Katz, her performances appeared in Vogue and The NY Times. Over the past decade, she has organized numerous exhibitions acclaimed in high-end publications including Forbes, ArtNet, VICE, and W Magazine. She is a contributing writer for L’Officiel Art and Whitehot Magazine. As an artist, her work focuses on body politics and feminist issues as seen at the Oregon Contemporary (OR) and Mary Ryan Gallery (NYC).
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