Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicago lesbian gets 'Graphic' with latest book
BOOKS
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times
2012-03-07

This article shared 3807 times since Wed Mar 7, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


For a brief, intense period in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a group of female artists known as the Madame Binh Graphics Collective ( MBGC ) flourished in New York City. Recognized for its vibrant graphic style, militant politics and propagandist imagery, the collective produced hundreds of posters, prints and murals before eventually dissolving amid a flurry of protests, FBI raids and jail sentences.

Lesbian artist and professor Mary Patten details the rise and fall of the fringe collective in her new book, Revolution as an Eternal Dream: the Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective ( 84 pages, Half Letter Press, $13 ) .

A founding member of the collective, Patten interweaves personal anecdotes ( "I remember going to bed under rows of 18"x24" posters, inhaling the fumes from drying mineral spirits/xylene as I dozed off" ) with historical context to create a holistic picture of a political movement.

Readers who aren't familiar with the time period get primers in chapters on literary influences, graphic movements and political predecessors; while full-page graphics serve as lively examples of the collective's work.

"In these days when cultural activism seems less than powerful," Lucy Lippard writes in the preface, "we can learn a great deal from those times, about the endless contradictions we could not escape, about art world successes that were actually failures, and political failures that were actually successes."

Patten recently sat down with Windy City Times to discuss her writing style, spending time on Rikers Island and more.

Windy City Times: In the book, you hop between a first-person style where you share personal stories, to a more professorial tone where you talk about art in context. Why did you decide to go with both tones?

Mary Patten: [ My publisher ] talked about it being a memoir of sorts. I'm not really interested in that kind of privileging of a singular experience, but I think [ the book ] does have to cross back and forth because I'm not an outsider. I was an author of these events. At the same time, I'm critical about our history. It's not like, 'Everyone needs to know this; we're so great'.

In a very short period of time, we produced a huge number [ of pieces ] . I mean, we lived this crazy way where we didn't sleep, and we worked these really crappy jobs and were burning the midnight oil all the time. We took on so many projects, and we produced a lot—ranging from very simple, direct black-and-white Xerox kinds of things to very elaborate multicolored prints that were most often used to raise money to promote different struggles that we were in solidarity with.

Some of what we did I think was quite good. Some of what we did was really fraught and weak graphically. It suffered from art by committee in a way.

WCT: What do you mean by that?

MP: In the beginning there was a level of autonomy in our art. One particular person would have an idea for something and develop a sketch. The rest of us would contribute to try to make the design the best possible, and we'd all assist in the production. We weren't interested in making a collective style or brand or way of drawing or dealing with design. There was kind of a multiplicity of approaches in terms of design that allowed everybody to really push their own particular creative vision.

As time went on, there was less and less freedom. We were part of this larger project that had this revolutionary agenda that was ever escalating, where really we thought we needed to become like soldiers. We did weapons training; we did karate. There's this level of political urgency and emergency that kind of squashed that space and freedom that's necessary for art making.

With art by committee, you can't produce anything because everybody has a different opinion or some external voice comes in, maybe from the larger organization. The creative field becomes more and more hemmed in.

WCT: The group ended up kind of naturally dissolving after several of you were arrested at an anti-apartheid protest in 1982. You spent a year in Rikers Island; what was that like?

MP: That's where some really interesting stuff started to happen again. Even though it's lousy to be in jail, and we were monitored all the time, the three of us who were in the graphics collective were constantly making stuff. It was a way to spend time; it was a way to be friends with other women in the jail. They'd say, "Oh, you know how to draw? Would you draw a picture of my daughter for me? I'll give you cigarettes." We were very loved. [ Laughs ]

WCT: Did you have access to supplies, then?

MP: We really didn't, until this older, retired art teacher read about us. She contacted the jail and said she'd like to set up a little art class where she'd bring in materials and allow us to draw. It was kind of an amazing thing, but we had a little difficulty with her because we wanted to bring other women from the jail to these art classes. She was a little bit like, 'Well, I don't know. I know who [ you ] are. I can recognize [ you ] .' We thought she couldn't deal with women who were prostitutes or drug addicts, who were all our friends in there.

We were allowed colored pencils and paper. Margot did this amazing collage that I still have in my apartment. She used cut-up magazines. We were not allowed to use glue for some reason, but she used toothpaste. Glue was contraband.

It was really good for us to be jail. For me, it was, at least. I don't want to idealize it or romanticize it, but it gave us a little bit of space from the relentless [ political movements ] .

Revolution as an Eternal Dream: the Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective ( $13 ) is available from Half Letter Press at www.halfletterpress.com/store.

Patten is a visual artist, video-maker, writer and educator who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She's spent the last 27 years in Chicago organizing with ACT UP and other groups.


This article shared 3807 times since Wed Mar 7, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

How Coming Out in the 1970s Helped Me Make Brave, Life-changing Decisions 2022-06-25
By Edith Forbes, author of Tracking A Shadow: My Lived Experiment With MS - As a child growing up in Wyoming in the 1960's, I did not know any actual person who was gay. I knew exactly one fact about gay people, a fact universally accepted but never talked about: Gay people were strange. Even ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: WNDR Museum, Prince, queer books, flowers 2022-06-16
- — WNDR Museum's Pride event "Crafting with Queens": The West Loop museum is usually entertainment and, um, wondrous enough on its own—but during Pride Month, WNDR is queering things up with "Crafting with Queens" on Tuesday, ...


Gay News

Northwestern University Libraries and Center for Applied Transgender Studies launch trans studies journal 2022-06-16
- Northwestern University Libraries (NUL) and the Center for Applied Transgender Studies (CATS) are now publishing the Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies. The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies (BATS)—the first journal ...


Gay News

Catholic publisher cancels Chicago theologian's 'Queer God de Amor' book 2022-06-13
- On June 9, New Ways Ministry received the following statement by Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and the John Courtney Murray, S.J., University Chair in Public Service at Loyola University Chicago. ...


Gay News

34th annual Lambda Literary award winners announced 2022-06-13
-- From a press release - New York, NY, June 11, 2022 — Lambda Literary, the nation's premier LGBTQ literary organization, announced the winners of the 34th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (a.k.a. the "Lammys") at a live virtual award ceremony hosted by ...


Gay News

TRAVEL Descanso is Palm Springs newest gay resort 2022-06-08
- Descanso is the first resort for gay men to open in Palm Springs in more than 10 years, and "The response has been beyond expectations," said general manager Kent Taylor. Weekends are already booked through June, ...


Gay News

BOOKS Artist Sam Kirk talks 'The Meaning of Pride' 2022-06-08
- In the children's book The Meaning of Pride, Rosiee Thor pens an ode to LGBTQ+ culture and identity by celebrating the beauty, significance and many dimensions of the concept of Pride—and showing that the word can ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart unveils Pride Month events with 'Drag,' 'Bad Gays,' sneak peek 2022-05-30
- Gerber/Hart Library has revealed the events it will host for Pride Month. —On Saturday, June 4, at 3 p.m., Gerber/Hart will celebrate the release of Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age with Unabridged Books ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Laverne Cox, PBS special, Ricky Martin, queer books/authors 2022-05-29
- Nouveau Productions and PBS announced a new collaboration for Pride Month, per a press release. The special True Colors: LGBTQ+ Our Stories, Our Songs will offer a unique look at the history of the LGBTQ+ community ...


Gay News

State Farm drops GenderCool Project; Illinois General Assembly LGBTQ Caucus, Equality Illinois respond 2022-05-26
- This week in response to an outcry from a hateful few, Illinois-based insurer State Farm dropped their support for The GenderCool Project, which provides LGBTQ-affirming books to schools across the country on a voluntary basis. We ...


Gay News

Actor/model David Pevsner challenges age and body stereotypes in recent book 2022-05-24
- When writing his recent book—Damn Shame: Desire, Defiance and Show Tunes—actor/model/filmmaker David Pevsner noticed three themes coming to the fore: body shame, sexuality and ageism. "All three of those are ...


Gay News

Gayla Turner talks new book uncovering her grandmother's secret queer identity 2022-05-23
- In Gayla Turner's debut book, Don't You Dare: Uncovering Lost Love (BookBaby, May 24), she reveals her Grandmother Ruby's (1896-1977) century-old secret queer identity that she hid from the wider world. This revelation became c ...


Gay News

HIV/AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton on her new memoir, 'Unprotected' 2022-05-18
- Emmy-winning HIV/AIDS activist, author, minister, political organizer, motivational speaker, life coach, jewelry designer and social media figure Rae Clara Lewis-Thornton's recently released book, Unprotected: A Memoir, is already a pre-release ...


Gay News

TV Writer Joel Kim Booster, director Andrew Ahn take a trip to 'Fire Island' 2022-05-15
- Based on the classic Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice, the new Fox Searchlight film Fire Island has an important story to tell LGBTQ+ audiences specifically. In that story, there are plenty of laughs along the ...


Gay News

BOOKS 'Tinderbox' author to appear in Palatine on June 14 2022-05-13
- Author Robert Fieseler will discuss his debut book—Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation—on Tuesday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at Palatine's Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.