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 2022-08-31
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 3840 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 3840 times since Wed Mar 7, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

VIEWPOINT What are the most banned books: take a guess 2022-11-18
- The Latin word for book is liber. It is also the Latin word for "free," as in not a slave but a person who enjoys freedom (liberty). The word library means a home for books, a place of liberation, a sacred ...


Gay News

Opinion: What are the most banned books? Take a guess. 2022-11-14
- The Latin word for book is liber. It is also the Latin word for "free," as in not a slave but a person who enjoys freedom (liberty). The word library means a home for books, a place of liberation, a sacred ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: COVID book, 'Wicked' cocktails, 'A Taste of Hope' and more 2022-10-24
- —COVID-19, the LGBTQIA+ Community and Public Policy: As studies emerge to help us understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on every facet of modern life, it is critical that the effect of the pandemic on ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH bell hooks: A voice of love, activism and intersectionality 2022-10-22
- When bell hooks died on Dec. 15, 2021, it was a gut punch. There was no time when bell hooks' extraordinary writing and feminist and lesbian theorizing was not part of the queer community. There was ...


Gay News

Former Chicago Ald. Helen Shiller hosts book launch and reception 2022-10-20
- Publishing house Haymarket Books presented a book-signing and interview session with longtime LGBTQ+ ally and former Chicago Ald. Helen Shiller on Oct. 17. Shiller was interviewed by noted Chicago Tribune ...


Gay News

BOOKS Lesbian co-author discusses 'No More Police: A Case for Abolition' 2022-10-18
- "We don't need all the answers to start down the road toward where we want to go: a world where everyone has safety, food, clean water, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, and rest."—No More Police: A ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives holds 'Unboxing Queer History LIVE' fall benefit 2022-10-17
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) held its fall benefit, "Unboxing Queer History LIVE!," on Oct. 15 at Gerber/Hart to raise funds in support of the library's mission to preserve LGBTQ+ history in Chicago and the Midwest. ...


Gay News

BOOKS 'Last Call Chicago' release party held at Sidetrack 2022-10-13
- On Oct. 12, co-authors Rick Karlin and St. Sukie de la Croix held a book-release party for their book, Last Call Chicago: A History of 1,001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts. Last Call Chicago is a ...


Gay News

OutHistory reveals discovery in LGBTQ+ history: identity of pioneering LGBTQ+ author Jennie June 2022-10-12
-- From a press release - New York, NY—Oct. 10, 2022—In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, the website OutHistory announced a groundbreaking discovery: the probable identity of Jennie June, the pioneering LGBTQ+ author who bravely defended ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH San Francisco Public Library digitizes LGBTQ+ archives, including Harvey Milk holdings 2022-10-09
LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH - Shot with black-and-white film, two small children stand outside in a San Francisco public plaza draped in protest signs. One reads, "We're Proud, Not Stigmatized." The other declares, "We Love Our Gay Parents." In the right ...


Gay News

BOOKS David Sedaris returns to the Raue Center on Nov. 4 2022-10-06
- Best-selling author David Sedaris will return to the Crystal Lake venue the Raue Center on Friday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. The openly gay humor writer is known for books such as Calypso, Theft By Finding, ...


Gay News

BOOKS Events related to 'Last Call Chicago' on Oct. 10 and 12 2022-10-03
- Last Call Chicago: A History of 1,001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts is a historical account of LGBTQ+ venues in the Windy City. The book's authors, Rick Karlin and St. Sukie de la Croix, are journalists ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY MONTH 'Memory Book' details history of 1970s-era LGBTQ+ attorneys in U.S. 2022-10-01
- Stephen Lachs remembers the 1970s as being a particularly wonderful era in the history of the LGBTQ+-liberation movement. Lachs, 83, was the first out LGBTQ+ person appointed to a judgeship in the United States. Tapped by ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart fall benefit on Oct. 15 2022-09-30
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, 6500 N. Clark St., will hold its fall benefit on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. "Unboxing Queer History LIVE!" will be an in-person event to celebrate and support its mission to ...


Gay News

BOOKS 2022 #BannedTogether virtual auction taking place Sept. 22-25 2022-09-22
- On Sept. 22-25, non-profit organization Pride and Less Prejudice (PLP) will hold its second annual #BannedTogether virtual auction to raise $10,000 to send 800 LGBTQ+-inclusive books to elementary schools across the United States and Canada. The ...


 




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


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.