Windy City Media Group Frontpage News Home
CELEBRATING 28+ YEARS OF Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender NEWS

Search Gay News Articles
Advanced Search
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2014-07-23
Download Issue
  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

'An Evening of Magic' to benefit AFC 'An Evening of Magic' to benefit AFC
From the front window of Patrick Livingston's apartment, visitors can glimpse the ...

Browse Gay News Index   Browse Gay News Archives
  Windy City Times    Download PDF Issue

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

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg 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.


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily
agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here.
Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you
stay on this page, the more you help us.

THE AMAZON TRAIL Nancy Garden: Lesbian hero 2014-07-23
Hard Choices 2014-07-23
John D'Emilio: Renowned professor, historian retires 2014-07-22
Women & Children bookstore sold 2014-07-16
LETTERS Women & Children First; Gun and done 2014-07-16
Chris Colfer signs 'Stories' in Skokie 2014-07-16
Second book in 'Boystown' series released 2014-07-16
BOOK REVIEW Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space 2014-07-16
Book features 50 prominent Chicagoans 2014-07-13
21st Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award July 23 2014-07-11
Classic 1990s gay novels back with 21st Century updates 2014-07-08
Lesbian musician talks Etheridge, Kate Clinton, Amy Ray 2014-07-02
'Chicago Independent Bookstore Day' on July 12 2014-07-02
BOOK REVIEW Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir 2014-07-02
BOOK REVIEW Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante 2014-07-02
Law professor's book focuses on gay parents, child welfare 2014-07-01
'Brave Bilbuggies' launches; review of Artificial Cherry 2014-06-25
'Little Reef and Other Stories' full of rich tales 2014-06-25
BOOK REVIEW Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East 2014-06-25
Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders 2014-06-25
'Sons of Wichita' looks at Koch upbringing, reveals gay brother 2014-06-25
BOOKS Laura Erickson-Schroth's work looks at the trans* self 2014-06-25
Flower of Iowa: E-book looks at WWI soldiers' romance 2014-06-25
Instagram celebrity looks at abuses, love in memoir 2014-06-25
PASSAGES Author Nancy Garden dies 2014-06-24
Gerber/Hart updates public on progress, gift 2014-06-23
Words without Borders publishes Queer Issue for Pride 2014-06-17
Windy City Times books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-13
WCT books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-11
WCT books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-11
Jacob and Diane Anderson-Minshall talk 'Queerly Beloved' 2014-06-09
AIDS book at Printers Row event 2014-06-04
Comics expo at Center takes the CAKE 2014-06-03
BOOKS The End of Billy Knight 2014-06-03
BOOK REVIEW No Strings 2014-06-03
E-BOOK REVIEW The Rekindling of Love 2014-06-03
Retired doctor reflects on his 90 years in new book 2014-06-03
Bechdel, Bornstein honored, Lambda Literary winners named 2014-06-03
Gerber/Hart Library to host Pride Open House, Public Meeting 2014-06-02
Video interview: Sukie de la Croix on leaving Chicago 2014-05-30





Copyright © 2014 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.

 

 

 



 

John D'Emilio: Renowned professor, historian retires
 
Report: PrEP 90% effective with just a few doses per week
 
'An Evening of Magic' to benefit AFC
 
Meiling Jin on growing up in China, celebrity, LGBT journalism
 
Tony Tripoli tag-teams with The Cabaret Project
 
Windy City Times Current DownloadNightspots Current DownloadQueercast Current Download
Windy City Media Group BlogsJoin Our Email List!Donate Now



  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video      News Videos      Nightspots Videos      Entertainment Videos      Queercast Videos      Comedy Videos     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.