“Once I started, I couldn’t stop,” Martha Posner remarked. Ironically, the sheer power and pervasiveness of sexual harassment had kept it from rising to the surface, personally, for the artist. Despite spending decades creating paintings and sculptures that emanated from women’s inequality, sublimation, and abuse, there that pain sat, dormant, pushed aside, swallowed, even forgotten, “or whatever it is that we do with the things that we really don’t want,” Posner said. “And then it all came flooding out of me.”
It was a watershed moment. The Harvey Weinstein case had just broken, and, like Posner, many women were beginning to talk about the unspeakable. In a possessed, trance-like state, she began handwriting “me too” over, and over, and over again on secondhand slips and bed-jacket linings. More empowering than cathartic, Posner divined the psychic energy and memories of the previous garment owners as a way of proclaiming and releasing what had, for too long, been hidden, buried beneath layers of clothing, anguish, sorrow, anger, and despair. Posner’s story, she realized, was every woman’s story.
The profundity of the outpour immediately struck an emotional chord with photographer Amy Arbus. “When I saw Martha’s garments, my heart stopped for a minute.” Arbus had recently abandoned Goddesses, a photography project portraying women in vintage nightgowns and lingerie that celebrated the vulnerability, strength, and overall complex nature of women—a subject she had yet to tackle during her prolific career, despite having been raised by four formidable women herself.
In the end, Arbus felt the series was missing something essential, an underlying thread that connected her subjects, so she reluctantly shelved it. But the fact that she and Posner, long-time friends and colleagues, were simultaneously utilizing intimate secondhand garments was not lost on her—nor was the way in which Posner processed and transformed women’s pain into a symbolic collective of beauty and perseverance. Within days, they began planning their collaboration.
Two months later, on January 20, 2019, on a closed set in Easton, Pennsylvania, Arbus photographed 19 subjects in Posner’s garments. Neither were prepared for the emotional intensity that would envelop that day. Both Posner and Arbus cast the shoot with women of diverse sizes, shapes, ages, and ethnicities, the majority of whom they didn’t know personally or whether they’d had a “me too” experience. “We were choosing anyone on the theory that almost everybody has a story,” Arbus explained, “and that was true in this case. You could see that 17 out of the 19 women had one. It was just painfully obvious. It just registered on their faces.”
At the same time, Arbus’s subjects were grappling with another dynamic of sexuality on set. Clad only in a slip, the insecurity many of the women felt about their bodies and how they compared to others was palpable—something that echoed Arbus’s own experience and struggle from a young age. “The pressure to be an object of desire is so intense for women in this culture. It’s so ingrained, it’s almost like nature, not nurture, because it’s the way we’re brought up. It’s inextricable from behavior. I didn’t want anyone to feel that they were less beautiful because there was someone else in the room who was a traditional knockout.” It was an exercise in fortitude, and their ability to push forward through it, together, further cemented their bond and the impact of the installation that would ultimately result.
Aside from helping cast and set up the logistics of the shoot, Posner was deliberately hands-off that day: “I respect Amy and I like her work very much, but even more important than that, I trust Amy. I trusted her with my work, and I also believed enough in my work to release it to someone else to bring their vision.” What resulted are 14 emotionally charged portraits, several of which were expressly printed to portray the women in a larger-than-life scale. “These women are survivors,” Arbus said. “Life is tough for everybody. I don’t mean that life isn’t tough for men. But these women know how to make it on their own.”
Posner had always viewed her garments as an invitation for collaboration. Unlike her past projects that involved clothing, these slips and bed coats are actually wearable. Seeing women from today clad in undercover apparel of another woman’s buried personal memories brought the project, in Posner’s mind, to its full fruition. “It wasn’t just a collaboration between Amy and me. It was collaborative between all of the women who were involved,” said Posner. “You walk by people all the time and you never know what they’re carrying.”
June 12-Jul 17, 2019
Featuring Amy Arbus and Martha Posner
At: The Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown, MA
Martha Posner and Amy Arbus's photo and mixed media collaboration keeps the #MeToo discussion going.
The two artists will present an installation of Amy's photographs of women wearing Martha's handwritten garments. Inspired by women everywhere, the project pairs art and the female experience, bringing awareness to stories that need to be seen and heard. Viewers will also be able to share their stories in an anonymous notebook on view.
See more Here.
Exhibition: Loud Silence: Expressions o Activism
Exhibition Dates: October 16- December 16 2018
Artists featured: Judy Chicago, Kara Walker, Ana Mendieta, Alison Saar, Lien Trong, Hung Liu, Diane Edison, Liza Lou, Nancy Spero, Julie Heffernan, Elizabeth Catlett, Betye Saar, Lesley Dill, Ilona Granet, Donna Lief, Jessie Oonark, Faith Ringgold, Kiki Smith, Zoe Strauss, Jenny Holzer, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Sobia Ahmad, Nicholas Galanin, Sara Rahbar, Lorna Simpson, Helen Zughaib, Dyke Action Machine, Rachel Farmer, Linda Stein, Ellen Shumsky, Annie Sprinkle, Alex Donis, Miller and Shellbarger, Theodore Newman, Harvey Milk, Rashid Johnson, Juan Logan, Martha Posner
Exhibition Description: The artist’s role is to serve as society’s mirror. In that role, artists have been advocates for marginalized populations for years. This exhibition examines communities who have been forced into silence because of society and circumstance and the artists who create an awareness of their circumstances. As a result, artwork created becomes a form of activismsometimes using their silence or contemplative practice as a gesture of protest, sometimes allowing the artwork to scream louder than words are able. Important to the exhibition is the human figure. In many cases, judgments are made and rights compromised due to gender, race, and sexuality. The works featured demonstrate the unique perils of living while a woman, while black, while indigenous, while LGBTQ, and while an immigrant. Artists have come to use the body as an integral expression of their activism. The exhibition will distinguish between depictions of the body (figure study) and works OF the body. Those who have been denied a voice are forced to scream the loudest. This exhibition calls on the viewer to examine their own blind-spots and understand suffering they may have never known, through art.
Gerald Stern (Author)
From the National Book Award–winning author of This Time, a new volume of poems that explore the very nature of existence.
Divine Nothingness is a meditative reflection on the poet’s past and an elegy to love and the experience of the senses in the face of mortality. From the Jersey side of the Delaware River in Lambertville, Gerald Stern explores questions about who and why we are, locating nothingness in the divine and the divine in nothingness.
SHOW: Animal Animal Mammal Mine
GROUP: Penn Dixie Productions
ATTENDED: Sun., April 14, 8 p.m., Underground Arts
CLOSES: April 20
A devised theater piece that grows out of extensive interviews with women who have inherited the technology of the 60s. It weaves these characters together with dance, projections, and the breathtaking hybrid sculptures of Martha Posner.
WE THINK: Writer-director Anisa George concocts a fascinating adventure, based on conversations with women about reproduction that were expansive enough to explore concerns about climate change and the nature of life itself. As with other works of this style (think Pig Iron Theater Company, New Paradise Laboratories, Applied Mechanics, and anything staged by Mark Lord), we're embraced by a dizzying variety of fascinating images, action, and sounds — most of them showing low-tech innovation, like Martha Posner's wearable sculptures — from an on-stage glacier and menacing animal activists to the giddy thrills of actresses singing while circling the audience on bicycles and discovering their capacity for flight.
Set designer Amy Rubin uses Underground Arts' basement space well, surrounding us and a deep, sea-blue playing area with eerie bare trees. Often funny while also surprisingly moving, Animal Animal Mammal Mine makes the question of bringing children into an ailing world real and personal, and balances that worry and cynicism with a hopeful message about life's resilience.
4/10/2012 0 Comments
Animal Animal Mammal Mine
An original dance-theater piece, part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
Who: Penn Dixie Productions in collaboration with Martha Posner
Previews: April 10th and 11th
Performances: April 12th -14th and 16th -20th
Where: Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia Pa. 19108
Opening February 23- March 31st 2012
Accola Griefen Gallery
547 West 27th Street #634
New York, New York 10001