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McMaster exhibition features gorilla mask-wearing feminist group Guerrilla Girls

<p>The Guerilla Girls is a group of feminists who fight social injustices while keeping a hidden identity through the use of gorilla masks</p>

The Guerilla Girls is a group of feminists who fight social injustices while keeping a hidden identity through the use of gorilla masks

McMaster's current exhibition “Guerrilla Girls: Art, Power, and Justice for All!” takes on social injustices through the artwork of Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of feminists who keep their identities hidden with gorilla masks. 

“Revisiting the work of the Guerrilla Girls right now is a chance to reflect on the long, hard road we are on to realize true equity and inclusion across our cultural institutions and media industries, and how far we still have left to go,” Laura Kissel, the director of the School of Visual Art and Design, said in an email. 

The exhibition opened to the public on Oct. 1 and will be on display until Oct. 22 during gallery hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and admission will be free. Five people are allowed into the gallery at a time, and face masks must be worn.

“This exhibition is coming here at a really important time in the world,” exhibition curator Anna Toptchi said. 

In 1985, Guerrilla Girls started their work by renting out sides of billboards and buses to bring light to their feminist art.

Dana Witkoski, engagement specialist at Columbia Museum of Art, said there is still a lot of work to be done because "women and underrepresented demographics are still not represented enough in the art world."

Columbia residents Fred and Elaine Delk visited the exhibition on opening day. They said they come to "a lot" of the events at McMaster.

Elaine Delk said she thinks the university could take a close look at the Guerrilla Girls exhibition and how they incorporate the ideas of the Guerrilla Girls into how they make their selection for the board of trustees. 

 “If we look at the board of trustees, we have one black female,” Delk said. 

The artwork in the exhibition comments on diversity issues such as this. 

"Original posters, videos and some publications" are featured in the exhibition, according to Toptchi. A lot of the artwork is in the form of "eye-catching posters" that present facts and statistics to inform the audience of injustices in the art world.

Toptchi said a lot of negative stereotypes can be said about feminists and people often "develop the wrong understanding" of what a feminist is. The Guerrilla Girls leave behind the negative connotation and stereotypes that often come with the word feminist.

“The Guerrilla Girls call themselves intersectional feminists,” Toptchi said. “This isn't a feminism for white women. This is a feminism for everyone who identifies as a woman and of any race, ethnic background.”

Toptchi said the Guerrilla Girls have likely changed the lives of many young art historians, artists and culture writers because of how their artwork has taught others to pay attention to who is writing our history and how white men are often prioritized over others.

"Guerrilla Girls: Art, Power, and Justice for All!" is part of the College of Art and Science's inaugural theme semester, which is justice.

There is also affiliated exhibition programming as part of the justice-themed semester. These programs take place at different dates throughout the exhibition and give students and members of the public a chance to virtually meet and interact with the Guerilla Girls, attend workshops and learn more about the feminist activism of women artists.

The Columbia Museum of Art will host one of the affiliated exhibition programs, "A Virtual Evening with the Guerrilla Girls," where Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo will give a live presentation with a Q&A session to follow.

This event will take place over Zoom, but it will be available on Facebook Live through the Columbia Museum of Art's Facebook page.

"I’m really excited just to see how many folks we can reach with a virtual program,” Witkoski said.

To learn more about these programs or to register, visit here

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Augusta Savage will join Frida Kahlo at the live presentation and Q&A session. Savage will not be at the presentation and Q&A.


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