July 18, 2008

Hot Flash Fan exhibit



I went to the opening of the Hot Flash Fan exhibit last night. If you live in Louisville, are passing through, or are hungry for a feminist art feast, come see this glorious work of art. The Hot Flash Fan, Then and Now: Celebrating 160 Years of Feminism is on display at Huff Gallery in the library at Spalding University through August 10, 2008.

Hot Flash Fan was created in 1985. It is thought to be the first major art installation in the United States to address menopause.

As is not unusual for women's work and women's commitment, the list of participants is lengthy. Artist Ann Stewart Anderson of Louisville was originator and principal coordinating artist. Judy Chicago of Dinner Party fame was facilitator. Ada O'Connor was principal embroidery artist/coordinator. Judith Meyers was quilting coordinator. And there were 48 participating artists, plus a few helpers.

Driving to the opening reception, I wondered if anyone was working an oral history of this monumental art installation. As it turns out, I've taken on the project myself. The first step, the most important one, and the one with which I need the most help, is locating all of the participants . To that end, if you were an artist on this project or know how to get in touch with any of the artists, please leave a comment for me. I'd also like to hear from you if you were involved with the project through the sponsoring organization, the Louisville Visual Art Association.

Let me offer one story as the work begins. Last night I had no trouble recognizing the participating artists, none of whom I'd met. Did you see the movie "A League of Our Own" with Gena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O'Donnell? Do you remember the final scene when the real women who played in the league came to the opening of the exhibit? They looked curious, fascinated, focused, eager to see again who they were in that amazing moment in time. That's how the Hot Flash Fan artists looked. Curious, eager, reflective, and delighted to see that nothing had faded in the intervening years. Not the power. Not the passion. Not the textiles. And not the thrill of being part of it.

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