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The Graphics Collective

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Even as a cultural form, a play, was used to bridge women’s ideological differences, the role of culture within political movements remained a hotly debated topic.  Within the CWLU both artists and musicians continued to push for a role for cultural activism.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In the first CWLU newsletter January 1970 a Proposal for a Revolutionary Women’s Art Co-op quoted both Simone de Beauvoir and Chairman Mao in support of the argument that

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 women need art to break out of the chains of colonizing brainwashing that we have been subjected to all of our lives.  We need art to help break up the empire of the Amerikan fatherland. .[1]

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 This notion art as a means for overcoming a colonizing brainwashing implies that art can function as a form of consciousness raising, while also functioning as “another front upon Amerikan imperialism.”  This adoption of third world rhetoric and framing of women’s revolution as akin to overseas imperialism represented an attempt to articulate, in language both comprehensible and valued in the New Left, women’s oppression, much as analogies between race and sex did.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 While the Women’s Revolutionary Art Co-Op proposed in the article seems to have remained only a nascent idea, in the March 22, 1970 newsletter, a second article appeared entitled “Art Collective Forming” by Estelle Carol. The Women’s Liberation Art Collective’s original goal was “to bring women who want to share ideas, share skills, resources, and criticism in visual and literary arts” together.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The meaning and function of the Collective will be up to the members. So far the only project is to service all women’s liberation groups in Chicago who need posters to advertise events and issues, or to raise funds for our ever- growing programs.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 School

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 As a movement seeking to build a society that truly fulfills the material and psychological needs of both women and men, we must not overlook the beauty and creativity in our present search for new life styles, a new schema must be adopted. It is the responsibility of an Art Collective to give women the opportunity to discover their own potential and share the experience not only with fellow artists, but with all our sisters.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 In this formulation, cultural activism,  posters, would serve as propaganda, with art secondary to the needs of other activists.   However the argument that the movement must fulfill the “material and psychological needs” and cannot “overlook beauty and creativity” indicates that the artists saw a potentially larger role for art.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Eventually in the fall of 1970 , members of the CWLU founded a Graphics Collective after they bonded “over their situations as women, as artists, and as women artists.”.[2] In Jan 1971 the Graphics Collective elaborated their position, arguing that art itself was activism.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 “as women artists and revolutionaries, we believe that a visual image communicates with people and expresses the tone of a movement in a special way that cannot be filled by words. Because people communicate through art and because art is a part of being human, it is a necessary part of the growing revolutionary counterculture.”

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 The authors thus moved from arguing that art essentially functioned as a recruiting tool or as propaganda for the movement to claiming a special role for the visual art in revolutionary movements.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 From  NEVER THE SAME Conversations About Art Transforming Politics & Community in Chicago & Beyond

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Graphics collective member and paid staffer, Estelle Carol argued that as a member of the CWLU she used “art to pull it all together—the culture and the glue of our movement. We felt that our music and visual arts had to accompany any major revolution. We felt we were creating the revolution of women.”[3]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The WGC made art reflected all of these proposed functions.  Some posters intended for “consciousness-raising” attempted to give “concreteness to the movement, and a legitimacy to the political views.” They created unity, such as the popular “Sisterhood is Blooming,”  while  “Womankind is Awakening” and“Women Are Not Chicks” “Don’t Call Me Girl” highlighted rhetoric of the movement.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Sisterhood notchicks

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Many of the images derived from other contemporary revolutions, with “Mountain moving day” depicting an African woman carrying a rifle with a child on her back. America and Vietnam (sometimes also called Lipstick and Sisterhood) is a reprint of piece by José Gómez Fresquet  a Cuban artist.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Mountain_7 Lipstick

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Other posters drew on an emerging women’s history to celebrate Chicago women’s contributions to labor history or to explore Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelly poster. These posters offered a visual corrective to the dominant narrative that exclude women from history.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Labor Shelley

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Because “American culture [was] a visual culture,” art “needed to respond to the negative attitude towards women in advertisements, television and the media.” The work then that the posters did was to raise consciousness, challenge images of women in patriarchal culture and create counter-images of women’s historical agency.


22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 [1] CWLU newsletter Jan 1970, 5.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [2] From press clippings on CWLU wesbite Estelle carol, tibby lerner, Barbara Carrillo Leslie Nevraumont  and Nancy Boothe, Susan Galatzer, Wendy Garber, and Cynthia Staples

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Source: https://politicsofwomensculture.michellemoravec.com/about-2/book-pre-fall-2016/consciousness/step-2-oppression/graphics-collective-of-the-chicago-womens-liberation-union/