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  • 10/07/16--08:50: Helena Rubinstein
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    Public Domain

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  • 10/10/16--13:11: Chloe Wise
  • Chloe Wise uses her art to comment on consumer culture, most famously through her Bread Bags series, which creates purses made of realistic-looking bakery items, adorned with the straps, logos, and hardware of designer bags. Wise earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Concordia University in 2013, the same year she began working on her Bread Bags series. The series includes urethane bags shaped like pancakes, waffles, and fully-loaded bagels, along with a “Challah Back” backpack. In 2014 Wise came to international attention after the actress India Menuez brought her bag “Bagel No. 5” to a Chanel event. A sculptor, painter, videographer, and collage artist, Wise is also noted for her Star of Larry David installation, featuring a Jewish star formed of cooked bacon. As of 2016, she has had solo exhibitions at the Galerie Division in Montreal, the Division Gallery in Toronto, the Retrospective Gallery in Hudson, NY, and the Galerie Sebastien Bertrand in Geneva.

    Place of Birth
    Crafts, Fashion and Beauty, Sculpture

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    Bashka Paeff in her Studio
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    Sculptor Bashka Paeff at work in her studio.

    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    May 31, 1926

    On May 31, 1926, a bas-relief bronze and granite memorial to the sailors and soldiers from Maine who died in World War I was dedicated in the coastal town of Kittery. It depicted a woman fiercely protecting her child, a dramatic departure from most war memorials that feature soldiers and guns. The sculptor was Bashka Paeff, a Jewish woman, whose family had emigrated  from Russia to escape the pogroms.

    Born in 1893, she grew up in Boston’s crowded North End. She studied at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, the Boston Museum School, and at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. She financed her studies working as a toll collector on the Boston subways.

    After a state-sponsored competition, Gov. Percival P. Baxter had commissioned the work. It took one and a half years to create and earned Paeff a $15,000 fee, including the costs of casting and installing the sculpture.

    In the years after World War I, when feelings about pacifism and militarism ran high, the work became controversial. When it was almost completed, the man who succeeded Baxter as governor objected to it as “too pacifistic.” Paeff compromised by adding a few soldiers in low relief in the background, as well as military inscriptions. While she called the statue “The Horrors of War,” it was officially named “Sacrifices of War.” Most Mainers know it as the “Sailors and Soldiers Memorial.”  See photos of the memorial here.

    Bashka Paeff clearly intended the sculpture to be a statement against war. “I have some decided opinions about war memorials,” she said. “I hope most of all that we shall not erect memorials to glorify war… We forget what suffering and horror it brought. We should set up memorials that would make us loathe war instead of admire it.”

    Paeff produced another war memorial, this one in the Massachusetts State House honoring Bay State chaplains who died during World War I. She also created a relief sculpture of the Minutemen who fought in the first battle of the American Revolution. Her other works include busts of Martin Luther King, Jane Addams, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Ellen Richards. She made a marble bust of Louis Brandeis.

    The home and studio Paeff occupied on the north slope of Beacon Hill still stands. Passersby can see the large windows that brought light into her work space.


    Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, Boston, G.K.Hall, 1990; Jennifer Wingate, “Motherhood, Memorials, and Anti-Militarism: Bashka Paeff’s “Sacrifices of War, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 29, no. 2, page 31.

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  • 03/06/17--06:52: Linda Stein
  • In crafting sculptures that incorporate concepts of weaponry, armor, and the female form, Linda Stein has found new ways to consider issues of power, violence, and protection. Stein studied at the School for Visual Arts before earning a BA from Queens College. She also earned an MA from the Pratt Institute. In 1972 she founded Have Art, Will Travel, a non-profit which offers exhibitions and education on positive, authentic expression of gender and gender fluidity, combatting the sexism often perpetuated by art. In 1990 Stein created an artistic series called Blades that used machetes, musical instruments, and other materials. After 9/11 she shifted focus, creating a series called Knights of Protection which involved human forms shaped from metal, wood, leather, and stone, a theme that has continued to resurface in her work in series such as The Fluidity of Gender (2007) and I Am the Environment (2006). Other series Stein has developed include collage portraits of female superheroes and of courageous women of the Holocaust. 

    Linda Stein
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    Photo of artist Linda Stein courtesy of Stein Studios LLC.
    Place of Birth
    Bronx, New York
    Date of Birth
    September 13, 1943
    Feminism, Crafts, Sculpture

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  • 03/28/17--11:58: Linda Stein
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    "The Three Musicians" Sculpture by Sam Cashwan Main
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    “The Three Musicians” by Tess Kelly's great-great grandfather Sam Cashwan

    Dear Senator Portman,

    My name is Tess Kelly, and I’m a sixteen-year-old girl from Cleveland, Ohio. My passion is for the written word, and I am a performance poet as well as an avid writer. I am a firm believer in the power of language, and that is why I write to you today. Writing is my art, and its significant role in my life fuels my belief in the overall importance of the arts. When things get tough, art is usually one of the first things to suffer, but today, I’m asking you to vote in favor of allocating funding for the arts in the federal budget this year. 

    Cleveland is an amazing city, and this is largely due to the arts. Here, in the second largest city in your state, we have one of the world's best orchestras, one of the best art museums, and a fabulous theater scene. For me, Cleveland is like the poor artist's New York City, with an astonishing number of bars and clubs which hold poetry readings and slams. For a city of its size, the Cleveland arts scene is unprecedented and thriving, and I do not want to lose it. Programs for teen poets which I attend derive their funds partially from federal financing, and I fear what will happen if we lose this funding, but this is bigger than me. Art is one of those rare things that can connect people regardless of background, and therefore strengthens our community. If we lose the arts, I believe the ramifications will be more harmful than one might think.

    My great-great grandfather, Samuel Cashwan, was commissioned by the Public Works Administration in the 1930s to create fantastic sculptures, sculptures that still stand today.  He sculpted Abraham Lincoln for a park, angelic gargoyles for a church, fairytale scenes for a library, as well as abstract art that is placed throughout the city. The Great Depression actually helped people see the value in the arts, because beautifying our country and inspiring people is critical to all Americans, especially in trying times. Whether one likes country or hip hop or classical compositions, music is emotional and important to around 98% of Americans.  Poetry is so powerful that United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera said that “poetry is a call to action, and it also is action.” The point is that the arts do matter, and we need them. While many might argue that the arts aren’t necessary, and wouldn’t hesitate to set them aside during tumultuous times, I would argue that this is when we need them most. The arts allow us to make sense of the world around us, and we need that now more than ever. 

    Now, I get it.  There seem to be much larger issues that we need to address. Our country is in crisis, and it would be naive to insist otherwise, and so it might appear convenient to cut funding for the arts in favor of what might feel more relevant. But again, times of trial are in fact the most important times for art.  Theater, music, poetry, and the visual arts in all forms, give people hope, make people think, and inspire communities to lift themselves up. Cleveland, for all its problems, has become a hub of artistic expression, and has shed its image of “the mistake on the lake.” Our once poverty-stricken district along the Cuyahoga River, though it still has a long way to go, has become a center for concerts and open mic nights.

    The arts have revitalized Cleveland’s once factory-based economy. We have theaters for every price point, bars filled with jazz, and we have people coming together through art. Our steel industry may be dwindling, and this brings new challenges, but we face these head on and we ask hard questions through poetry and music. We are willing to ask and wonder. Our economy is multi-faceted, but any Clevelander will tell you that part of the reason they love their city is the presence of art. Without our theater, music, poetry, and art, we are a smaller, less vibrant city. Without it, we are a dull and dying place, just another forgotten American steel town. But with art, we become a revitalized place.

    There is no single solution to gigantic problems, but sometimes the smallest touch can change lives. If a single Ohioan’s, or American’s, life is improved by their experiences with poetry or music or theater, then it is worth it, because art lifts people up one at a time, until entire cities are stronger and better for it. I am an artist.  My great great grandfather was an artist. An artist is someone who sees the world in a certain, special fashion, and then they compose it or they sculpt it or they write it or they act it, and they make you see it, too. Give them a chance, and they will make you see it, too.

    For these reasons, as well as the others I have outlined, I sincerely hope that you will agree that the arts are critical to our community, and vote in favor of allocating funds in the federal budget for the arts this year.


    Tess Kelly

    Sculpture, Social PolicyCleveland, Arts Funding

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  • 08/10/17--17:39: Janet Indick
  • Janet Suslak Indick incorporates Jewish themes and inspiration from the natural world into her sculptures and medallions. Indick graduated from Hunter College in 1953 and did post-graduate work both there and at The New School. While pursuing her art, she also served as director of the Teaneck Jewish Center Nursery School from 1964–1992. She joined the National Association of Women Artists in 1975 and served as president from 1997–1999; and also served on the Teaneck Arts Advisory Board from 1982–1988. Indick’s sculptures usually involve abstract metal shapes, varying in size from small medallions to large outdoor installations, and have been exhibited at galleries and museums around the world, including the Waterside Gallery in Massachusetts in 1995, the Goethe Museum in Germany in 2000, Museum Wroclaw in Poland in 2002, and Yeshiva University Museum in 2004. Her work has also joined the permanent collections of several synagogues and museums. In 2011 she was inducted into the Hunter College Hall of Fame.

    Place of Birth
    Brooklyn, New York
    Date of Birth
    March 3, 1932

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    Gloria Steinem and Linda Stein, Suited Up (cropped)
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    Cropped image of Gloria Steinem, with artist and activist Linda Stein, wearing "Silver Knight 666" (2016). Copyright © 2017 Linda Stein.

    I was eighteen and a first-year in college when I first read Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck.” In this poem, Rich writes:

    “I put on the body-armor of black rubber...I came to explore the wreck...I came to see the damage
    that was done/and the treasures that prevail...
    the thing I came for/the wreck and not the story of the wreck
    the thing itself and not the myth...
    And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
    streams black, the merman in his armored body
    I am she: I am he”

    As a young woman raised in a conservative community, my feminism was, at that point, only half-articulated. The idea that gender itself could be fluid, that someone could be both he and she and inhabit the space in between these two social constructs was entirely outside my realm of experience. And, yet, here was Rich placing her diver in a “black rubber suit” that allowed for the melding of male and female identities into one androgynous being that could submerge itself in a wholeness of self-expression. I became besotted with this narrative image, and with the idea that how you engage with the world could be altered, and made more honest, by the willingness to change your external self. I wound up writing my final paper on this rubber suit and the notion that one could put on, and experiment with, gender.

    This image felt singular and powerful but it seemed the transformative “rubber suit” could only exist in Rich’s poetry.

    Imagine my surprise when I encountered the equivalent of an androgynous rubber suit embodied in the sculpture of artist/activist Linda Stein. Unlike Rich’s suit, which is confined to the page, Stein’s art is tangible. In fact, some of these sculptures are wearable, as Gloria Steinem learned when she first visited the artist’s studio in Tribeca.

    Gloria Steinem and Linda Stein, Suited Up
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    Gloria Steinem, with artist and activist Linda Stein, wearing "Silver Knight 666" (2016). Copyright © 2017 Linda Stein.

    A New York-based artist, activist, educator, performer, and writer, Linda Stein starts a conversation, leading with art about the spectrum between masculinity and femininity. She focuses on authenticity and becoming an "everyday upstander" in the face of bullying and bigotry through her educational organization Have Art: Will Travel!

    Stein has dedicated her life to exploring gender. With HAWT’s educational programs, including performances by local poets, actors, dancers, and songwriters, Stein inspires viewers to become protectors of “others” and upstanders against racism, ageism, classism, and trans/homophobia. In lectures at CUNY and in The Feminist Superhero, Stein has been the “bridge” between poets Adrienne Rich and Jayne Cortez. She is as fearless in her visual art as the poets are in their written words.

    In Stein’s art, we see Eleanor Roosevelt rocking a bronzed six-pack, a voluptuous Barack Obama fearlessly addressing the nation in a feminine curves-hugging pantsuit, and Bella Abzug sporting both her signature hat and masculine arms.

    Gender Scrambling 768: Woolf, Obama, Sanger
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    Gender Scrambling 768: Woolf, Obama, Sanger (20120). Copyright © 2017 Linda Stein

    The sculpture in this traveling exhibition, The Fluidity of Gender, is even more powerful. Participants can actually don a new avatar and take on another identity. When asked about her process of creating the wearable sculptures in her exhibition, Stein says:

    As I create it, the sculpture becomes a kind of “foil” that protects me against my fears. I am making a defender and sentinel who will watch out for my safety. The form is androgynous and contains attributes along the continuum of masculinity and femininity. We all live between these binary constructions. If you look at “Mascu-Fem,” you will see breasts and more feminine attributes from the front and broader shoulders and more masculine traits from the back.

    Stein’s artwork aims to empower women. In her second traveling exhibition, Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females, the artist has chosen ten brave upstanders from the time of the Holocaust and created tapestries and sculpture about them. Her newest series, Displacement from Home–What to Leave, What to Take: Cabinets, Cupboards, Cases, and Closets, captures the chaos of displaced persons' experiences and the struggle in choosing what must be left behind. Stein’s activism is contagious as she travels around the country and abroad speaking at universities and museums. She offers her audience and participants a chance to expand their thinking about gender, identity, and authenticity. Her traveling exhibits are multi-layered, with books, videos, and educational curricula designed by international scholars.

    When HAWT brought Stein’s The Fluidity of Gender exhibit to Helena, Montana, one participant, a staff member for the museum, was radically transformed in the process of hanging the art and reading about the artist. Stein recalls:

    Paige Ferro stood up at the podium and said (for the first time in her life): Hello. I’m queer, and in the fourth row is my husband. You may think this is startling...First, I was a lesbian, then I was straight, and then I was bisexual and I wasn’t comfortable with any term. While this was happening, I fell in love with my husband and people came to me confused and asked how I could be marrying a man when I’m a lesbian. I knew, when I opened these crates and when I saw that these sculptures were about femininity and masculinity and the combining of the two, I couldn’t hide my feelings any longer from my neighbors. The word I want to use to identify myself is queer.

    The Stein event provided this woman with a new way of opening up and entering the conversation around gender. It gave her the impetus to find the word she had been searching for. Linda Stein’s art creates a safe space for these conversations and allows her viewers and participants to put on their own “black rubber suits,” wade into the wreck, and engage with the “thing itself”––their personal authenticity.

    See below for Stein's CUNY lecture on Adrienne Rich.



    Feminism, Painting, Sculpture, Jewish Education