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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Melissa Hilliard Potter

Chicago,
USA

Melissa Potter is a multi-media artist whose work deals with women and their rites of passage from marriage to motherhood. She has exhibited at venues including White Columns and Bronx Museum of the Arts, as well as film festivals including the VideoDumbo Festival and the Reeling International LGBT Film Festival. She is a three-time Fulbright recipient to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has been the recipient of other awards and residencies including the Soros Fund for Arts and Culture, ArtsLink and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. Her curatorial work includes Social Paper, the first exhibition considering hand papermaking in a socially engaged art context. Her critical essays have been printed in BOMB, Art Papers, Flash Art, Metropolis M, Hand Papermaking, and AfterImage among others. She is founder of the blog, Gender Assignment.

Feminist Artist Statement

Over the course of my career I have melded the seemingly incongruous concepts of gender and feminism with an interest in the resistance movements of Southeast Europe and the former Soviet Union. My most recent work melds these influences in work engaging gender rituals, ethnographic research, and social practice with the practices of handmade paper, felt, drawing, and video. After eight years living in Chicago, it has expanded to include work about the Jane Addams Hull House, and the feminist ethics of the American settlement movement. Like Other Girls Do pairs the “last sworn virgin”, (a tradition in which a girl is raised as a boy in a household with no male heirs) with interviews of young Serbian women, and poses challenging questions about women and choice in today’s society. Craft Power and Feminist Felt are collaborations with artist activist groups and women craft unions in the Republic of Georgia that engage the ancient Georgian craft of felt making to explore contemporary artists books, protest banners and masks. These craft practices are in urgent need of intangible heritage preservation. Simultaneously, women’s empowerment movements have taken Georgia into its second wave of feminism, and they oppose the oppressive gender regulations of an Orthodox society, at times to their personal endangerment.

<p>Berikaoba masks, Border of Daghestan</p>

Berikaoba masks, Border of Daghestan

Handmade felted masks inspired by the masked rituals of the Tusheti region of the Caucasus. Designs inspired by interviews with regional ethnographers. Photograph at the border of Daghestan, where many of these traditions originate.

Berikaoba masks, Border of Daghestan

Handmade felted masks inspired by the masked rituals of the Tusheti region of the Caucasus. Designs inspired by interviews with regional ethnographers. Photograph at the border of Daghestan, where many of these traditions originate.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Handmade felt banner inspired by the intersection of Georgian second wave feminist slogans and the endangered Caucasian intangible heritage practice of felt making.

My Body, My Choice

Handmade felt banner collaboration with Georgian feminist, Ida Bakhturizde inspired by the intersection of Georgian second wave feminist slogans and the endangered Caucasian intangible heritage practice of felt making photographed in a village credit union next to the Naphareuli women felters union workshop.

International Women’s Day, Tbilisi

Handmade felt banners created during the Crafting Women’s Stories: Lives in Georgian Felt project and used in the first Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia International Women’s Day march in spring, 2013.

Protest against Virginity Tests, Tbilisi

Handmade felted masks personas for feminist activists made during the Craft Power! program and used for protesting Georgian virginity examinations, on the rise in the country. From left to right: “Hymen experts, come out and be counted!” “I am not a hymen!” “Virginity examination is horrific.”

Craft Power: Tusheti Rug

Handmade flax paper with embedded electroluminescent wires, which illuminate when plugged in, inspired by the crafts symbol system in the Republic of Georgia, where it is understood some of the images may be derived from ancient Amazonian cults celebrating female power. Works created at the Center for Book & Paper, Columbia College Chicago.

Craft Power: Tusheti Rug

Handmade flax paper with embedded electroluminescent wires, which illuminate when plugged in, inspired by the crafts symbol system in the Republic of Georgia, where it is understood some of the images may be derived from ancient Amazonian cults celebrating female power. Works created at the Center for Book & Paper, Columbia College Chicago.

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