In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Nut swallows the sun every night to birth it anew the next day. Taking its name from this powerful goddess that protects the earth by performing the perpetual cycle of life and death, NUT is a feminist publication, or rather objet d’art in the form of a book published by two female painters, Liza Lacroix and Alli Melanson. For the two artists, the charitable project symbolizes their own rebirth after personal trauma. All proceeds of the book will support courageous women across the globe through Global Fund for Women.
I say that the book is an objet d’art as it includes little text and many images. To be precise, the book features 57 works on paper by 57 female artists. Among the rooster of artists that supported the project by allowing their work to be included are Polly Apfelbaum, Betty Tompkins, Dominique Duroseau, and Amy Feldman. Each image is printed on a perforated page. Like postcards, the images can be ripped out and function as art works beyond the page. So, not only does the ambitious project support women in need it also provides its buyers with the opportunity to own 57 art works of art for a mere $40. (Buy the book here, now!).
Previous: Pam Glick, “I Invented Sex,”Marker on paper, 8 x 10 in. 2016. Courtesy of the artist and BT&C Gallery. Photographed by Anteism. Above: Allis Melanson and Liza Lacroix at MAW. All photographs courtesy of the artists.
I asked the artists turned activists a few questions about the project, this is what they had to say:
I was surprised to realize that this book is more of an art object with perforated pages, than a book for reading, which I think is very cool! You are essentially giving the buyer 57 prints, which can be easily removed from the book and displayed. What lead to that decision?
Alli Melanson (A): We have a special attachment to postcards from our admired Art History professor who taught us they were the cheapest and best prints to collect. They’re the perfect intimate size.
Liza Lacroix (L): When purchasing the book you automatically become a collector of 57 artists!
It is interesting that the book comes from trauma yet there are no words in the book to point to that. Also, the charity that the book proceeds goes to is not aimed at women who have been abused. What made you and Alli disclose that the book’s origins of pain and abuse since given the other elements of the project this could have easily remained unknown?
A: Liza and I have been really good friends for a long time, and we were both dealing with the aftermaths of abusive relationships. That’s really where the idea for the book came from.
L: I wanted to take that trauma and turn it into something positive. We felt it was important to speak openly about the motivation for the project and to not keep it hidden away which would be adopting victim mentality. Through conversation about the project, I was shocked to discover how many women had gone through the similar experiences.
A: We talked a lot about how vocal we should be about our experiences, and even what words we should use. It isn’t easy but it became important for us not to shy away from the topic.
A: We intentionally kept the project very open. We want it to stand on its own and let the work speak for itself without imposing too much heaviness. I think Jess Carroll’s amazing foreword really sets the tone for the book though. It acknowledges the shit women endure all the time, but it has an air of humour and lightness too. Ultimately, we didn’t want the book to be about being victims but about celebrating survival.
L: The project was a tool for healing. Women get pitted against one another all the time and we wanted this book to be about supporting one another instead of competing.
How do you feel the latest resurgence of feminism and activism in art will affect the art market(if at all)?
A: To be honest, as an art maker, I intentionally avoid dwelling too much on the trends of the art market. It can be distracting and paralyzing to try to decipher its ups and downs. I prefer to focus on making and promoting sincere work and building supportive communities.
L: We’re living in a time where “female” still precedes “painting” as a common categorization for artwork made by women. There is still so much work to be done before we see any real shift in the market.
Joanne Greenbaum, “Untitled,” ink and pencil on paper, 12 x 8 in. 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery. Photographed by Anteism.
Liza, as a gallery owner, how do you personally combat the stigma that the art of femme artists does not sell as well as the art created by cis men?
L: MAW is an artist run space and we put a lot of effort into making sure we show a variety of people and work. We started the space because we wanted to support artists we felt weren’t getting enough exposure. Due to the unequal representation in the Art World, this inevitably led to us showing more female artists and artists of color. Sales are secondary to us, our primary focus is showing really strong work we can get behind.
How many of the 57 artists featured in the book were Black? How many were women of color? Was this an important focus for you?
L: It was definitely a concern and we made sure to reach out to a diverse a group of artists from different backgrounds, a wide age range and career stages.
A: We are hopeful our network will continue to expand and that we’ll be able to feature an even greater range in Volume 2.
L: We are always excited to discover new artists and are accepting submissions that can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Right now there is a strong push in the arts community to pay artists with the same frequency other professions are paid. If 100% of the sales go to charity how were the artists involved compensated?
L: As the project is 100% for charity across the board, we approached the artists with our vision and asked if they’d be willing to donate an image of their work in exchange for a copy of the book. Almost everyone we reached out to responded enthusiastically and really supported the cause.
A: We’re artists ourselves, so we definitely understand the necessity for fair compensation in the Art World. We also recognize we’re extremely lucky to be able to pursue this profession and consider it a duty to give back in whatever ways we can. In this case, donating our work and our time has given us the chance to form new connections with our peers and use our collective platforms to advocate for justice, while also contributing to helping women in need.
L: Also, in the case of the group show where artists have donated actual pieces, the proceeds are being divided between the Global Fund for Women, the Artists and MAW Gallery.
Nut Publication, 2017. Photograph by Anteism.
I definitely had my favs in the book. I loved the works chosen by Lauren Seiden, Sun You, Dana Prieto, and Dominique Duroseau. Everything was so varied how did you chose what would be included? Which prints resonate with you most?
A: We discovered so many great artists through the creation of this book. In the selection process, we didn’t want to limit the contributors with an overbearing theme. The only criteria was that the work be on paper… and we definitely expanded our definition of what that meant along the way too!
L: I really like Pam Glick, Emma McMillan and Loie Hollowell’s pieces.
This project is the first of a series of publications. Where do you envision the NUT series evolving into. Will the format change? What goals have you set for the project?
A: This was our first experiment with print and it has already exceeded all our initial expectations. Connecting a bunch of super talented women, to me, has so much potential and we’re really excited to see where it could lead.
L: We’ve already started working on NUT ll which will feature all painting and should be released next spring!
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Editor-at-Large, Cultbytes Performance artist, speaker, educator, and writer. My art explores the intricacies of my life; as an individual and as a social being who is: a woman, a Black American woman, a light skin Black American woman, a light skin black American woman from Chicago, blah blah blah. You get the idea. I'm an artist. (period) Conceptual-ish is my "thing." l igram l twitter l contact l #operationcatsuit #ijustcameheretofindahusband