UMD goes bananas for the Guerrilla Girls

BY APRILL EMIG | The Statesman It began with Frida Kahlo throwing bananas to the audience seated in Weber Music Hall.

“Who wants bananas?” she asked as she entered the auditorium, wearing black pants, a black blazer and a giant black gorilla mask.

Kahlo (not her real name; anonymity is necessary for this work) is one part of the feminist activist group Guerilla Girls. Her partner in crime (sometimes literally) is Kathe Kollwitz. Both women have been with the group since its inception in 1984. They take on names of deceased women artists—artists they believe don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.

“We are concerned about history looking like who we are,” Kahlo said. “We do our part by invading the system and tweaking it.”

Invading the system began as gluing posters to the streets of New York City. One of the most popular begins with the heading “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” When they first asked the question in 1985, the answer seemed to be a resounding yes: less than 5% of artists featured were women, but 85% of the nudes were female.

The numbers are hardly any better today. As of 2013, 4% of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art were women and 76% of the nudes were female.

Having the Guerrilla Girls make an appearance at UMD was a treat to many. The audience, which included Chancellor Black, was nearly full. Cheers erupted after demands that more people embrace the “f-word:” feminism. And some audience members, like Flo Matamoros, even shed tears.

“I think it’s really amazing, the fact that people want to be bold, affect change and love doing what they do,” Matamoros, curator of Duluth’s PROVE Gallery, said. She happily accepted hugs and autographs from Kahlo and Kollwitz.

The audience also got to see the projections the Guerilla Girls will be exhibiting at the Minneapolis Institute of Art this weekend.

“You’re all the first to see this,” Kahlo said. “I don’t know if this is what MIA wants, but it’s what they’ll get.”

The exhibit highlights the lack of women artists featured in MIA—far from the only museum with such a disparity—and also points out the dearth of Somali art. Minnesota has the largest Somalian population in the nation, but only one work of art by a Somalian artist is displayed in MIA.

“The world of artists is great,” Kollwitz said. “But the art system sucks.”


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