Visual Art Source Editorial on Cheri Gaulke

Reprinted from Visual Art Source, Weekly Newsletter, January 20, 2012

Editor’s Note
by Marlena Donohue

The trouble with cliché’s, stereotypes and all such quick handled ways of seeing and being is they’re fixed – caught in historic, conceptual, ideological stop frames. We need them because to relearn everything at each encounter is evolutionarily untenable. But these hooks are limiting, subject to abuses of laziness and vast misuse. Nothing you needed me to tell you.

How does this relate to our cultural moment? Particularly in art we act on labels, move from brand after brand; the fertile, intricate, messy reality that art invariably points to gets trumped by the trope.

Case in point: For decades L.A. was by moniker a cultural backwater. In fact, during the late 1940s/early ’50s, in the run-down hooker district of turned-ever-so-hipster Venice, some of this city’s now fabled artists were composing detritus, colonizing vernacular spaces — coffee shops, garages – right alongside Rauschenberg’s New York combines and high theory’s institutional critique.

Pacific Standard Time argues persuasively that this nearly four decade “get thee to New York” business was more of a repeated word fiction than something accurately describing the creative reality here. As PST winds down, we find that through the miracle of Chiat Day’s ad men and the Getty gazillions, L.A. has overnight become another formulaic: “uncovered art Mecca.” Both the good and the ugly L.A. are simplistic abstractions that obscure the city’s lived experience, the actuality of art made here, the exhilaration and complete, serious bummer of a place we all plot to exit daily, but like a really screwed up but sexy lover, never can quite quit.

This applies to everything. For years and years, Feminism here was subsumed under the truly philistine rubric of “hysterical lesbians.” PST venues and the remarkable scholarship that those generous Getty funds allowed reveal the prescient conceptual sophistication of very early L.A. feminist thought and art. The late Arlene Raven was teaching that history was not unfolding destiny, but one of many permitted stories way back in the ’70s.

So in this spirit, I want to call attention to the career and current LACE PST entry by pioneering feminist Cheri Gaulke. Since its inception, Gaulke’s work has asked questions about margins and centers, about what exactly a lived body — female or other — means in an age of vastly constructed identities. Her classic “This is My Body” from the mid-70s featured the naked, model-gorgeous (and openly lesbian) Gaulke on a large cross reaching Eve-like for an apple, not because we gals and our wayward instincts simply cannot refuse the bad boys like Satan, but as a metaphor for choice. Gaulke went on to co-found the Feminist Art Workers, linking community work with artwork (anticipating the field of art now called “public practice”). Alongside discourses on the gendering of art history, she rode through Century City in a pick-up draped on the lap of fellow artist Nancy Angelo to reclaim for women Michelangelo’s “Pieta” and the notion of compassion.

Gaulke’s Metro Gold Line project reminded us about L.A.’s deeply indigenous origins (something else we just now “discovered” through the wonders of PST). Her book art is extensive — my favorite being a beautiful investigation of foot binding and the ‘torque’ on the female form and psyche when both of these are bent to fit some code. In Gaulke’s current installation at LACE, the foot/shoe metaphor returns. Viewers are invited to don shoes — men’s, women’s — while video projections record feet walking on differing terrain. That we fetishize and eroticize through clichés, that we can perform – in an act of choice – a variety of selves, that we are able to be inclusive rather than hierarchic, that unchecked abstractions are not lived reality – Gaulke creatively addresses all of  this and more.

Cheri Gaulke’s Twin Diptyych exhibited in Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood

Please join me this coming Saturday evening, Feb. 11, 6-9 pm, for an opening of the exhibition Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood. I got to see much of the show during installation this week and it’s really wonderful. I am exhibiting a new work called Twin Diptych. When I was invited to be a part of this show I knew I wanted to do something in collaboration with my partner, Sue Maberry, and our daughters, Xochi and Marka Maberry-Gaulke. We decided to explore portraiture and got to thinking about how parents pose their children when the kids are little and they have nothing to say about it. We have a portrait of Xochi and Marka as angels and everyone adores it. The truth is that the little darlings were absolutely miserable during the shoot and the photograph represents that one moment when they appeared to be happy. Sue and I decided to photograph them as angels again, but this time give them the opportunity to pose us any way they desired. We got off easy as they decided to pose us as American Gothic by Grant Wood. We chose to mimic William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s angels. Many of you saw a shot from the series on our holiday card. In addition I will be showing the artists’ book, Marriage Matters, and the video by Xochi and Marka called Our Wedding.


FEBRUARY 11 – APRIL 14, 2012
(event schedule below)

ARENA 1 A project of Santa Monica Art Studios
3026 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 pm
310/ 397-7456

Curated by Bruria Finkel, filmed by Sabine Sighicelli
Contact information: Tel: 310 251 4299,

BREAKING IN TWO is the first comprehensive exhibition of work by women artists who are mothers where the work itself integrates the maternal experience, the relationship to the body, the child, the family, and the society at large. The exhibition, which is part of Pacific Standard Time, will feature a multi‐cultural group of four generations of nationally and internationally recognized artist‐mothers selected to represent the multi‐faceted and changing realities of motherhood. The exhibition includes painting, drawing, sculpture, collage and assemblage, installation, photography, film/video, poetry/writing and performance. Curator Bruria Finkel, herself an artist, asserts that “the subject of motherhood was taboo in the art world in the 70s; women artists were advised not to disclose their motherhood status for it might interfere with their ability to progress in the art world.”

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Kim Abeles, Lita Albuquerque, Eleanor Antin, Michele Asselin, Jo Ann Callis, Joyce Dallal, Bruria Finkel, Magaret Garcia, Cheri Gaulke, Tierney Gearon, Judithe Hernandez, Channa Horwitz, Katherine Jacobi, Mary Kelly, Margaret Lazzari, Andrea Liss, M. A. M. A., Kim McCarty, MaryLinda Moss, Mother Art, Sandra Mueller, Pearls of Wisdom: End the Violence, Renee Petropoulos, Astrid Preston, Alison, Saar, Betye Saar, Sola Augustsson Saar, Lezley Saar, Reva Santo, Sylvia Sher, Amy Shimshon‐Santo, Elena Mary Siff, Doni Silver Simons, Linda Vallejo, June Wayne, Ruth Weisberg, Miriam Wosk, Kim Yasuda, and Stella Zhang.


February 11, 2012, 5–6 pm VIP opening, 6–9 pm Public opening

February 26, 2012, 12–3 pm Walk-through curator and artists

March 17, 2012, 3–5 pm Mothers on Motherhood: Dance and Spoken Word Performance

March 31, 2012, 2–5 pm Panel discussion, the social and aesthetic implications of Motherhood, a scholarly interaction

April 14, 2012, 6–10 pm Exhibition closing celebration

-Cheri Gaulke

Celebrating an Artistic Collaboration between Holocaust Survivors and Teens

Join us tonight, November 15, 6:30-8:30 pm, at a Launch Celebration for Public Service Announcements from The Righteous Conversations Project. I am the artistic director for this wonderful cross-generational project that empowers teens to use media to speak out about injustices in our world. My daughter Xochi Maberrry-Gaulke participated in our pilot workshop and created one of the PSAs  with her friend Anjoum Agrama. We are currently developing new workshops for this coming summer which will be offered through Harvard-Westlake’s summer program.Tonight’s event takes place at Peter Fetterman Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, #A1, Santa Monica, CA 90404, 310. 453-6463. Appetizers and drinks will be served. Kindly RSVP to 310. 656-2806 or

-Cheri Gaulke

More information:

On Tuesday, November 15th the Righteous Conversations Project will be screening two new media PSA’s created by Los Angeles Teens and Holocaust Survivors in an extraordinary intergenerational workshop taught by Cheri Gaulke that took place at Harvard-Westlake last year with participation by students from Harvard-Westlake, Crossroads, and Marlborough Schools.

The Righteous Conversations project, a pilot program that connects Holocaust survivors and teens in a dialogue of remembrance and social conscience, was founded last year at Harvard-Westlake School by five students with support from Remember Us, a non-profit organization that invites personal connection to the name of one child who perished in the Holocaust in the hope that young people will honor their memory by acting, in their names, for good in the world today.

Over a one week period, students worked in partnership with the survivors, using the narratives of survivors and the nature of their personal histories as a source of inspiration for creating new media messages about a contemporary issue that resonated with the workshop participants.

The screening of the media messages and a short film documentary of the project will take place at the Peter Fetterman Gallery, one of the pioneer tenants at Bergamot Station best known for housing a vast collection of classic 20th Century photography specializing in humanist photography. Featured at the event will be a premiere exhibition of photographs of the participants of Righteous Conversations beautifully captured by Paul Ryan, an artist who has documented California history and culture for decades.

In this photographic exhibit, Ryan explores the meaning and nuance of these historic partnerships between young Californians and elder survivors, who were themselves young at the time of the Holocaust. These photographs commemorate the momentous encounter between teens and the last generation of survivors while celebrating the intersection of memory and social consciousness.

Following the screenings, the media messages will be gifted by the teens and survivors to organizations that work to advance the causes highlighted in each of the new media messages. Organizations who will be gifted at this event will be COLAGE, Hebrew Union College Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, and  Uri L’Tzedek,

For further information please contact Samara Hutman at or by phone at (310) 656-2806

Peep, Totter, Fly on Hollywood Blvd

Peep Totter Fly: Cheri Gaulke at LACE

photos by Paul Redmond

Here are a few shots from my performance Peep Totter Fly at LACE on September 27. Performers in white activated my wall of red high heels by putting them on and walking on Hollywood Boulevard. When they returned to the gallery they offered the shoes to the audience and all mayhem was unleashed as people tried on the red high heels. I’ve got shoes in women’s sizes 5-16 which means they fit men sized 6.5-17.5 or so. The wall of shoes is meant to be interactive and viewers are allowed to wear the shoes while in the gallery. I have found that men really get a kick out of this as they have been curious about what it feels like but have never had a chance to try on shoes that would fit them.

So I invite anyone and everyone to come check out the installation which will be open through January 29, 2012. The installation is more than a wall of high heels. It has a beautiful video of high-heeled legs walking through natural environments – slogging through streams, lavafields, beaches, geo-thermal sites and against dramatic vistas. It was shot in locations as varied as Los Angeles, Death Valley and Iceland. There’s also a lovely sound score that makes the video quite mesmerizing. For more info and the hours of LACE, go to All photos in this post are by Paul Redmond.

– Cheri Gaulke

Doin’ It on Tape: Video from the Woman’s Building

Video still from "Eclipse in the Western Palace" by Cheri Gaulke, 1976

On Sunday November 13, 7:30 pm, Los Angeles Filmforum and Otis College of Art and Design present Doin’ It on Tape: Video from the Woman’s Building. The screening is the 7th in the series Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 at the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd (at Las Palmas), Los Angeles CA 90028. Excerpts from two of my videotapes will be included in the program – Eclipse in the Western Palace (1976) and Our Lady of LA (1987).  To purchase tickets go to

Jerri Allyn and Alex Juhasz host this screening, and introduce video excerpts from 1971 through 1987, from the Woman’s Building and LA Women’s Video Center Archives (LAWVC). Video art, documentary features, and raw footage touch on the 1893 Woman’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair, women artists in Southern California circa 1968-1973, feminist education, lesbian art, the goddess in the city of angels, violence against women and women fighting back, art collectives and art activism – with some thoughts on media archives. The program looks at some of the amazing media work created at the Woman’s Building and the LAWVC, usually on video, much of it not seen in twenty years or more, by many of the leading artists of the era. Featured artists include: The L.A. Women’s Video Center collective, Cheri Gaulke, Starr Goode, Suzanne Lacy, Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Susan Mogul, Sheila Ruth, Jane Thurmond, and more. The LAWVC was cofounded at the Woman’s Building: A Public Center for Women’s Culture by Nancy Angelo, Candace Compton, and Annette Hunt in 1976 and joined by Jerri Allyn in 1977.

This screening is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Doin’ It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building on view at Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design October 1, 2011-January 28, 2012. Dr. Alexandra Juhasz, Professor of Media Studies at Pitzer College, mined the Woman’s Building video archives housed at the Getty during the research phase of Pacific Standard Time. Her essay, A Process Archive: The Grand Circularity of Woman’s Building Video, can be found in the Doin’ It in Public catalog. Jerri Allyn is an artist and educator who was instrumental inn the early years of the LAWVC. Her Debating Through the Arts performance was recently presented at LACE as part of Pacific Standard Time.

See and for more on the Woman’s Building and the exhibition.

In person: Jerri Allyn, Alexandra Juhasz, Susan Mogul, Cheri Gaulke, Sue Maberry, Kathleen Forrest, Suzanne Lacy, Leslie Labowitz-Starus (schedules permitting).

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 will feature over 24 shows from October 2011 through May 2012. Alternative Projections is Filmforum’s exploration of the community of filmmakers, artists, curators and programmers who contributed to the creation and presentation of experimental film and video in Southern California in the postwar era. Film series curated by Adam Hyman and Mark Toscano, with additional contributions by guest curators and is presented in conjunction with the support of the Getty initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980.

– Cheri Gaulke