Gendered Journeys: Art & Activism of                                Melissa Potter & Miriam Schaer

Tower Fine Arts Center, State University of New York, The College At Brockport, Brockport, NY. March, 2015

Curator: Kitty Hubbard

Among Melissa Potter and Miriam Schaer’s featured projects in Gendered Journeys was Feminist Felt, a unique craft‐based project in the Republic of Georgia which brings together groups of women for a series of workshops in artists’ books and personal storytelling using the medium of handmade felt, an indigenous Georgian craft. The works embrace feminist activism for women’s basic rights to safety, as well as advocacy for women craft artisans, whose skills are endangered, underpaid and under‐recognized.

According to curator Kitty Hubbard, the primary focus of this exhibition is documentation of Potter and Schaer’s collaboration with women in the Republic of Georgia, which grew out of their 2013 Soros Arts and Culture grant. They worked with artist activist groups and women’s craft unions in the Republic of Georgia which, aside from felt-making, also created protest banners and masks that have been used in Georgian feminist and LGBTQIA marches and rallies. 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.

The exhibition included their contributions to the project, including felted objects and masks, more than 30 large-scale photos of books, banners, workshop participants and activist events created and photographed by the artists. Works by the individual artists were shown. Included is Potter’s recently released documentary, Like Other Girls Do, featuring the story of a Montenegrian woman who was raised in a Balkan tradition as a boy in a family with no male heirs. Preparatory sketches and related materials to the films development will be included in the exhibit to provide context of the film- making process to viewers. The film addresses gender identity of these “sworn virgins, which was a phenomenon amongst certain Albanian mountain women who took vows of celibacy and forever dressed, worked and lived as men.” Schaer’s work includes artist books and altered garments from her works with Georgian women and her series Baby (Not) on Board.