BUILDING COMMUNITY AS THE ART FORM
Artist/WBB Founder/Artistic Director
The arts are a universal and essential language, allowing
people to look beyond themselves and celebrate their humanity.
Women Beyond Borders embraces the possibility that women are honored for their untold voices and visions, and that women support one another in this quest. This endeavor is more than an exhibition, it has become a catalyst for dialogue and collaboration.
The myriad box creations have roamed the world, traveling from historic museums to a temple in Kathmandu, a 15th century villa in Umbria, a historic train car in Europe, and a hilltop museum in Japan. WBB has been accessible to thousands of viewers through these diverse venues where participating artists have gathered to meet, celebrate, and exchange ideas. Each exhibition was unique as coordinators reinvented the project along the way, inviting anthropologists and art historians to speak and poets to reflect.
Included are celebrated artists, homeless and nomadic women, entire school districts, widows of the genocide in Rwanda and over 6,000 children with disabilities worldwide. Other projects included young women survivors of human trafficking in Vietnam, girls organizations in the US, as well as men and boys.
Inspired by the exhibition in Russia, a student in St. Petersburg declared, “WBB gives us the hope of being understood, of being able to break the chains our society has put upon us. The boxes open up the worlds and hearts of women and will help us to find strength in our future fight with our destiny.” In Japan, artist Mika Ebata declared, “Now I have friends all over the world.”
I gratefully acknowledge Suzi Gablik and Suzanne Lacy for their inspiration to reassess, in Gablik’s words, “the meaning and purpose of art and to consider art that speaks to the power of connectedness, establishes bonds and calls us into relationship.“ My time with Gablik and Lacy at a workshop in 1991, entitled “Making Art as if the World Mattered,” took me forever out of isolation as a singular artist and into the world of collaboration, where I have found the greatest meaning of the word art, derived from the Latin ars, artis: to join together.
Women Beyond Borders continues to be envisioned in a manner that is far greater collectively than it could ever have been individually. In the broadest sense, WBB is not only about the participants; it is about all women. Observe their universal pleas for healing, justice, respect and liberation, as well as a reverence for home, the world and one another. As we move forward with a sense of solidarity and collective confirmation, building community has expanded my personal art form into the realm of Public Practice.
Linda Abrahams, Director of Women’s Art Resource Center, Toronto, affirmed, “All these artists, along with their many colleagues, shared a distinguished consciousness of community, creating a genesis of a human consciousness which borders, with all their powers, can no longer keep contained.”
Lorraine Serena began her career with a series of extensive collaborative installations at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1969, ’70, and ’71. These interactive environments described by critic Richard Ames as a “raucous display of visual virtuosity,” included over 600 student participants. Serena continues synergetic work to this day by way of the international collaboration, Women Beyond Borders, initiated with artist friends. With over 10,000 artists in 50 nations, this endeavor has honored and connected women for over two decades. The WBB process, acting as a catalyst for building community, expanded Serena’s art form into the realm of what is today considered public practice.
Individual work has simultaneously continued via paintings, collages and found object tableaux which have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Selection of venues:
LACE, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan; Fuel Gallery, Seattle; Site Gallery, Los Angeles; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum; National Museum of Women in the Arts, DC; Paula Cooper Gallery, NYC; Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana; Sam Francis Gallery, Santa Monica; Lango Forum on Women, Beijing, China; Center for Visual Arts, Oakland; Philip J. Steele Gallery, Denver; The New York Academy of Art, NYC; Bakehouse Art Complex, Miami; Lang Art Gallery, Scripps Claremont Colleges, Pomona; Woman Made Gallery, Chicago; The Woman’s Building, Los Angeles; National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi; Contemporary Museum of Oaxaca, Mexico; Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Switzerland; The State Russian Museum Complex, St. Petersburg, Russia; Galleria Extra Moenia Arte Contemporanea, Todi, Italy; Teen Dewal Mandir Temple Kathmandu, Nepal; Akino Fuko Museum, Tenryu, Japan; Sculpture Square, Singapore.
Mentors have included Howard Warshaw, William Ptazynski, Bill Rhorbach, Irma Cavat, William Dole, Bruce McCurdy and most recently, the paradigm shifting work with Suzanne Lacy and Suzi Gablic regarding Making Art as if the World Matters.