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Leslie-Lohman Museum Commissions Fierce Pussy for Window Installation

Poster by fierce pussy.

COURTESY LESLIE-LOHMAN MUSEUM OF GAY AND LESBIAN ART AND FIERCE PUSSY

The collective fierce pussy will create a window installation for the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York as part of the institution’s ongoing public art commission program “QUEERPOWER.” The museum has received partial funding for the project from the Rubin Foundation’s Art and Social Justice grant program and aims to raise the rest of the funds needed to produce the work—about $10,000—through a Kickstarter.

The installation, which will be unveiled in June and follows one done last year by the remaining members of the Silence=Death collective, is to be composed of two bodies of work It will be created by fierce pussy’s current members—Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, and Carrie Yamaoka—on the museum’s facade, at the corner of Grand and Wooster Streets in SoHo, and will allude to fierce pussy’s early posters, which were wheat-pasted throughout New York City during the early 1990s and aimed to lend visibility to queer people, specifically lesbians, during the height of the AIDS crisis. Historical and new versions of these works will be included in their Leslie-Lohman commission.

The two projects, both originally dating from 1991, when the collective was founded, seek to reclaim derogatory language used against gay women. “List Posters,” the first series, begins by stating “I AM A” and goes on to list a range of words from the mundane (“girlfriend,” “sister”) to the epithetical (“butch,” “dyke”). It ends with “AND PROUD!” (When the collective reunited in 2008, for an exhibition at Printed Matter, they generated controversy by creating a version of the installation that ended with the line “AND SO ARE YOU.”)

“List Posters” “seems still relevant, especially now,” fierce pussy, whose members prefer to be quoted as a collective, told ARTnews by phone. “There’s still so much dialogue around gender today.”

The second series, “Family Pictures and Found Photos,” juxtaposes photographs, mainly childhood pictures of the collective’s members, with typewritten text reading “lover of women” or “find the dyke in this picture.” One of these works features a 1969 Manhattan public school class photograph and poses the question “Are you a boy or a girl?,” and was included in the Leslie-Lohman’s re-opening exhibition last year. A version of that question will be included in the new commission.

“That work is still really strong because it’s a direct question that you’re asked as a child all the time, and I think people ask themselves that question, too,” fierce pussy said. “What are you learning from that information? What is that giving you? What is that telling? What does my gender expression mean to me, to you, and why does it have to have meaning? Does it hold value?”

Fierce pussy said that the work is partly about the ways that certain kinds of hate speech are implicitly misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic. “There’s so much violence against trans people and women, and so much aggression toward the female-identified body,” fierce pussy said. “The worst language that we have is against the female body. . . . This stuff is real, and that’s why, after all these years, we’re making this work.”

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