Rad Fresno State Women
Injet prints and wheat paste on walls
California State University, Fresno campus
Inspired by the book Rad American Women: A-Z, the project was devised by Jennifer Crow, curator of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature at the Henry Madden Library on the campus of Fresno State, Teresa Flores, Fresno State lecturer in the Department of Art and Design, and Dr. Larissa Mercado-Lopez, Fresno State assistant professor of Women's Studies.
For this work, subjects of mass reproduction, representation, and art in public spaces were woven into Flores’ Ideas of Visual Culture: Art, Media and the Computer (150 students / Fall 2015) courses at Fresno State through embodied learning. Students of all majors participated in the drawing, carving, printing and distribution of black and white portraits of twelve Rad Fresno State Women.
Conversation topics included how the acceptance of women within higher education has not been without struggle, and even today, women's intersectional experiences of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc., complicate the experiences of and within institutions of higher learning. Academic departments from the university submitted the names of current and former members of the Fresno State community who have created radical change in their own communities. From those names, the project directors selected 13 women representing a wide range of identities and disciplines that embody Fresno State's motto of "Discovery, Diversity, and Distinction" in their work and activism for women's advancement and social justice. For example, an image of LBGTQ activist Robin McGehee in the process of police arrest after a local protest for LGBTQ rights was included. Other photographs included Dr. Francine Oputa carved into a woodblock print, a large-scale Judy Chicago wheatpaste, and prints of Gloria Hernandez, Sherley Anne Williams, and Mary Carolyn Dobbs.
Just as the book Rad American Women disrupts male-centered narratives of history with its inclusion of courageous and feminist women, we wanted to make visible the women whose names are not emblazoned on the sides of academic buildings, but who have nevertheless been agents of transformation.The images were wheatpasted throughout campus as part of this interdisciplinary public art project. Additionally, this project created opportunities for students to participate in the art production process while learning about theory and engaging in questions about agency in art making and visibility and accessibility.
Dr. Larissa Mercado-Lopez’ Feminist Theory class researched and wrote the biographies on the site. To further connect the project to the course content, Dr. Mercado-Lopez' class discussed incorporating feminist texts in the K-6 classroom with students in Dr. Lisa Bennett's Teaching Reading and the Arts K-3 (Fall 2015). The students discussed feminist approaches to children's literature, silence of women's voices/histories in textbooks, marginalizing effects of language, promotion of social justice, expanding concepts of diversity, and visual representations of diversity in picture books. They also engaged in a literacy art project in which they created an art piece in response to the story that they discussed. This collaboration aimed to bring students into conversation with one another across disciplines and to challenge Feminist Theory students to make feminism accessible for young minds. This collaboration allowed all students to better understand the ideologies of gender and sexuality in children's literature that shape the minds, values, and belief systems of youth