Rules of (dis)engagement, or Dubious PerFormances
An Exhibit of Women Artists

Curated by Wendy Vardaman & Sarah Busse

And anyway, isn’t what matters that we be the masters of ourselves, the masters of women, and of love too?—André Breton, Surrealism (1924)

It Depends on What You Mean by Real, It Depends on What You Mean by Surreal, It Depends on What You Mean by Art, It Depends on What You Mean, It Depends on What, It Depends—Anonymous (2014)

What’s revolutionary about a movement that excludes over half the population?—Mother Poetry (2014)

“We must begin again to interrogate the Sir-Real. We must begin again.” —Sadie Ducet (2014)

A brief introduction to the contents of this catalog

We regret that the artworks described in this catalog remain invisible on these walls. Some of the artists referenced here need no introduction. Many are not so well known as they should be. Others exist insofar as we know only in the halls and galleries of our imaginations. However, in the spirit of the Surrealists who inspire us, and in league with the multiverses predicted by contemporary physics, we encourage you to imagine an alternative reality in which all the women here, and their art, are feted, celebrated, exhibited, and recognized for their remarkable contributions. –S.B. and W.V.

[9-26-2015: the descriptions in this clearly spurious catalog have been removed by the web manager]

Violet Brown (1866–1917)
Couleur Corps, 1912
Crayon on skin (photographic reproduction)

Gertrude Stein (1874 –1946)
Excerpts—various (1910-1935)
Paper and ink

Sister Frances Mary Catherine Therese (May 4, 1878–January 28, 1967)
Incorruptible Body with the Virgin, 1926
Fresco (Tempera on plaster)
15 x 12 feet
Immaculate Mary, Marinette, Wisconsin [burned 2007]

Cassiana Blake Northric (May 2, 1882–June 25, 1966)
Ring Box #2171, 1933
Fabric, wood, metal, stone & other organic material in a ring box
2 3/8 x 2 x 1 9/16 inches
Room of Minutia, Art Institute of Chicago
Alfred Northric

Georgia O’Keeffe (November 15, 1887–March 6, 1986)
Summer Days, 1936
Oil on canvas
36 x 30 inches
Whitney Museum of American Art
Calvin Klein

Henrietta Kvet (1892–1913)
She Folds She II, 1912
Oil and canvas
23 x 27 inches
Privately owned

Josy Potle (1896–1989)
Bee Hive, 1963
B/W Life magazine photo spread (1963)
7½ x 5 inches total, exterior and interior shots
Privately owned

Alice Piskell (1900–2001)
Communion VIII, 1951
B/W photograph (photographer unknown, possibly Grace Piskell)
5 x 7 inches
Bethel AME Church, Davenport, IA

Daisy LaRue (1906–1974)
Flowers on Table, date unknown
Pastel on paper
8 ½ x 11 inches
Private collection Wausau, Wisconsin

Flowers on End Table, date unknown
Pastel on paper
8 ½ x 11 inches
Private collection Wausau, Wisconsin

Flowers on Mantel, date unknown
Crayon on paper
8 ½ x 11 inches
Private collection, Wausau, Wisconsin

Lee Godie (1908–1994)
Lee as an Artist, date unknown, c. 1968
Photo booth snapshot, altered with pen and crayon
4 x 5 inches
Private collection

Synge King (February 4, 1906–July 4, 1982)
Red Buffalo/Grass, 1938
Collage (daguerreotype, photograph, paste, paint, organic materials)
12 x 15 inches
Wisconsin State University

Mother Cattail, 1939–40
Collage (daguerreotype, photograph, paste, paint, organic materials)
24 x 36 inches
Wisconsin State University

The Grass King, 1946
Collage (daguerreotype, photograph, paste, paint, organic materials)
12 x 19 inches
Wisconsin State University

Voices of Snow, 1948
Collage (daguerreotype, photograph, paste, paint, organic materials)
9 x 12 inches
Wisconsin State University

Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954)
Umbilical Cord, 1925
Mixed media, pen, pastel & human tissue collage on metal
12 ¼ x 15 ½ inches
Museo Frida Kahlo, not on display

Gertrude Abercrombie (February 17, 1909–July 3, 1977)
“Self”-Portrait: “Queen of the Bohemian Artists,” 1929
Ink on playbill
5 ½ x 8 ½ inches
Privately owned

Jackie Ormes (August 1, 1911–December 26, 1985)
Torchy in Heartbeats, Final Episode, 1954
Ink on newspaper

Sona Tjevnos (1914–2001)
Mother, c. 1937–1965
Latex on wallboard & fabric (mixed with strands of hair & yarn fibers)
Sample is unevenly cut but roughly 12 x 12 in.
Privately owned


Worksheet for artists, poets & others

Make a picture of yourself here while listening or after reading this catalog (words & illustrations optional):






Go home. Make a self-portrait using one of the suggested media or one you prefer. Take a selfie with your self-portrait and post it on Twitter to #WomenHaveAlwaysBeenArtists or #ArtistsHaveAlwaysBeenWomen

Suggested Media:

icing on cupcakes
crayon & latex paint on wallboard
crayon on bed sheet
crayon on canvas shoe
crayon on chintz
food coloring on salt dough
fabric & buttons
feathers, sequins, scotch tape & scratch paper
embroidery floss & cobwebs on pillowcases
fabric paint on sweatshirt, youth size medium
spray paint on wrapping paper
Pentel marker on canvas
beads & lipstick on mirror
hairspray on fire
dust & dog hair on stair step
sick on carpet
carpet cleaner on carpet
cobwebs on 4” molding
raisins & peanut butter on linoleum
coffee & tomato sauce on envelope
packing peanuts & bubble wrap on tissue paper
incisions on bicep
blood on bed sheet
blood on bath towel
blood on wallboard
blood on ceramic tile
ink tattoo on skin
bone spur on bone
scars on chest
chicken soup on apron/on hospital gown
check-marks on calendar
screams/howls, bowls banging on tile or other soundscape
salt water on anything at all