How did a bunch of drawings inspired by T-shirts at a grassroots feminist organization end up in an art museum? The story of how such an unlikely exhibition came to be is the subject of "Herstory Inventory." The Brooklyn Museum's collaborative exhibition, organized by Austrian-born artist Ulrike Müller, traces the forms that makeup the narrative of lesbian and feminist histories, while showing how these forms can translate into political action.
Müller found her inspiration at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After visiting, the artist used a number of descriptions from vintage T-shirts and disseminated them to 100 artists, who interpreted the words in their own work. For instance, one read: "A graphic of the island of lesbos with icons depicting different sites and tourist activities."
There is a playful quality to the drawings, which combine stereotypically girly images like flowers and rainbows with traditionally masculine images of lightning bolts, horses and spears. The works define a movement and literally embody its transition from counter-culture T-shirt store to mainstream art exhibition.
The second part of the exhibition places the 100 drawings in conversation with 25 works from the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection. Although we rarely see images like these in major museums, by looking for flowers, rainbows, and spears throughout art history's major works, Müller is able to find queer iconography within, even if it is unintentional.
Müller's "Herstory Inventory" is part of the "Raw/Cooked" series at the Brooklyn Museum. It will show until September 9, 2012.
See a slideshow of the work below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Chitra Ganesh Two women in tropical dress (no tops) sitting in the middle of a clam shell, holding tropical fruits with a palm tree behind them Ink on paper 8 1/2 x 11 in. (21.6 x 27.9 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Kim Kelly 2 amazons together on horseback with labrys all around Watercolor and pencil on paper 6 x 9 in. (15.2 x 22.9 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Robin Hustle Black & White hands reaching across a pink triangle Acrylic and ink on paper 12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.9 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
A.L. Steiner Inverted triangle with flames on top of it Digital print 17 x 11 in. (43.2 x 27.9 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Cauleen Smith Prancing Unicorn Collage, ink and gouache on paper 18 x 12 in. (45.7 x 30.5 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Georgia Syndey Lassner A volcano with fire coming out of the top Marker on paper 12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.9 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Linda Bilda Two women with guns Letraset transfer, ink and collage on paper 8 5/8 x 11 5/8 in. (21.9 x 29.5 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Math Bass Two female figures, one behind the other, the back one holds the hair of the front one Colored pencil on paper 7 1/8 x 10 1/8 in. (18.1 x 25.7 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory
Taylor Davis A lightening bolt going through the second 'A' in Amazon Watercolor on paper 12 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (30.8 x 24.1 cm) Courtesy of Herstory Inventory