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Women explore present, past

Lisa Bergquist, Yoon Heesu

This fall the Mills College Art Museum is bringing together eight female artists in two exhibits highlighting current and historical struggles of women from around the globe. The Offering Table: Women Activist Artists from Korea and Ginger Wolfe-Suarez: AS LONG AS I LIVE YOU WILL LIVE will be on display until Dec. 7.

“History of women can be similar everywhere. It just happens at different times in our history,” said L. Inson Choy, who curated The Offering Table.

Each piece featured in both exhibits is on loan directly from the artist and all of the artists attended the opening on Sept. 6. According to Jessica Hough, director of the Mills College Art Museum, a few professors have already brought their students through the exhibits.

“We want the exhibitions to have a resonance with the community,” Hough said. “So it’s especially exciting for us to have Mills students and faculty really digging into the exhibition.”

Visitors to the museum will first encounter The Offering Table, featuring the work of Ha Insun, Je Miran, Jung Jungyeob, Kim Myungjin, Kwak Eunsook, Rhu Junhwa and Yoon Heesu. These seven artists usually work as a group of eight (one did not participate in the show) for social causes. They are part of the art collective, Ipgim, which is based in Seoul, South Korea.

“I hope that the voices of women from across the globe will feel present, will feel felt here in Oakland and that we will begin to appreciate what this generation of women in a different culture is going through for the future,” Hough said.

Choy, a 1996 Mills alumna, asked each artist to create an individual piece. There is also a video that is a group piece.

“The artists really drew from their own experience,” Choy said.

According to Choy, the artists have encountered some resistance as feminists working within the Confucian culture.

“They really believe in living the change they want to see in the world. They really want to correct the injustices that exist in the Korean society,” Choy said. “They want to change the way things are for women and children.”

About half way through the museum, visitors will discover the work of Bay Area artist Ginger Wolfe-Suarez. AS LONG AS I LIVE YOU WILL LIVE looks at the early feminist movement in the United States.

“I felt like we had to have this exhibition. For us to pass up this exhibition would have been an egregious mistake,” said Hough, who curated the exhibit. “Not only is it important because of the subject matter, but we are also supporting an emerging female artist.”

Wolfe-Suarez performed extensive research for this exhibit, spending time in microfilm libraries and public and private collections. She hopes to “encourage people to care enough to fight historical amnesia” and do their own research.

“I purposely didn’t go after the history of Susan B. Anthony because that is truly the only part of this history that is well documented,” she said. “I was interested in all those names that were unknown, but equally important.”

One piece, “Work Camp,” includes 18-foot telephone poles that had to be installed in the museum to her specifications and winds visitors through the exhibit. Connecting places is something Wolfe-Suarez tries to do in her work and AS LONG AS I LIVE YOU WILL LIVE does this as well.

“[I hope that] students walk out with an appreciation of how history can be made tangible through art,” Hough said.

“Ratification Banner” and “Blessed are the Peace Makers” are multigenerational pieces combining the efforts of Wolfe-Suarez and her mother, Jeanne Moen Wolfe.

“It’s so interesting, in a way, to work with non-artists,” Wolfe-Suarez said. “They make astute connections to the work that people in the field wouldn’t.”

Wolfe-Suarez is also the mother of a 13-month-old son.

“I hope that in some small way I am contributing to the resources his generation has,” she said.

Wolfe-Suarez will give a lecture at Mills Oct. 8 titled “DON’T STOP WRITING.”