August 9 – November 5, 2017

The fifth season presents W.I.T.C.H. 1985, 2017 in collaboration with the Portland Art Museum.

THE SUBJECTS was on view as a Portland Art Museum project with Converge45.

Ellen Lesperance
W.I.T.C.H. 1985, 2017
Portland Art Museum, Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, 4th Floor
August 9 - November 5, 2017

"W.I.T.C.H. 1985" is a sculptural installation and performative work comprising thirteen garments recreated from a scene in the 1985 made-for-television video called "Can’t Beat It Alone" which included footage from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, an all-woman, anti-nuke protest encampment (1982-2000. In "W.I.T.C.H. 1985," Lesperance recreates a cloak worn by a protesting individual: black, hooded, and with various popular 80s-era women’s power symbolism. This unusual and theatrical robe also heralded a probable affiliation with W.I.T.C.H.—the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. Founded in 1968 in New York City, W.I.T.C.H. was a socialist feminist group which rallied for a range of leftist policies, and declared that:

"If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a Witch. You make your own rules. You are free and beautiful. You can be invisible or evident in how you choose to make your witch-self known. You can form your own Coven of sister Witches (thirteen is a cozy number for a group) and do your own actions... You are a Witch by saying aloud, 'I am a Witch' three times, and thinking about that. You are a Witch by being female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal."

The cloaks are reproduced as accurately as possible and include embroidered and beaded components, and multiple silkscreen printed surfaces. The thirteen cloaks of Lesperance’s "W.I.T.C.H. 1985" can be re-activated in performative ways that return a sense of agency to the garment in the service of “untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal” actions.

When the garments were deinstalled in November, they were donated by the artist to the contemporary activist group WITCHPDX.

"W.I.T.C.H. 1985" coincided with THE SUBJECTS, an exhibition and presentation of Lesperance’s novel, "Peace Camps," and Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp archival material. "The Subjects" was a project of Converge 45 in collaboration with the Portland Art Museum.

Portland Art Museum, Crumpacker Family Library
August 9 - November 5, 2017

Ellen Lesperance published her first novel "Peace Camps" in 2017, a novel partially set in the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, England. The exhibition, titled "The Subjects," features the book, published by the Portland arts press Container Corps with illustrations by Jeffry Mitchell, as well as archival photographs, source materials, and other texts linked to the all-woman, direct-action, anti-nuclear-proliferation occupation established outside the Greenham Common Royal Air Force base from 1982 until 2000.

Lesperance invokes the work of female activists in her art; the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and the rich archive of images of their campaign have long inspired her. Most notably in gridded paintings, Lesperance recreates the patterns, colors, and gauge of hand knit sweaters worn by the women in the camp. The garments communicated the wearer’s ideological intentions and Lesperance’s paintings serve a dual purpose: to assign valor to the woman who originally wore the sweater and to beckon a new wearer to pick up the fight for causes greater than themselves. The novel Peace Camps deepens her engagement with this historical source in new and provocative ways.

"The Subjects" was on view at the Portland Art Museum in the Crumpacker Family Library on the second floor of the Mark Building Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.