The Cries of San Francisco

May & June 2011

The Working Gal (photo credit Aimee Friberg)Photo credit Aimee Friburg

“The Cries of San Francisco” features an exhibition at the gallery and a site-specific public art event in Mint Plaza that includes some 70 Bay Area artists. It’s a gathering that alludes to the marketplace traditions of other times, when peddlers freely – and vocally – hawked their wares to the masses. Through a series of “marketplace” events at the gallery, as well as next week’s event in Mint Plaza, “Cries” examines the identities of artists as San Francisco residents, small-business owners and outsiders in various contexts.”  SF Gate

The Working Gal was part of a 70 person public performance led by artist Alison Smith. The Working Gal was the caricature of a very opinionated secretary who was transplanted from her 1950’s context into the streets of 2011 San Francisco. The Working Gal engaged with those she encountered by asking questions and offering advice about their work with a set of advice cards. Each card had a vintage drawing of a woman working and a questions regarding women’s work that was pertinent in the 1950’s and could be pertinent today. For example, “Find a way to use all your assets. Be glamorous. Use your time wisely. Stretch your talents. Make every smile count.”

How do the historic experiences of women in the workforce impact the way women relate to their work and money today? As women what interior and exterior barriers do women still overcome to have a personally meaningful career?

As part of The Cries of San Francisco, Southern Exposure hosted a exhibition and weekly performances. The Working Gal drew on my grandmother Maggie Lawson’s experience in the working world.  Painter Maja Ruznic’s performance was also inspired by the work of her grandmother as local healer in Bosnia. In collaboration with Maja and Mexica Moon Dancer Angela Anderson Guerrero, we created an altar that represented our relationships to our ancestors and our desire for healing. With slips of paper, we invited gallery attendees to leave a prayer for ancestral trauma on the altar.

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