February 28, 2003

Women’s History Month Art Exhibit Explores Hidden Roles, Lives of Maids

While a young art student in Oregon, Cheryl Parry worked as a maid in an elite, private club for wealthy women. Her time spent in this occupation has had a strong impact on the art she creates today. “I wondered what it would be like to know I would do this work the rest of my life,” said Parry, who now lives in San Diego. “I wondered what it had been like for maids before me who had no choice.”

In honor of Women’s History Month, Cal State San Marcos will exhibit Parry’s “The Maids Project,” in the university’s library. The exhibit will open during a special artist’s reception at 3 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, in the Library Courtyard. The reception, which is free and open to the public, will also feature a dance performance by students in Professor Karen Schaffman’s choreography workshop class.

According to Parry, “The Maids Project” is inspired by the “invisible” women who performed the most common occupation for women in Britain and the U.S. during the 1800s. “To look into the life of a maid,” said Parry, “is to see into the way society perceives gender, class, and the symbolic nature of “domestic service.’”

Through a combination of paintings and text, Parry aims to create an exhibition that makes people think more deeply about “women’s work.” “However,” she explained, “I also want the exhibition to be beautiful. In the most wretched condition, maids brought a great deal of creativity and beauty to the work, were economically independent, and real survivors.”

The show is presented as part of the Spring Arts & Lectures Series and runs through April. More information about the Arts & Lectures Series is available at 760/750-4366 or www.csusm.edu/arts_lecture. The library is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, and 1-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Author Lynn Hudson Will appear at the City’s Central Library

Lynn M. Hudson, an associate professor of history at the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, will discuss her book Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco at San Diego city’s Central Library on March 4th, at 7:00 p.m. in the third floor auditorium. The Central Library is located at 820 E Street. The talk is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Mary Ellen Pleasant is a symbol of the African American women of the 19th century who challenged societal constraints and established their identity in a society fraught with racism. Pleasant, a one-time domestic, took advantage of the Gold Rush in San Francisco and became a popular restaurateur, accountant and private entrepreneur. Pleasant’s success and eminence was not appreciated by American society; the press portrayed her as a woman of low morals. Although Pleasant succeeded in a predominantly white society, she could not change the stereotypical categorization of the black woman of her time.

In The Making of Mammy Pleasant, Lynn M. Hudson examines the folklore of this remarkable woman’s real and imagined powers. Emphasizing the significance of her life in the context of how it has been interpreted or ignored in American history, Hudson integrates fact and speculation culled from periodicals, court cases, diaries, letters, Pleasant’s interviews with the San Francisco press, and various biographical and fictional accounts. Through Pleasant’s life, Hudson also interrogates the constructions of race, gender, and sexuality during the formative years of California’s economy and challenges popular mythology about the freewheeling sexual culture of the American West.

VOZ ALTA, Chicaná Performance Space and Art Gallery, 917 E St., San Diego, Califas 92101, presents:

360 Degrees of Mujeres, VOZ ALTA Womyn’s Herstory Month Celebration

TEKNIQ’s Sunday, March 2 6pm $2 donation. Voz Alta’s twice-monthly spoken word workshop series. Coordinated by poets Raymond R. Beltran, Sergio Gonzales and MariaJulia Urias. TEKNIQ’s will help poets workshop their material in a nurturing environment, provide the opportunity to incorporate music into their performance, and help writers find publishing opportunities.

TELLING HERSTORY: Puppet Making and Poetry Workshop Wednesday, March 5 5-7pm $10 donation. Artist James Watts will teach a workshop on puppet making centered around the theme of womyn as mothers, teachers, mentors, role models and heroines. Brujas y Bellas will conduct a poetry workshop to concide with the puppet-making.

Brujas y Bellas is Voz Alta’s twice monthly womyn’s writing group. They meet on the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month. For more info escritoras@vozalta.org.

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