Sometimes pro forma channels don't work to resolve a grievance, and that often leads to the offended party taking matters into his/her own hands. Enter the Guerrilla Girls, the alter egos of (presumably) mild-mannered female artists (they act anonymously) who in 1985 formed the group to challenge the exclusionary practices of museum heads of (e)state, who were typically male. The flash point was an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that included 165 artists, only 17 of whom were women.
They adopted the names of deceased women artists, like Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz, donned gorilla masks to conceal their identities and protested in front of Manhattan cultural palaces. Posters followed, the most famous of which featured a reclining nude fashioned after Ingres' 1814 Orientalist "Grand Odalisque," wearing a gorilla mask, with the words "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5 percent of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85 percent of the nudes are female."
More than a quarter century later, representation of women and artists of color has improved in many museums and art history texts, and the posters, once hung in SoHo in the middle of the night, are now in museum collections. But the Guerrilla Girls continue to address discrimination in the interrelated worlds of art, culture and politics. They travel extensively, says their website (www.guerrillagirls.com), "talking about the issues and their experiences as feminist masked avengers, reinventing the 'f' word into the 21st century."
They're coming here to give a "multimedia performance in full jungle drag" at 7 p.m. next Wednesday in the Carnegie Lecture Hall adjacent to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland. As a bonus, they're part of the popular "What Are Museums For?" series, launched in 2010. Carnegie Museum of Art director Lynn Zelevansky will hold a conversation with the Girls about the evolving role of women in the art world following the performance.
The evening is co-sponsored by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where the exhibition "Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities" will be open from 5 to 9 p.m.
Tickets are $15, members $12, university students $10. Purchase at www.cmoa.org. Information: 412-622-3288.
Fiberart International juror
Costa Rican artist and designer Paulina Ortiz, a juror for Fiberart International 2013, will give a PowerPoint retrospective of her work at 6:45 p.m. Friday at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. The lecture will trace Ms. Ortiz's spiritual and intellectual journey as an artist, touching on her early years, highlighting her neo-tapestries and "sotobosque" (undergrowth) series, and finishing with the lighting fixtures she is designing today. Ms. Ortiz is founding president of the Iberoamerican Textile Network. She participated in the Ibero-American Design Biennial 2010 in Madrid, where one of her designs received an award, and was a key speaker at the European Textile Network Conference in Lithuania in 2011. She has organized several major international exhibitions including one of Costa Rican textile artists shown at the Kaunas Biennial Textile '11. Admission is $5. Information: 412-261-7003.
Freedom in austerity
A reception for "Austerity and Self-Sustainability," a site-specific installation by John Eastman and Donovan Widmer, will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Rather than deprivation, the artists argue, recession-driven cutbacks can lead to a living standard that is "attractive, interesting, cost-efficient and frees the mind from the constant distractions of modern day life." The show continues through April 13. Admission is free. Hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (www.fegallery.org).artarchitecture
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925.