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  • Writer's pictureTeam ARTE

Honoring Six Women Artivists

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

By Cecilia Innis, Team ARTE

In a continuation of ARTE’s previous blog honoring women artivists--individuals whose work is at the intersection of art and activism, this post seeks to honor the creations of an additional six: Ann Lewis, Laura Alvarez, Kanani Miyamoto, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Sheila Pree Bright, and Laila Stevens.

Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is an interdisciplinary artist and activist from Detroit, Michigan. Her work includes painting, participatory performance, installation, and sculpture centered primarily around social justice and U.S. American identity. More specifically, her art covers social issues such as gentrification, women’s rights, and police brutality. Through her work she seeks to examine “power dynamics of society…and…consequences when shifts in power go unchecked” and thus “challenge these dynamics with large scale, often public installations, murals, and participatory performances.” Among her achievements, Lewis received the title of 2018 artist in residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute for Equal Justice, which is just one result of her art’s application to activism. A notable work of Lewis’ is a project called “Define Progress” which calls attention to “gentrification, corporatization, and displacement of our communities.” As displayed by the image below, yellow tape surrounds small businesses and residential buildings being cleared for luxury apartments spaces. The tape reads “ Gentrification in Progress” — striking warning of the demolition of community space.

Ann Lewis’ Website:

Ann Lewis’ Instagram:

Yellow tape reading “Gentrification in Progress” across buildings to be cleared for luxury rental apartments in Lewis’s project “Define Progress” can be found on her website.

Latoya Ruby Frazier

Latoya Ruby Frazier is a Black artist based in Chicago where she teaches as an associate professor of photography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and her MFA in art photography from Syracuse University. In addition to having held academic and curatorial positions at Yale, Rutgers, and Syracuse, she also often holds lectures at various institutions including: Columbia University School of the Arts, Parsons at the New School, and Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. From the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, Frazier’s works are exhibited in the U.S. as well as internationally. She has received countless awards and honors, one of many being the Allegheny County Council proclamation thanking her for “examining race, class, gender, and citizenship in our society and inspiring a vision for the future that offers inclusion, equity, and justice for all.” One of her works, Flint is Family (2016) is a short film accompanied by a series of images that document the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. By chronicling the daily life of a Black family who have been impacted by the crisis, Frazier displays the pain and humanity of Black people oppressed by environmental racism.

Latoya Ruby Frazier’s Website:

A woman is pictured wearing a shirt that says “Flint Lives Matter.” This is one image in Frazier’s project Flint is Family (2016) which can be found on her website.

Laura Alvarez

Laura Alvarez was born in Valencia, Spain and now resides in the Bronx in New York City. She received her MFA in Spain and England. Alvarez works with various art forms as she considers herself an “illustrator, designer, visual artist, muralist.” Her art is inseparable from her role as a member of the Bronx, as she is also a “community activist and educator” whose work addresses “ecology, tradition, life, change, and self-improvement.” Her art is exhibited in Europe as well as New York for which she has received several awards and grants. Ultimately, her accomplishments directly benefit her neighborhood because she uses them to promote art for Bronx youth. Additionally, as the co-founder, VP, and COO of BX Arts, an organization with a mission to make art more accessible to people living in the Bronx, she continues to fulfill her responsibility as an activist and educator. Alvarez is concerned with how people are engaged with art, and thus you can find much of her art in the streets. For Alvarez, art is inseparable from the actors that take part in it. Her public art project, Sing for Hope Piano 2017 titled “Nature is Watching,” allows Bronx citizens to engage with nature and music simultaneously.

Laura Alvarez’s Website:

Laura Alvarez’s Instagram: @bigeyesworld

A child and an adult play on Alvarez’s Sing for Hope Piano 2017 titled “Nature is Watching” which can be found on her website.

Kanani Miyamoto

Kanani Miyamoto is a Japanese-American printmaker. She was born and raised in Hawaii and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. She received an MFA in print media from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The mediums she primarily works with include sculpture, installation, animation, and mixed media prints, and her art centers around personal identity and culture. Furthermore, Miyamoto is a member of the Killjoy Collective, an organization that uplifts women in Portland through visual art exhibitions and which includes women of all races, sizes, ages, abilities, queer women, trans women, immigrant women, and indigenous women. Miyamoto’s work, in line with the mission of the KillJoy Collective, is an attempt at “reclaiming the narrative for women in art” as she explores the impacts that colonialism and intergenerational trauma have on her community. Her piece, “Disrupting the Gaze,” featured in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Schaefer International Gallery, depicts Polynesian women through a combination of woodcuts, cut paper, and paint. Through reclamation, this painting rejects the colonialist narrative that is predominantly told about these women-- a story crafted as a result of their exploitation.

Kanani Miyamoto’s Instagram: @mamakanani

Miyamoto’s work “Disrupting the Gaze” which is featured in MauiTime’s “Art and Activism An Exhibition About Change at Schaefer International Gallery.”

Sheila Pree Bright

Sheila Pree Bright is a Black photographer born in Waycross, Georgia and now based in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her Bachelors from the University of Missouri and her MFA from Georgia State University. Though photography was initially just a form of expression for Bright, it came to be defined by the Black experience. For an article with Aperture, Bright said, “The visual content I capture challenges ideas about narratives that are controlled by Western thought and power structures.” In her series #1960Now, Bright does just that. #1960Now is Bright’s documentation of the protests following police shootings in Atlanta, Ferguson, Washington D.C., and Baton Rouge. The young activists she observed were taking the same stand against systemic racism that their predecessors had in the 1960s. By connecting the Civil Rights Movement to the leaders of today, Bright not only highlights the painful continuity of violence against Black people in America through police brutality and mass incarceration but also the unrelenting resistance that characterizes Black people’s fight for justice.

Sheila Pree Bright’s Website:

Sheila Pree Bright’s Instagram: @shepreebright

This is an image of protestors from Bright’s project #1960Now which can be found on her website.

Laila Stevens

Laila Stevens is a young documentary photographer from Jamaica, Queens. She studied Journalism at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School and is currently pursuing her Bachelors at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she is expected to graduate in 2023. Her work has been showcased in the Langston Hughes House, the Sonder Exhibit, and the Teen Art Gallery. Additionally, she received the YoungArts Honorable Mention Award for photography. Magnifying underrepresented minority voices through her photography is an important goal for Stevens, and for an article with the Green Gazette in 2018, she said that she seeks to make racial equality a present theme in her work. The photograph below is part of a series titled UNROOTED, which can be found on her instagram page. UNROOTED captures aspects of Black women’s aesthetic such as long acrylic nails, afro puffs, and large earrings which are often labeled, as the series’ caption explains, “uneducated or ghetto.” Through this work, by highlighting the beauty of Black culture and style, Stevens works to deconstruct these harmful stereotypes.

Laila Stevens’ Instagram: @lailaannmarie

A piece of Stevens’ showcased in the Sonder Exhibit and featured in Vice’s article, “these teen curators want young artists to finally be taken seriously.”

These six artists’ work are documentations of pain and injustice but also of community healing —from “Nature is Watching” to #1960Now. Lewis, Frazier, Alvarez, Miyamoto, Bright, and Stevens show how justice is demanded through the chronicling of struggle and of unity. Their art rises out of necessity, out of the survival of the communities they represent.

Give them a follow on social media and support their work —as well as local artists’ work in your area — as much as possible.

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