Art, Women & Social Justice
Union Theological Seminary
Broadway at 121st Street
New York, NY

In a world where art is increasingly judged by market value, and where MFA programs promote gallery representation more than vocational calling, this series of lectures by visual artists investigates social justice as a driving motivation. Exploring the social, philosophical and spiritual traditions that offer resources for artists to imagine justice and new visions of human flourishing, these lectures draw on the creative tension of their setting in a historic theological seminary, suggesting a new commonality between art and religion in the shared pursuit of social justice. This series of lectures builds on our series from last year and focuses intentionally on women, artists who explore themes of gender, sexuality, race and class in their work.

Rethinking the Portraits at Union: An Artist Talk by Cathy Busby

March 1, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Cathy Busby's conceptually-based art practice is frequently concerned with making critical interventions in collaboration with educational and art institutions. Her installations and printed matter have been exhibited in Beijing, Berlin, Melbourne, Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax, Nova Scotia where she makes her home. She has a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax (1984) and an MA in Media Studies (1992) from Concordia University, Montreal. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, was a Visiting Researcher at New York University (1995-96) and held the Contemporary Art Fellowship at the National Gallery of Canada (1997-98). She has a Phd in Communication (1999) from Concordia University. She is artist-in-residence with the Institute of Art, Religion and Social Justice at Union through April 2012.

Lynn Hershman Leeson

March 5, 7:30 - 9:30p.m. James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary (preceded by a screening of !Women, Art, Revolution)
Hershman Leeson has been internationally acclaimed for her pioneering use of new technologies and her investigations of issues that are now recognized as key to the working of our society: identity in a time of consumerism, privacy in an era of surveillance, the interfacing of humans and machines, and the relationship between real and virtual worlds. Her four feature films—Strange Culture, Teknolust, Conceiving Ada and !Women Art Revolution – A Secret History—are all in distribution and screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Toronto Film Festival and The Berlin International Film Festival, among others. She is Chair of the Film Department at the San Francisco Art Institute, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and an A.D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University.

Inhabiting, Renee Green

March 29, 6-8 p.m., The Social Hall, Union Theological Seminary
Renee Green is an artist, filmmaker and writer. Via films, essays and writings, installations, digital media, architecture, sound-related works, film series and events her work engages with investigations into circuits of relation and exchange over time, the gaps and shifts in what survives in public and private memories as well as what has been imagined and invented. She also focuses on the effects of a changing transcultural sphere on what can now be made and thought. Her exhibitions, videos and films have been seen throughout the world in museums, biennales and festivals.

Ongoing Becomings, a survey exhibition of 20 years of her work was organized in 2009 by the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne; in 2010, Endless Dreams and Time-Based Streams, a survey exhibition highlighting her time-based work was produced in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. In 2008, Le rêve de l’artiste et du spectateur, a retrospective of Green’s films took place at the Jeu de Paume, in Paris.

Green is currently Associate Professor and Director at MIT’s Program in Art, Culture and Technology.

fierce pussy

April 5, 6-8 p.m., The Social Hall
fierce pussy is a collective of queer women artists. Formed in 1991 through its members’ immersion in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political mobilization around gay rights, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets. Calibrating the visual language of their public art to the urgency of those years, the collective’s art production relied on modest and readily available resources: old typewriters, found photographs, its members’ own baby pictures, and the printing supplies and equipment accessible in their day jobs. Lo-tech, low budget, and ubiquitous, fierce pussy’s wheatpasted posters and crack-and-peel stickers peppered New York City through the early 1990s. Originally composed of a fluid and often shifting cadre of dykes, four core members —Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka—have continued to work together.

Kara Walker in conversation with James Cone

May 2, 6-8 p.m., James Chapel
Kara Walker is known for her candid investigation of race, gender, sexuality, and violence. Her major survey show, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, premiered at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 2007 and traveled to major museums in Paris, Los Angeles, Fort Worth, and in New York the Whitney Museum of American Art. She participated in the Venice International Biennale in 2007 and represented the USA in the São Paulo Biennial in 2002. Kara Walker has received the MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, the Deutsche Bank Prize, and the Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship. Her work is in international collections including The Guggenheim Museum; The Museum of Modern Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and The Tate, London. She lives and works in New York City.

Known as the founder of black liberation theology, Professor James H. Cone is the Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. He is best known for his ground-breaking works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), amongst his many publications. His research and teaching are in Christian theology, with special attention to black liberation theology and the liberation theologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His latest book, entitled The Cross and the Lynching Tree, received the 2012 Nautilus Silver Award in Religion/Spirituality-Western Traditions. It was an Amazon.com #1 best seller in February 2012. Naming it one of the top religion books of 2011, Huffington Post editors said: "One of the great theologians of the late 20th century, Cone forces us to look hard at suffering, oppression and, ultimately, redemption."

Marina Abramovic in conversation with John McGuckin

May 3, 6-8 p.m., James Chapel
Seductive, fearless, and outrageous, Marina Abramović has been redefining what art is for nearly forty years. Using her own body as a vehicle, pushing herself beyond her physical and mental limits––and at times risking her life in the process––she creates performances that challenge, shock, and move us. Through her and with her, boundaries are crossed, consciousness expanded, and art as we know it is reborn. She is, quite simply, one of the most compelling artists of our time. From March 14 to May 31, 2010, the Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective and performance recreation of Abramović's work, the biggest exhibition of performance art in MoMA's history. During the run of the exhibition, Abramović performed "The Artist is Present," a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum's atrium, while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her.

John McGuckin, who is also Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies at Columbia University (Religion Department), is Union Theological Seminary’s Nielsen Professor in Late Antique and Byzantine Christian History, an endowed Chair that was created in 2008 out of one of the oldest Church History departments in America. He is a Stavrophore priest of the Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Romania) and one of the leading international commentators on Eastern Orthodox theology and Early Christian history.

The Institute of Art, Religion, and Social Justice explores the relationship between contemporary art and religion through the lens of social justice.