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TWE Interview: Award-Winning Sculptor Kristen Visbal On Her “Fearless Girl”

Kristen Visbal with her sculpture Fearless Girl/Photo: provided by Federica Valabrega

Kristen Visbal with “Fearless Girl”/New York City

By Patricia Caso/May 14, 2017
Photos: Kristen Visbal
Black/White Photos: Federica Valabrega

“Be Bold For Change” was the theme for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017. I wonder how many of us would see that boldness in any given little girl. Kristen Visbal, a noted sculptor, found that boldness and a way to inspire conversation on women’s roles, attitudes and future when she was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to create a sculpture, “Fearless Girl.”

“I think the work is an important statement not just for the empowerment of women, both inside and outside of the financial world, but it also serves as an example for all young women.”   Kristen Visbal

“Fearless Girl” stands facing Wall Street’s famed “Charging Bull.” Kristen’s work ignited a firestorm of opinion. I wanted to know more about how she came up with her unique sculpture and her own background. I grabbed some precious time from Kristen in between doing what she does best, creating remarkable bronze sculptures using something called the lost wax process. .. [Read more…]

Design: Summer of Love – The de Young’s Exhibit of Unity, Activism and Change

Summer of Love

Summer of Love exhibit/PHoto: deYoung Museum

Photo: de Young Museum

By Wendy Verlaine/May 5, 2017
Photos by Wendy Verlaine

We can never go back, but San Francisco’s de Young Museum’s current “Summer of Love” exhibit (April 8 – August 20, 2017) allows us to do just that. For a couple of hours fashion, art, photography and music from the 1960’s thrusts us into a noisy and voluminous trip back to the counterculture revolution.

Summer of Love poster from deYoung Museum exhibit/We tend to import our prejudices into any art event, but this show is an exception. There is no mistaking the purpose and message of this circus of cultural and artistic eccentricity. At times it seems to pit the serious Vietnam anti-war movement against the flower child’s personal, internal rebellion. In many ways the two fueled one another’s revolution, and drew them together in a common cause.

The initiation into this arena of protest and social change was psychedelic experimentation, a new music sound and a fierce energy for a new world message. This defined San Francisco, and the Haight-Ashbury and North Beach districts were the hub of change. It proved to be far-reaching.

Rebellion became a visual language. The de Young’s display of counterculture fashion refreshes our memory of how a ferocious demonstration of color, design and craft was a major participant in the political narrative.

Bohemian chic, invented and crafted by Haight–Ashbury’s Linda Gravenites, became the fashion mode of the day. Jeanne Rose’s elaborate designs popularized the peasant dress, maxi skirts and vintage clothing. Janis Joplin’s 1968 quote to Vogue magazine sums up the serious workmanship on many of the pieces worn by the musicians:  “Gravenites turns them out slowly and turns them out well and only turns them out for those she likes.”

DetailJacky Sarti customized landlubber jeans...denim with cotton patches, ribbons. Made for Peter Kaukomen of Black Kangaroo

Jacky Sarti customized landlubber jeans of denim with appliquéd cotton patches, ribbons, cotton molas. Made for Peter Kaukonen of Black Kangaroo.

The detailed craftsmanship and lively mix of colors, patterns, textiles and heavy embroidery influenced Yves Saint Laurent, who elevated it to chic wear in the 1970’s.

Summer of Love exhibit deYoung Museum-Girgita Bjerke: Crochet wool wedding dress 1972

Girgita Bjerke: Crochet wool wedding dress/1972

Elaborately embroidered and appliquéd textiles and political buttons were found on everything from jeans to shoes to accessories. The primary cannon of fashion was to be individual, free, natural and optimistic.

Men's shirt: 1970 cottton denim with p;lastic and metal buttons, patches appliqué and embroidered at deYoung Museum Summer of Love exhibit/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Men’s shirt: 1970 cotton denim with plastic and metal buttons; patches of appliqué and embroidery

Sgoes from Summer of Love exhibit, deYoung Museum, San Fran/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Mickey McGowan appliquéd Chinese silk shoes with complex weaves, silk velvet and rubber soles.

Ideas borrowed from Art Nouveau, Eastern religion, and Native American traditions became icons of the era. These associations with history and philosophy suppressed conventional design and led to a world-wide fashion revolution.

Today the relevance of fashion from this period continues to be the language of mainstream designers under the trope of “bohemian chic.” The full version of rebellion went beyond fashion, and extended to art, music, poetry and prose. The draft loomed before all young men, and fueled an urgent need for change.

Summer of Love Jerry Garcia hat at deYoung Summer of Love exhibit/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Jerry Garcia’s “Captain Trips” hat. Hand-painted silk with ribbon and flag. Original Dunlap & Co. (est. 1883)

“The Trips Festival” of 1966 was the spring board of the revolution. This pivotal gathering unified political activists from Berkeley and the bohemians of Haight-Ashbury.

Leather coat at Summer of Love exhibit, deYoung Museum-SF/Photo Provided by Wendy Verlaine

Leather coat part of deYoung Summer of Love exhibit

“A gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In”, organized by activist Stewart Brand, promoter Bill Graham and author Ken Kesey and his cohorts – the merry pranksters – and composer and artist Ramon Sender, took place at the Longshoremen’s Hall on January 21 to 23, 1966.

Dazzling, theatrical effects with liquid light (a chemical mix allowing photographic printing on any surface using standard darkroom procedures) and slide shows, film projections, electronic sounds, rock groups, experimental theater and dance was the beginning of a firm platform for change. More than 3,000 people attended. It was a grand collaboration that forced everyone to question, reflect and be moved.

Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Lenore Kandel, Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, and Alan Watts were a few of the luminaries who formed the philosophy of protest, peace and tolerance, ultimately shaping the tide of history. For many the message was the mantra — “Tune in, turn on, drop out” along with Ginsberg’s “We are all one, we are all one.”

Photographs throughout the show of Ginsberg, Kandel, Leary, Snyder, Watts and the city’s rock bands and concerts pull together a consecutive history of this era of change.

“The Summer of Love” exhibit does its best to resurrect this spectacle for us. There are two light shows to wander through, one of which encourages us to linger in a flashing room of colored lights with bean bag seating.

Moving from the light show one finds oneself in floor to ceiling replicas of 1960’s posters, with a large collection of original first editions under glass. These mass-produced posters were displayed everywhere in Haight-Ashbury and North Beach. Most famous were Print Mint and Friedman Enterprises, underground comic and poster publishers and retailers, where they were papered from floor to ceiling.

Summer of Love posters at deYoung Museum, San Francisco/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Close to 25,000 posters sold every month . Many were commissioned by Bill Graham and Chet Helms, major music promoters.

Messages of social and political demands targeted military personnel, and concerts benefited environment issues and civil and women’s rights. The bright neon colors and patterns of rock posters were often meant as a visual representation of an LSD trip. They drew inspiration from the Art Nouveau period, but because they borrowed from Surrealism to Pop and Op art, this movement is defined as postmodern.

Bonnie Maclean Poster: Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens 1967

Bonnie Maclean poster: Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens/1967

An added stimulation in this expansive exhibit is sound. One can hear a mix of “echoes” from Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, Santana and Sons of Champlin among others.

The Summer of Love was far more than a riotous, playful upheaval. The de Young Museum’s exhibit reminds us that the government policies we value today resulted from the interventions of fifty years ago. We still have the power to resist and promote social justice and inclusiveness, and to exercise our first amendment rights.

This message resonates profoundly today, as seen in the massive women’s march and our current activist activities, such as “Resist”, “Indivisible” and “Sister District.” It is a hard-won wisdom that can easily be swept away.

“The Summer of Love” runs from April 8 – August 20, 2017 at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

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Wendy Verlaine photo

Wendy Verlaine is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer, jewelry designer and owner of Wendy Verlaine Design. Formally a San Francisco gallerist, she continues to stay closely connected to the art world.

 

 

 

 

PERSON OF THE DAY: Andra Good Honors Best Friend’s Legacy with Leigh’s Blankies

Andra Good Honors Her Best Friend’s Legacy with Leigh’s Blankies

Leigh Ann Tonkinson/Andra Good and her daughter/2008/Photo Courtesy of Andra Good

Leigh Ann Tonkinson, Andra Good and her baby/2008

By Haley Christopher/March 27, 2017
Photos Courtesy Andra Good

Andra Good lived a pretty ordinary, happy life in Gilbert, Arizona until it was flipped upside down in 2010. Andra’s best friend Leigh Ann Tonkinson, who was her lifelong friend since high school, had been tragically killed in a car accident at age 35. Leigh and Andra’s families were both devastated and Andra knew she had to focus her grief into something positive.

To deal with her sadness, Andra decided to take up sewing and taught herself how to sew through Youtube videos. Sewing would change her life forever in ways she could not imagine!

“I just started sewing a ton of blankets and gave them to people. It felt good to create something and to put my eyes on giving to others and giving back,” Andra says.

About nine months after Leigh passed away, Andra was at a Christmas service at church when she saw a slideshow of a mission trip to Malawi in southeast Africa.  She got to thinking about how many blankies she was making and how they bring kids so much comfort. Plus, Leigh loved the blankets for kids. She had been a nurse supervisor at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and worked there for 10 years.

As Andra watched the slides of these children in Africa. she just kept thinking I wonder if they would benefit from having a blanket of their own? Andra knew making blankies for a good cause could only be called one thing, Leigh’s Blankies, in the name of her inspiring friend. When I heard about the good work Andra was doing, I wanted to find out more about how she turned this fascinating passion of blankies for kids into a successful international non profit.

Blankets for Children in Africa

In February 2011,  Andra and a group of her volunteers sewed their first batch of blankies equaling up to about 16 blankets, which was nothing compared to what was to come in the future. Andra sent these blankies to the same group in Malawi she had previously seen in the slide show in the church. These were the people who had inspired Leigh’s Blankies so Andra only saw it fitting that they were sent the first delivery.

Andra Good, Leigh's Blankies, with children in Africa/Andra's photoAndra received an excellent report back and was told that the children really loved having something to call their own. That prompted Andra and her team to start making blankies for kids in foster care as well because oftentimes they are removed from a home and don’t bring anything along with them. They also started making blankies for children overseas in orphanages and villages.

In addition to sending blankies across the ocean, Andra set up programs that were more local as well. She partnered with Christian Family Care, an adoption agency in Arizona. Andra now gives sets of blankies to this program, one tiny blankie for the birth mom and a normal blankie for the baby. This program is very important to Andra because she has personally adopted her two children.

“I adopted my two daughters at birth. I know the grief that their birth moms experienced. They left the hospital without a memento, and they were placing their child where they may not see or love on them again,” Andra says. “The adoption program has been really special and helps with the grief process for the birth mom and the adopted family.”

Coping Mechanisms

Andra uses blankies as a coping mechanism in various different ways for different people. In addition to the making and distributing of blankets, Andra decided to take Leigh’s Blankies a step further and has created a sewing program at an orphanage at Huruma Children’s Home  in Kenya where the children can make their own school uniforms. This home is also using the program to make money for the orphanage through different projects.

“We didn’t really have any set backs and it seems like God just keeps on opening doors.” Andra says.

Andra Good's Leigh's Blankies group/Photo on Andra's website

Andra’s team at Huruma’s Children’s Home, Kenya

Another project Andra and her team are working on is the Transition Housing Care Project. It allows children who age out of the Huruma orphanage to have support through a life skills class, a housing kit and the basic necessities they need to set up a small home.

This project has been running for three years now and it has been really successful for the young adults. Through this program Andra and her team has found the majority of students that participate in the program go on to attend an African university.

The biggest goal for Andra this year is to turn Leigh’s Blankies into Leigh’s Mission.  She feels that changing the name to Mission would encompass all of the projects they are working on. Andra also would like to build a home, Mama Leigh Ann’s House in Kenya, that would house the children aging out of the orphanage.

Starting Projects You’re Passionate About

Andra Good's Leigh's Blankies group gives blankie to person in Africa/Photo on Andra's website“If they were in a home together they could lean on each other, have accountability and it wouldn’t be such a hard transition going from living with 200 brothers and sisters at the orphanage to going out and living on their own,” Andra says.

Andra could never imagined Leigh’s Blankies would take off and be as large and growing as it is today. It began as a small hobby rooted from grief and has sprouted into something truly great and meaningful.

“Starting out in a project like this can be easy as long as you find something you’re passionate about,” says Andra. Her passion is truly inspiring and shows through all of her work and dedication to her program.

“Oftentimes we have our own ideas and our own plans and they can get in the way. Sometimes we do things to better our own purpose and not to better the purpose of the organization that has already been doing the work,” Andra says as a word of caution.

Her advice is to walk along with someone who has done something similar and make sure you ask them what would be helpful. Her blankies have been transported around the world. In addition to creating them for people in multiple villages in different countries in Africa, they can be found in India, Poland, Honduras and elsewhere. Since 2011 she has made over 6,000 blankies.

I am inspired by Andra’s story and how she was able to make the most out of a devastating accident. In talking with Andra I could hear the kindness in her voice and the giving in her heart. I hope this story will open the eyes of others and spread kindness and hope.

Leigh’s Blankies

Andra Good and Leigh's Blankies/Photo Courtesy Andra Good

If you are interested in Andra’s organization, you can find more info at leighsblankies.com.

Twitter: @leighsblankies
FB: @leighsblankies
YouTube videos

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Written and Reported for TWE by Haley Christopher

Haley Christopher/intern for The Women's Eye

Haley is a graduate from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School with a Bachelor in Journalism and Mass Communication degree. She is at the start of her journalism/public relations career and loves writing about people who are inspiring and making an impact in our world. Haley believes in giving back because she feels that we rise up by lifting others.

TOP 10: Meet the Woman Who Broke Barriers as a Hidden Figure at the U.S. Navy

Raye Montague on GMA for "Hidden Figures"--Photo: Screenshot ABC

Meet the Woman Who Broke Barriers as a Hidden Figure at the U.S. Navy: S. Miller–abcnews.go.com—2/20/17–Photo: ABC Screenshot

TWE Interview: One Fit Widow Founder Michelle Steinke-Baumgard Transforms Grief Through Fitness

Michelle Steinke-Baumgard, founder 1FitWidow, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon/Photo Courtesy Michelle Steinke-Baumgard

Michelle Steinke-Baumgard at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

By Catherine Anaya/January 15, 2017

I met Michelle Steinke-Baumgard a couple of years ago in the Phoenix area when I did a story on her for the news here. Her husband Mitch passed away in 2009 and to cope with that overwhelming grief that she was feeling, she decided to lose weight.

“My overarching goal is to change the conversation on grief and to have people be more real and honest about it. It’s a healing mechanism for me as well.”  Michelle Steinke-Baumgard

She ended up losing 70 pounds plus she gained the strength to tackle the world again, creating One Fit Widow Virtual Training and Nutrition Company …and so much more! I wanted you to meet this intrepid changemaker so here’s an excerpt of our TWE Radio interview as she joined me from Bozeman, Montana…   [Read more…]

TWE Quote: Charli Turner Thorne

“Say something positive. You have this small window in your life that people actually care what you think.”

Charli Turner Thorne, ASU’s Women’s Basketball Coach

TOP 10: Unique Progress at Thistle Farms Helps Women Escape Streets

Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms/Photo: K.athleen Toner

Unique Progress at Thistle Farms Helps Women Escape Streets: Kathleen Toner–cnn.com–6/3/16–Photo: K. Toner

TWE Radio Encore: Apr. 4, 5 2015

The Women's Eye Radio on iTunes

Listen to This Show’s Interviews HERE

Don’t miss this Encore edition of The Women’s Eye Radio Show with Stacey Gualandi this weekend. It’s our “How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone Show” with:

Journalist Lu Ann Cahn, author of I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life By Doing Something New Every Day.

Also on the program is entrepreneur Sue Cooper, a former “Executive of the Year” who gave up the corporate life to start her own company, Lazy Dog Adventures. She’s the author of Millionaire in Flip Flops, and shares her advice on creating the lifestyle you want.

Sue Cooper

Lu-Ann-Cahn-photo-credit-Phil-Hauser

Lu Ann Cahn

 

Listen to More TWE Interviews from The Women’s Eye Radio Show on iTunes.