Jheanelle Garriques. Photo by Stevie Rae Gibbs. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Garriques at the Huntington Library.
Garriques reads 18th-century letters in the Elizabeth Montagu archive at The Huntington as part of her research.
In 2014, when she was still a student at USC, Jheanelle Garriques started her writing salon, Naked Narratives. She wanted to create a space for femme-identified people from a variety of backgrounds to explore their lived experiences through writing. She knew a fair amount about the history of female coteries, such as 18th-century women’s clubs, but until she began exploring The Huntington’s library collections, she did not know about Elizabeth Montagu, who started what was in many ways a feminist writing salon in London, circa 1760. The Huntington Library holds correspondence between Montagu and her female peers, which Garriques has been poring over. “I’m trying to draw a thread through the experiences of these female-identified people in 18th-century Britain and the femmes that I’m working with,” she says. Garriques has assembled a salon of women in their 20s and 30s to work with her at The Huntington. Together, they will develop an anthology of writing, and Garriques also plans to compose a chapbook, combining the writing of Naked Narratives participants with writings from Montagu’s salon participants. She wants to “breathe new life into the Montagu collection,” she says, while tracing deep connections between feminists of the past and present.
kerrie welsh. Photo by C.E. Nolen. Photo courtesy of the artist.
welsh at The Huntington’s 2017 Evening Among the Roses event celebrating the LGBTQ+ community at The Huntington. At the event, welsh invited guests to participate in her /five project—titled “What You Love”— by writing down their queer love stories. She also brought in four performers to re-interpret a 1900 performance in which actress Olga Nethersole shocked the world by portraying the Greek lyric poet Sappho in an openly sexual manner.
welsh speaks with guests at her participatory station at Evening Among the Roses.
Performers Jheanelle Garriques and Cindy Chung Camins at Evening Among the Roses.
Card with welsh’s prompt to share stories of LGBTQ+ love at her participatory station at Evening Among the Roses.
Stationary at welsh’s participatory station at Evening Among the Roses.
On February 23, 1900, actress Olga Nethersole was arrested at a theater in New York and charged with “giving indecent and immoral public exhibition.” She had been performing on stage as a modernized version of Sappho, the ancient Greek female writer known for her love poems, in an openly sexual manner. The scandal surrounding Nethersole’s performance intrigued kerrie welsh, an experimental filmmaker now working on her doctorate in Film and Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz. Famous as Sappho may be—“She’s really the only female figure that reaches the cultural saturation of someone like Homer,” welsh notes—little historical information about her life exists. But imagined versions of her story abound. Over 20 films about Sappho were made in the 1920s and 1930s, welsh points out, describing the poet as “a metaphor for historical memory.” During her residency at The Huntington, welsh will collect and study the hundreds of references made to Sappho in the Library’s archive. Sappho’s words and obscurity, however, will ultimately serve more as the inspiration than the subject of the collection of queer love stories that welsh will gather from other, less formal sources. Evidence of such love stories is often destroyed, whether by queer individuals or their loved ones, and then omitted from historical records. welsh will contact organizations, private individuals, and public figures, asking them to help her in her search for material—primarily first-person recollections—suited to her project. Come November, she will exhibit her newly made collection of love stories alongside archival material related to the ancient poet. “The language of love comes from Sappho,” says welsh. The love stories come from many others.
Soyoung Shin. Photo by Sayoko Cox. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Shin photographs an 18th-century tapestry-covered firescreen in the Huntington Art Gallery as part of her research.
Shin takes notes on The Huntington’s historic carpet Astrology in the Huntington Art Gallery as part of her research.
Shin photographs a tapestry sample (ca. 1890) at The Huntington as part of her research.
French revolutionaries saved the thick, ornately hand-woven carpet called Astrology from Versailles after the execution of King Louis XVI. “It was such a nice rug,” says artist Soyoung Shin. “It would have been a pain to get rid of it.” Instead, post-Revolution craftspeople replaced the fleurs-de-lis—the stylized lilies used to symbolize dynastic power—with a garland of oranges. The rug, which has been on view at The Huntington since 1928, inspired Shin. She plans to make her own revisionist history tapestry during the WCCW residency, though hers will revise a different history: that of contemporary computing. Shin, who studied computer science as an undergraduate and incorporates technology and domestic craft into her artwork, points out that the punch card led to the pixel, and that, earlier, the Jacquard weaving process informed the invention of the punch card. All modern computing, despite the endemic sexism in the industry, thus stems from a craft now conventionally viewed as feminine. “I’m trying to put all that back together,” Shin says.
Juliana Wisdom. Photo by Evan Backer. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Wisdom photographs Sèvres porcelain at The Huntington as part of her research.
Wisdom in the Huntington Art Gallery.
In her studio, Wisdom works on a sculpture inspired by works in The Huntington’s collections.
“It’s just kind of bursting at the seams with this opulence and femininity,” artist Juliana Wisdom says of historic, decorative porcelain. Her research in The Huntington’s art collections focuses on porcelain made in the French manufactory at Sèvres, France—the museum owns, among other objects, a delicate pink and floral lidded dish from 1757. Wisdom became interested in the women who worked on Sèvres porcelain. She kept finding bits of information hinting at the role women played. But mostly she found absences in the historical record, suggesting that the names and identities of female craftspeople had been omitted. “That really sparked the project of filling in the gaps,” she says. She expects her research to inform the work that she is making. She is working on three sculptures, one large and two smaller vessels, that will incorporate decorative elements from the Sèvres porcelain but also attempt to suggest, through their forms and the imagery they incorporate, a different story about women’s labor. “Studying how these objects were made and who made them can be a way to transform how we think about history,” she says.
Olivia Chumacero and Sarita Dougherty
Olivia Chumacero. Photo by Chris Cruse. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Sarita Dougherty. Photo by Chris Cruse. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Dougherty and Chumacero at The Huntington.
Chumacero works with cinematographer Sandra de la Loza on a video near The Huntington’s Ranch Garden.
Dougherty works on a painting at the The Huntington’s Ranch Garden.
Chumacero sits alongside Dougherty as Dougherty works on a painting at The Huntington’s Ranch Garden.
Painter Sarita Dougherty usually works from life, so she has been bringing her oil paints to The Huntington’s gardens and observing the spring blooms. Her collaborator, Olivia Chumacero, has been bringing her camera, beginning her work on an abstract, surrealistic film. In the past, Dougherty and Chumacero have worked together to do research, performances, and installations honoring nature, and Chumacero founded the organization Everything is Medicine to teach people about traditional uses of native plants. The two artists are studying the native and uncultivated plants in The Huntington’s gardens as well as the cultivated collections, getting to know the flora while documenting it through painting and video. When they first started coming to the gardens, they found the Ceanothus—also known as California lilac—in full bloom. “They were huge and gorgeous, bursting all over,” says Dougherty, noting that native Californians have used the plant for generations to make soap, among other things. At The Huntington, it can be difficult to find truly uncultivated native plants; every plant here is in some way managed, even if just by being watered by a sprinkler. But the Ceanothus serves the ecosystem in observable ways, offering shade, serving as a habitat for animals, and providing pollen to many eager pollinators. For the first phase of their project, Dougherty and Chumacero did a case study—through painting and film—of this plant, trying to convey its relationship to its environment. They will return at the height of summer and fall to do subsequent case studies in painting and film of small groups of native plants, contrasting these with studies of flora in The Huntington’s more formal, cultivated gardens. They will also harvest seeds and use the native plants to the extent allowed, not just observing but building symbiotic relationships with the flora and inviting visitors to do the same during interactive workshops they plan to host in the fall.
Zya S. Levy. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Levy in The Huntington’s Desert Garden.
Levy takes notes in The Huntington’s Desert Garden as part of her research.
Levy takes notes on a Golden Barrel Cactus at The Huntington as part of her research.
“I really view plants as storytellers,” says botanist Zya Levy, who co-founded the project We the Weeds in Philadelphia. She and her collaborator, Kate Pomerantz, would lead walking tours through the city, showing what plants and weeds in particular could say about the environment. Certain weeds become resistant to toxins, for instance, to survive in a city’s industrial areas. Researching at The Huntington is different, however, because, unlike urban weeds, most of the plants at The Huntington didn’t serendipitously take root in the gardens. As a result, they tell different kinds of stories. Levy has begun to study the Golden Barrel Cactus, of which The Huntington has many. The ball-shaped plant existed only in a volcanic valley in Mexico until a German collector, Heinrich Hidman, brought it back to Germany in the late 1800s, turning it into a collector’s item. Thanks to over-eager collectors and flooding caused by a dam project, the cactus became endangered in its native habitat but ubiquitous elsewhere. “You see it in front of gas stations in Los Angeles,” Levy observes. She is exploring how to tell the stories of such plants—whether through sketches, photographs, or audio collages—in ways that will convey the full effect they have on our wild and urban environments.