Our Communications Intern, Olivia Luntz, recently had the opportunity to speak with Carmen Hermo, Assistant Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, about art being used to tell stories words cannot.
On June 7, members of the LitWorld community visited the Brooklyn Museum for a private tour of the exhibition, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, led by Carmen Hermo, co-organizer of the Brooklyn presentation and Assistant Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. This exhibition is the culmination of a decade of research by curators Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta into experimental art created by female Latin American artists. The pair traveled throughout Latin America extensively, talking with artists and exploring their studios, before presenting the collection of over 260 works made by 123 artists in 15 different countries. The exhibition was first displayed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and after its stay inside the Brooklyn Museum, it will travel to the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, in São Paulo, Brazil.
Hermo was excited to work with the LitWorld community because our mission to empower children to share their stories resonated with her, both as someone who developed a dedicated love of reading as a child and as a museum curator who helps artists share their stories every day. She also especially appreciated LitWorld’s focus on helping girls and young women find access to education, and felt that the messages within the Radical Women exhibition and LitWorld’s mission fit together perfectly. Hermo stated that the purpose of the exhibition was to push back against the dearth of women artists on display at museums and the lack of acknowledgment for avant-garde art created by women. Hermo summed up the exhibition’s message as, “we should always be questioning, learning, and reevaluating history to see who was left out and whose stories we want to tell.”
Although some of the artists on display are already well-known, such as sculptor Lygia Pape and conceptual artist Marta Minujín, many others are significantly less prominent. However, Hermo stressed that she admired these lesser-known artists for making art without an outcome of money or fame, but out of a need to make work that pushed against the oppression and injustice in their world. She also emphasized the bravery of these women who made art during difficult and dangerous political times, and how their courage and strength is what made them “radical.”
One of Hermo’s favorite pieces in the exhibition is the video of Victoria Santa Cruz performing her poem Me gritaron negra (They shouted black at me). In the poem, Cruz, an Afro-Peruvian artist, recounts her first encounter with racism at age seven, and turns a racial slur that was used against her into a statement of empowerment. Hermo also saw this piece as an important one to share on the LitWorld tour because of the confidence and strength with which Cruz told her story and how she used poetry to create a non-traditional “self-portrait.”
However, Hermo does not believe that one has to use words to tell their story. Rather, she explained that art has a unique ability to allow viewers to, “enter into one artist's experience, which then opens a door in ourselves to our own experiences.” She continued, saying, “even if you have had a completely different life than that of the artist, the art allows us to recognize the universality of the human experience...art can fill in the cracks of our understanding.”
At LitWorld, our mission is to provide children with the confidence and strength to share their stories and author their own lives. LitKids in our programs are encouraged to utilize a variety of creative outlets to showcase their feelings, dreams, cultures, and communities through stories, poems, art, and more. Exhibits like Radical Women demonstrate how education and literacy can result in positive change and extraordinary art in communities around the world.
We are grateful to Carmen for offering her time to share a bit of her world and the world of radical women with us.
Carmen Hermo joined the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art’s curatorial team as Assistant Curator in June 2016. She curated Roots of "The Dinner Party": History in the Making (2017), co-organized Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty (2016–17) and the Brooklyn presentation of Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 (2018), and assisted with initiatives for the 10th anniversary of the Sackler Center, A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum. Carmen also works to support the permanent collection and serves on the Council for Feminist Art and Young Leadership Council patron groups.