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Artists Support the Ongoing Need for Abortion Access in a New Benefit Auction

Annabel Keenan
Sep 29, 2022 10:42PM

In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, people across the country have seen their access to abortion healthcare disappear as states continue to enact strict restrictions and complete bans on the procedure. While shockwaves reverberated through the country, activists swiftly assembled to aid and protect people who might seek abortions, as well as the clinics working to provide the necessary care and services. Supporting these causes, the curatorial collective Grandma has organized a benefit auction to fundraise for Vote Save America’s Immediate Abortion Access Fund. The auction, Impact: Immediate Abortion Access Fund, subtitled “We Deliver Our Bodies,” is now live on Artsy and runs through October 13th.

The Immediate Abortion Access Fund provides immediate resources for abortion access, including for travel or to pay for the procedure, and funding for independent clinics so they can stay open and provide services, even if individuals are unable to afford them. The initiative also contributes to any potential legal defense. “This last part is in response to the decision in some states to criminalize accessing and aiding abortions,” said Shaniqua McClendon, political director of Vote Save America’s parent company, Crooked Media. “No one should be criminalized for accessing healthcare, but we’re ready to assist with legal defense if this does happen.”

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Featuring a multigenerational group of artists, the auction includes Michele Pred, Amani Lewis, and vanessa german, among others. “The artists reflect two main components: teachers who have guided us for generations, and new voices that are beacons of hope for the future,” said curator Paige Haran, who founded Grandma with Rebecka Jackson. The collective organizes exhibitions and programs as acts of care and critical resistance. As the name suggests, part of the ethos of Grandma is to honor the work of activists who have passed down knowledge and fought for a better future.

“The issues faced by the older generations of artists are still relevant today, which makes the auction so powerful,” said Jackson. “Women’s liberation, gender justice, racial justice are, unfortunately, still concerns of today. In the auction, we see artists from different generations who are speaking to the same issues. This is unfortunate, but also provides a moment to see something beautiful, that people continue to carry the torch and create spaces for resistance.”

The auction features a range of media, including painting, photography, and sculpture. Some works respond directly to the topic of the body and bodily autonomy, including Pred’s Bans Off Our Bodies (2022), a red, vintage purse with the title woven into the surface in blue electroluminescent wire. Kristin Reger and Juvana Soliven contribute mixed-media sculptures that resemble items associated with female healthcare, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and gynecological tools.

“Soliven speaks to how our bodies can be weaponized against us and how something can be a tool or a safe haven in one breath and a site of violence in the next,” said Haran. “This is a clear link to what is happening around us. We are facing a failure of our legal system. We are also facing the risk of erasure of the struggles and activism. The art in this auction is a step to keep the stories going, keep the legacy alive, and provide moments of critical thinking and beauty. Activism takes endurance. The pieces in the auction forever act as a reminder of this everyday work.”

Abstract artist Vian Sora, who contributed two works to the sale, addresses these notions of endurance and survivorship. Born in Baghdad, Sora now lives in Kentucky, a state where abortion is completely banned with very limited exceptions. Throughout her work, she explores the tension between beauty and war, life and death, growth and decay.

As physical objects that outlast the trauma they represent, the works in the auction honor the endurance of both artmaking and activism. Inherent to endurance is the importance of constant engagement. “People often only respond in crisis,” said Jackson. “Auctions like these make sure people are continually reminded of the possibility of losing our bodily rights, even if this seems far from reality.”

McClendon echoed these sentiments: “There’s always a risk that in the period after a crisis, the outrage dies down. It’s important to be active continually, especially with an election coming up. This can be particularly hard if an issue isn’t directly impacting us, but we need to remember that abortion is literally on the ballot, more so than ever. Who controls the Senate, the House, state legislatures, and governorships will determine whether we have access to abortion moving forward for everyone, everywhere. I am grateful to Grandma and to the artists in the auction who are willing to publicly associate their work with the causes at hand. It makes a major, long-lasting difference.”

Annabel Keenan
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019