Discussion with Carmen Winant and Carol Osmer Newhouse
Live on Zoom
Friday, May 15, 3PM EST
Join the event on facebook here
Following the publication of Carmen Winant’s Notes on Fundamental Joy, the artist will be joined in conversation by photographer Carol Osmer Newhouse for a discussion on the various lesbian and feminist communities which were established across the Pacific Northwest as part of a women-centered back to the land movement. The two will explore the aims and hopes of Womyn’s Lands with a focus on how image-making and self-taught photography workshops (such as the Ovulars) played a central role in picturing a new identity and selfhood. Newhouse is a photographer, activist, and contributor to WomenSpirit Magazine — she was a founding member of the WomanShare collective in Grants Pass, Oregon, founded in 1974.
Togethering — A digital broadside
In this personal narrative Carmen speaks to her encounter with a body of images from lesbian photography workshops, navigating her sense of affinity for the work, as well as her distance. The text considers how feminist image-making can feel revelatory in its threatlessness, proposing new models for collective agency and giving us ways to occupy a body that is “neither a weapon nor a target.”
On Womyn’s Lands and Self-Publishing
Beginning in the early 1970s, groups of feminist and lesbian women settled in rural separatist communities with the desire to lead “womyn-identified” lives—working together on the land, experiencing communal spirituality, creativity, and well-being, away from the so-often violent gaze of men. They called these communities Womyn’s Lands, often identifying themselves as landykes. While Womyn’s Lands existed across the country, many formed in a close network in Southern Oregon, including: The Oregon Women’s Land (OWL) Farm, Rootworks, WomanShare, Cabbage Lane, and Fly Away Home.
Self-publishing and photography workshops were key tools that allowed womyn on these lands to communicate their politics, extend their networks, and perhaps most importantly, picture themselves and each other. In these publications, women had agency to share the realities of their lives and reach like-minded others, through alternative forms of art and language, without the bounds of traditional publishing hierarchies. Though they were secluded in rural areas, print publications could be distributed to readers across the country, build working relationships, and provide income through subscriptions. By hosting workshops on their own communities, women were able to teach and learn collectively, expressing themselves freely without competition.
Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove established their land, Rootworks, and created a magazine on feminist spirituality called WomanSpirit, published from 1974–84. The magazine explored the connection between women’s spirituality and nature, reimagining ritual, myth, and witchcraft through submissions of art, poetry, songs, and stories. Concurrently, Jean and Ruth founded the Ovulars—a series of hands-on photography workshops held each summer from 1979–92—along with photographers/instructors Tee A. Corinne, Carol Newhouse, and JEB, among others. The three-issue magazine of black-and-white photography The Blatant Image came out of the principles of the Ovulars and was produced collectively with contributions by participants. Their goal was to foreground images that were rarely seen, let alone published—images that honored the ways they saw each other, together. Throughout a wide variety of pieces on topics like self portraiture, disability, “Documenting Rituals,” and “Making Ourselves Real,” The Blatant Image published the very early photographic work of many notable artists, including Barbara Hammer, Mary Beth Edelson and Carrie Mae Weems.
Other back-to-the-land publications of the era include Country Women (1973–79), a journal started by a women’s collective in Albion, CA that covered themes like relationships, art, money, and gave practical guides for country living—building a fence, baking sourdough bread, and how to use a chainsaw; and Maize, A Lesbian Country Magazine: a long-running quarterly periodical published in Serafina, New Mexico, consisting of poetry, essays, and illustrations, with over 100 issues since its start in 1983.
Read Country Women Issue 7: Women & Land here. Articles include “Lessons in Non-Attachment” and “Fighting Fires: Where There’s Smoke.”
Read Maize Number 37 (Summer 1993) here. Articles include “Edible Flowers as Lesbo Land Income” and “How to Catch a Porcupine With Your Bare Hands.”
The cover artwork of WomanSpirit can be viewed on their website here.