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Liles, Sarah


I am a womyn, an artist, an educator, an activist. All of these elements of my personhood are integral to my art-making. Much of the work I do now is about my experiences as a feminist womyn (artist) in our society). In it, I explore myself as a powerful female in a culture whose structures for expressing and recognizing gender are stubbornly dichotomous. In the United States, strength and power are masculine. And the feminine is defined as weak, fragile, irrational. In my art and my life, I challenge these understandings and offer alternative ways of knowing my womynhood.

Although my formal education in the arts was largely representational, my work has recently become more abstract. I have come to rely more upon my informal training, especially my sewing skills my mother taught me as a little girl, as I work out the issues of equity that are primary to my sense of self as artist and activist now.

Those who have influenced me come from divergent traditions and influence me in a number of ways. The writings and artwork of Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago, and Faith Ringgold have deeply affected me and the way I make art. Each of these wimmin creates out of her particular experiences and expresses a deep connection to her heritage. In addition to these artists, there are many people who have affected my thinking about art. Significant among these are John Berger (author of Ways of Seeing) and Olivia Gude (writer, artist, art educator, teacher educator, and my mentor).

Finally, I strongly believe that one major role of the artist today is that of social healer. In this role, we must lay bare the ills of our society and promote positive alternatives to the status quo. In order to fulfill the potential of this role, I believe that we, as artists, must take steps to ensure that art is accessible to a varied and broad audience. By this, I do not intend that we should water-down our art, but rather that we should be always reaching out to communities in which we make art. We should write, speak, and teach about art in general and about our own work in particular. We should enable our potential audiences to understand and enjoy the work we make.

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