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Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager
Dec 14, 2022
For this episode, we share thoughts on the fall 2022 exhibition Sharing Circles: Carol Newhouse and the WomanShare Collective from artist and activist Carol Newhouse and the curators behind what is her first major museum exhibition: Daniel Marcus and Carmen Winant.
Carol Newhouse and Daniel Marcus
Melissa Starker (intro): This is Wexcast, from the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University. For this episode, we share thoughts on the fall 2022 exhibition Sharing Circles: Carol Newhouse and the WomanShare Collective from artist and activist Carol Newhouse and the two curators who worked with her on her first major museum exhibition: Wex Associate Curator of Exhibitions Daniel Marcus and Carmen Winant, an associate professor and the Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art at Ohio State, and an artist whose own work has been exhibited internationally.
Together, they share the serendipitous circumstances that led to Danny and Carmen becoming familiar with Carol’s work and ultimately uniting to curate Sharing Circles, as well as the experience of poring through the prints and contact sheets that Carol kept for decades. They also discuss the thinking that went into the circular wooden structure that forms the heart of the exhibition. One note before listening: when the participants mention a program that occurred in the galleries, they’re referencing Reassembly, a program that took place in the gallery this fall for students and educators.
Here’s Danny, Carmen, and Carol.
Daniel Marcus: We have been working together on this exhibition project, Sharing Circles, for how how long would you say? First of all, if you really have the the origin, the date when this project…
Carol Newhouse: …got its legs, when would that be, do either of you remember? I think we probably have three slightly different answers.
Carmen Winant: I think that's true. The point of genesis, I would agree with Carol, is a little bit different for all of us because we all—well, I should say. Danny and I—both came to encounter Carol through your work in like early 2018, I wanna say, and then I met Carol in person in late 2019, I flew out and met Carol in 2019, and then I think we started working early conversations in and around this exhibition project in 2021. Is that right, Danny?
Daniel Marcus: Wow, I mean, the pandemic years all blur together so much in my mind. But yeah, I think that is right. But actually, Carmen, I'm curious: you probably were aware of Carol's work before I was. Can you say how you found it? How it came to you?
Carmen Winant: Yes, although this, too, gets a little bit murky. In fact, I've tried to pin this down with Carol and I haven't been successful at it.
I was researching for an artist book that came to be called Notes on Fundamental Joy. That was printed by Printed Matter, New York, and I was researching through Linda Long, the librarian and archivist at University of Oregon and the Lesbian Land Collective Special Collection, which Linda really invented and cultivated. Not just that material, but those relationships; that archive would not exist without her in any way, shape or form. And I’m not a very reliable narrator here, but i'm guessing that it was through Linda that I first encountered Carol's work, although at the time they didn't actually have the dedicated Carol Newhouse papers. Now they do, but at the time I came to encounter them, I'm pretty sure, through looking at the handwritten captions on the back of other women's photographs, right?
So I spent a lot of time looking in the Tee Corinne Archive, and there'd be photographs of Carol and it would say, you know, photograph with Carol Newhouse, or there'd be a photograph that Ruth Mountaingrove took of Tee taking a picture of Carol, right? So it was sort of a really lateral… Not even just democratic archive, but something really kind of generous feeling, how pictures were shared back and forth. And then that in turn—that structure, which wasn't rigid or conventional to an archive, allowed me to discover Carol. What I don't remember is how I actually found you, Carol—if I got your phone number and I called you.
Carol Newhouse: So for me, the whole project started when Danny came over to your house for dinner. For me, you know what I mean, don't ask me what date that was.
Carmen Winant: Right, that was that was sometime in 2018.
Carol Newhouse: But I do know that Danny had already found the photograph that went in the Art After Stonewall thing, and I don't know how many weeks that was before he came over to dinner at your house. But it was close. It was around the same time, because I remembered when you said, “Danny's at the door.” Just a minute, I thought. Is this the same town as that guy that called me up? You know, about that photograph? And I just happened to say, what's his name? And you told me, and I just almost fell off my chair, I mean, even though we weren't planning to do anything together, I believe a lot in those sort of synchronistic moments, you know. And I thought, Wow, what are the odds?
Carmen Winant: Yeah, I think at first you thought, understandably, that we were working together on the same project.
Carol Newhouse: Right, I thought you were working together.
Daniel Marcus: So I should explain what that was all about, because that is my entry point. Before coming to the Wex. I was a a curatorial fellow at the Columbus Museum of Art and the first major project that I ended up working on, although it became like the real focus of my work there, was the catalogue for this exhibition Art After Stonewall, and the catalogue included lots and lots of illustrations. And it was my role as the new guy to finish the job of getting permissions for all of those illustrations.
There's a wonderful essay in the Art After Stonewall catalogue by someone who was then an independent scholar; now she is the director of the Dorski Museum at one of the SUNY schools, Sunni New Paltz: Anna Conlin. And Anna was writing about the Ovulars, which you know, in Sharing Circles and in the kind of history of the women's lands and feminist photography, the Ovulars are just so central and significant as a gathering place, as a kind of place of teaching and of rethinking feminist photographic pedagogy, and Anna had reproduced one of the photographs that Carol had printed in The Blatant Image, a relatively obscure—although I feel like people are really starting to know about this publication—magazine devoted to feminist photography that came right out of the Ovulars. And I, you know, had to figure out how to get Carol's permission for this photograph. And I really had a hard time finding you, Carol.
Carol Newhouse: I didn’t know that.
Carmen Winant: You are good at tracking people down, as we know.
Daniel Marcus: This was the first difficult job that I had.
Carol Newhouse: Really? And look at how well you did.
Daniel Marcus: I couldn’t find you, and I know that I thought—Carmen, you must have done what I did at some point, because you called Carol, and I think I also called Carol or Carol, maybe I emailed you, but I know that we talked on the phone.
Carol Newhouse: No, I know the phone rang and it was you. These events are significant for me, right, because I haven't had this experience before. So I remember that, you know. And I remember thinking, Columbus, what was that again?
Daniel Marcus: Well, I think it's so wild. I mean listeners to this podcast, we haven't really spelled it out, but like, it's so serendipitous that Carmen and I were both looking for Carol and found her independently. Carmen, you didn't know I was trying to find Carol, and I certainly had no idea you were looking for Carol, much less that you were working on a photo book about the women's lands. So when we met at a dinner. I don't remember what the the dinner was.
Carol Newhouse: Yeah, what did you have for dinner? [laughs]
Daniel Marcus: It was someone's birthday party. Anyway, I just remember, you know, my jaw dropping when you explained that you'd been in touch with this Carol Newhouse person, Partly because it just seems so unlikely, But also, yeah, I, too, sort of have a belief in synchronicity. And you know, it must be meaningful that we both got in touch with Carol. But I remember that you and I talked on the phone a little while, Carol, and it was just a great conversation. And I remember thinking of all the people who I contacted out of the blue around this Art After Stonewall project, you were one hundred percent the most pleasant.
Carmen Winant: I want to just jump in here and say that was also the experience that I had with you, Carol. Not just that you were pleasant, but that, like, you really got it, you know? Because I didn't even know what I was trying to do exactly when I reached out to you.
I think I said something like, “Oh, it's an artist's book, but it's also an archives project. It's not really art historical, but it also sort of is. And you know, i'm thinking about it being laid out in this way or using text in this in an unconvential way. We talked for a while, but I could feel that you not only sort of trusted me in the process, but you really got whatever this kind of in-between thing was, and I don't know that I've ever said this to you, but I felt so emboldened by our sort of ongoing collaboration there, because there were moments with that project—maybe I’m going to the side of what we should be talking about, which is the exhibition, you know, and talking about this project…
Carol Newhouse: Oh, but I already see the connection with what you're saying right now to our current collaboration.
Carmen Winant: Mm hmm, exactly.
Carol Newhouse: The same experience except Danny was there now. But you know what I mean? There was this buildup, and and there was this thrilling moment where I felt like you both were so open and artistically creative and willing to think, you know as they say, outside the box, and include what made the show more powerful in whatever medium. I mean, I can't even make a list of how many mediums we explored for the current exhibit.
So yeah, it was exciting, and what I have told you but i'll reiterate, is that I have learned so much. I mean, not only like you're saying, about the book, but also about my own work, and myself as an artist, you know. And especially at this age, because those pictures were taken a long time ago—you know the ones that we had in this exhibit—and what was I doing. You know, all those questions I had to come up with answers [laughs] and it's really made me stronger in my work, and also in my thinking about the purpose of art making, really.
Carmen Winant: Yeah,
Daniel Marcus: I mean, we kind of became that three-part team. I guess it was 2021, Carmen.
Carmen Winant: That we went out to Berkeley?
Carol Newhouse: It would have had to be, because 2020 is when I met you, Carmen, in person, right before Covid.
Carmen Winant: Right, right. I don't think we probably could have traveled during 2020. But yes, it must have been 2021, and Danny and I flew out to Berkeley, and we were all heavily masked. And Carol came, you know. When I first met Carol, at the very end of 2018, she showed up with a big cardboard box, and it had everything. It was like, you know it was like a clown car of, you know, pulling out. There weren't so many prints—maybe 80, you know, pretty small prints between four-by-six through 11-by-14 scale. But there were hundreds of contact sheets. There were hundreds of negative sheets, and everything was immaculately sleeved, labeled, and you know, that was in 2018. We spent days just sort of talking and hanging out and scanning things together. And then, when Danny and I showed up a few years later, you came with that same box, and we went through kind of a similar process, but between the three of us. I mean, maybe that's something we could talk about
Carol Newhouse: You know. I'm so glad you took that picture. By the way, you made that photo.
Carmen Winant: Oh, of you and Danny?
Carol Newhouse: Yeah, of me and Danny one more time [laughs]. And Danny said to me, “Just bring the box, Carol.” [Everyone laughs]
Daniel Marcus: Well, we should. I feel like we should back up to sort of speak a little bit about why Carol's work was so interesting and why it remains so interesting to us. Because, Carmen, I remember really vividly you came back from Berkeley—so you went out to East Bay with Carol, and by that point you two had developed a real friendship, and I feel like that trip cemented the friendship. And when you came back, Carmen, you were just so excited about having met Carol in person, but also excited about what you found in the box, and it was this incredible photographic archive, trove, whatever we want to call it. But I remember you know you were. You were really struck, maybe even stunned, by just how many photographs hadn't been printed, and how much sort of potential there was in this box that really catalogued Carol's work, life, time, you know, living at WomanShare in the ‘70s and then forward into her life in the 1980s. It’s, you know, that kind of excitement of the undiscovered or the unprinted. I think it also must have something to do with what you were seeing in the photographs as well to the the sense of a world being kind of held within that box. Talking to you when you came back, that's the image that I started to kind of think about is a world in a box.
Carol Newhouse: And then it became a world in a circle.
Carmen Winant: Exactly. Well, I will say a little bit about that. But I’d be curious, Carol, to know about your impressions of that trip. I mean, a few things about it: I would say that was the first time—this isn't exactly what you're asking, Danny, although I’ll build to it—where I felt as though I was encountering somebody and potentially building a relationship that would outlive the project. You know, it really felt like, oh, i'm not going into an archive where it’s sort of sterile or I’m not inheriting material separate from a person, or, you know, God forbid, sort of going in and grabbing what I need and leaving. So it really actually helped me recalibrate my idea. I mean, Carol, you were talking about how this collaboration has changed your sense of being an artist in the world, and it has done that for me, too. It's affirmed that relationship building is actually the most like fundamental and important—you know, It seems so obvious, but it's like, so often, if you're on a deadline, and you're trying to whatever, encounter the right material and work with it in a certain strategic way you lose sight of that, or one does, or I do.
Carol Newhouse: Of course.
Carmen Winant: So that to me was really… something that happened in that trip, I thought, where I I recognized you as a kind of a kindred.
Carol Newhouse: I agree.
Carmen Winant: Where I thought, this is bigger than the project. But that being said, as Danny was pointing out, I immediately—you know, I’m sure you could feel it from me, Carol, the excitement around what we were scanning and talking about and looking at together. Also helped me name for myself an interest that my wagons had been circling for years, which we talked about a lot since, which is the sort of idea of like, feminist world-building in practice, and feminist joy, and lesbian photography, and a world without patriarchy. What is the relationship between that sort of making of those worlds and picturing them, you know, photographically? It felt like, oh, all these things that have been percolating, that I hadn't even been able to name for myself
Carol Newhouse: And after your book, what is still the relevance of this still? That's what's interesting to me, and you didn't just drop it with the book, either. I mean it's slightly different, I know we could get that.
Carmen Winant: But it feels like a lifelong project, doesn't it?
Carol Newhouse: In a way, because it's a really big issue. I mean, what is culture buildingm right? What is queer art? You know, there’s all these big questions, and I'm just gonna jump to the installation. When we—and, correct me, Danny, if I’m wrong, I think you came forward with the circle first, but when that happened for me, again I can't put into words. It wasn’t like I thought the following thing. It's just that, oh, of course, you know what I mean? And that installation, I think, aside from presenting the photos in a very nice way, and a lot of the other artwork was more for the public. It was holding the public, just like your book tries to do. You know those images are in the book, and the words are way down the bottom, and people have have to pause and have to experience your book differently. That was my experience of it. And this show was the same way. This exhibit, you had to experience it differently. You know, we guided them a lot with the map and explanations, but still it was, you couldn't enter really lightly, I don’t think. You could try.
Daniel Marcus: You know, I think of three, maybe four essential turning points in the making of this show. One was, Carmen, your realization of what the magic of Carol's box, you know, what that amounted to. Um. But then I think the discovery of all of the materials that Carol had given to the University of Oregon, to Linda Long, that feels really crucial as well, because I think it's at that moment um that Carmen and I started to really see that there was an exhibition's worth of printed photograph.
Carol Newhouse: Oh, I see. Yes.
Daniel Marcus: Because remember, Carol. When Carmen came back to Columbus and was so excited about the the trip to meet you, partly the takeaway for me was like, this is an artist who printed very little of her work. There's all this unprinted work, so it's the University of Oregon that kind of unlocks for us that, well, of course, you printed a lot of work, but it's just that a lot of it is was in Linda's archive.
Carol Newhouse: I just want to make a comment on what you're saying, I thought of it earlier when you were saying that unprinted work thing. Um, it's all about feminism and access, and then the change to digital also, because this is all film, and that in the ‘80s and that kind of thing that happened in the world, you know, and all these visionary images and all these visionary people were going back to get a job, you know? And so there was a change, you know in the world, and I didn't have, or wasn't able to find, any access really for those materials or interest. And also I was preoccupied just making a living. So it's just a side remark but it's that's partly why I kept what I thought were the jewels, and I kept it, you know, for 40 years, and you know I traveled a lot. But I kept it because I knew it was so important, sort of [laughs], but it wasn't until maybe 10 years ago even that I began to realize how important it was. It also started with the book. You know we wrote a book also, Country Lesbians, and that people started noticing, you know. So it was kind of multimedia in a way.
Daniel Marcus: Well, in that sense, too, I think a lot of your photographs had lived in the world through these publications, whether it's Country Lesbians, the women's carpentry book, or Woman Spirit, but not really in an art context.
Carol Newhouse: Right, exactly. Not that Billie and I hadn’t discussed it. One of those things was, oh, we need to start a feminist art gallery. It was a small town, I mean, you know, not not recreating anything in DC. But you know, just do something to a storefront do something, you know. And then our lives just changed as I described, and things happened, and i'm still bringing that idea up to her today.
Daniel Marcus: Keep us in the loop. Move forward.
I think we from the outset, though, knew that we didn't want to kind of guide the exhibition that we were starting to to talk about. Like, we didn't want to guide it toward like a conventional or a traditional art photography kind of format. Correct me if i'm wrong, Carmen, but I’m pretty sure from the outset we were not into the idea of framing photographs and just having them sort of sit on the wall. Maybe we arrived at that point, but I'm saying this because you know, the idea of installing the work inside of the plywood circular structure that we ended up developing, that that impulse to develop some sort of an alternate is something that Carmen and I certainly had been talking about for almost since the very outset. I mean, I I think probably our idea was at first that there had to be some form of building.
Carol Newhouse: Oh yes, yes. That’s so funny to think of it in this context. Right, yes.
Daniel Marcus: We wanted to have some sort of architectural note in the show. It felt so important to think about, you know, to represent WomanShare as not just the subject of your photographs, but also as a kind of ethos and a DIY proposition, and a culture, and a culture that was oriented around making a world, right? So that felt really important to have in the show. And I think the the path to the circle as the form was a pretty gradual one. I don't remember like a eureka moment where I just woke up one morning, and it was like “That's it!” I remember a lot of conversations and a lot of back and forth. And I guess that is meaningful to me because, you know, this exhibition, I just think of it as such an experiment in community. And in sort of, you know, Carmen, as you were saying, some of that is about just building relationships first and foremost. I think the the circular structure is almost a metaphor for that sort of openness to co-presence and to doing things together. That I can't quite remember who or when we came up with this essential idea for the exhibition that just feels like, well, that's what this show is about. You know, those lines become a little blurry.
Carol Newhouse: Just one of the things I remember, I reflected on more recently when you showed me the videos and the people you know that were there, and then that last panel discussion we did. Um, was it? Yes, this is an individual artist. This is another piece that we kind of worked on, right? And yet this is somehow a community art exhibit here, or something. You know what I mean? And how do we articulate that? How do we present that? And it became clear and clear as we went. You know that, and more inclusive. And I was reflecting on the circle again, and I was thinking, oh, purpose, This is one of our main points, right? Individual photos all over the place, a lot of people individually, even, or just two, you know, and yet being held in a circle of relationship, you know, to each other. And so people passing through are having that experience, right? They're seeing these individual—you know, it's still photography. It's not a movie—so they're seeing a moment in another moment, and yet they're making a circle or a whole. And also, I think there was a certain kind of safety in the structure. Afterwards I reflected on that. It was the panel discussion when I really got it. But it it it was the circle was holding people, allowing them to to take their time, and realizing where they were going. You know what I mean? It was going in a circle. It was very powerful, I think, performatively. And I wouldn't have noticed that, I was more intellectual about it, you know, in the beginning. And so it was safe. And so we have the individual experience, and we have the collective experience, right? Right there, you know, in the circle. Anyway.
Carmen Winant: I just would add to that and say I agree. What began, just to echo what Carol was saying, as an intellectual exercise, became actually a much more emotional one. And you can have the program inside of the space as opposed to in the auditorium or wherever else, totally reinforce that. Another thing that I wanted to add, you know i'm thinking about what you were, what you're saying, carol around uh this sort oreverberation between, like well does this. This is a individual person, but it's not a retrospective right? It's also a group. I thought that that would be difficult to account for, or but I think ultimately, maybe we just had to. The most difficult part was explaining that to the institution, you know when Danny and I bring students through. People are with it—like, they they get it. I think the thing that's come up more often is a question around privacy and safety and sort of what it means to turn a community like WomanShare, in some sense, inside out. Yes, we have the circle, which does…. I like how you're describing how it holds the audience. But there is sort of still this question about these safe spaces, and bringing them into a forward-facing institution, which is something that we reckoned with a lot as we went. But that idea has sort of continued to evolve for me as I go back and talk to students. And, in fact, Carol, I think you'll get a kick out of hearing that next week, I'm:touring epidemiologists through, Ph. D. students. So the kinds of requests that we've gotten, you know, are really broad-ranging in any case. I wonder what you both make of this? You know, this sort of inside outness.
Daniel Marcus: Well, I wanted to say, I guess, just to introduce another—this isn't quite a turning point, but just another key kind of player—I feel like it was in conversations with our research assistant, just an amazing partner on this exhibition, Rae Root, who's a a Ph.d student out at the University of Oregon. Those conversations really kind of cemented for me the importance of safety and… Closure isn't quite the right word to describe the circle. It's not closed. It's sort of open at two points. It's pointedly a structure you can enter. But I know Rae was really thinking a lot about about the question of safety and sort of how to produce a viewing experience for visitors that would, you know, be right to the material. That would would provide that kind of visibility, but also provide for the viewer a kind of experience of shelter and security and enclosure. And I think what we came up with is sort of, it's really just an attempt to navigate two kinds of completely opposite goals. On the one hand, the exhibition is so much about visibility, right? And one of the key words in talking about the show is lesbian visibility, and that is, of course, what the exhibition is about. And on the other hand, the exhibition is about closure, and this circle as a metaphor is so much about that. I think between the three of us, but maybe especially you and me, Carmen. I just remember a lot of conversations about representation and about the urge—the need—not to claim to fully represent WomanShare and the need to mark that it's a space that is not the Wexner Center. We're not recreating it in the Wex. We're gesturing to a community and a story that takes place outside of the institution. So, for example, it was an important decision not to have a big photograph of WomenShare blown up on the wall so that, you know, you get the sense of your being in a landscape. That's something that we talked a lot about, and there are lots of different discussions about representing. Maybe, for example, like outside of the circle, should we should we have some sort of landscape view that makes it clear that the circle is sort of an imaginary structure within the landscape?
Ultimately, I think it's a spare show, because we we elected not to use those tools of illusionism. We we don't give people the feeling that they're right there. But we do give them this really strong feeling of being in a space and a place that is quite different than how the Wex usually looks and everything that we've been saying about the circle, the emotional feeling of being part of the circle. I think that's exactly what was more important ultimately than, again, this illusion that you are crossing from Ohio to Oregon somehow, stepping into the gallery.
Carol Newhouse: Yeah. So this really brings up a lot of questions about art representation, art exhibiting, you know? And what are we? What kind of experience are we trying to stimulate or conjure, you know? Is it an emotional one? Is it a cognitive one. Is it some kind of combination, whatever? And then, what makes art great? I mean, that's the question behind it all, right? And and not everybody would agree. Maybe people experience their world differently, more cognitively or more emotionally, or whatever. I don't know, but I can see from this very easily which way that I lean. I need somebody to be moved. You know what I mean? And of course I think you could say a really good image will do that, but it's an interesting discussion. I remember Danny saying this to me, he said, “You know, Carol. Sometimes I just question if I really believe in art. I was thinking about this the other day, and you can say your answer later if you want to, but I will say that this exhibit made me believe more in art.
And now the why comes up. Well, what do you mean? And then I get a little weak, You know. Some of these words are relevant, I think, but it's a majestic exploration, and such a valuable one, and certainly for a gallery, let alone an artist or a curator, right? Or any of us.
Daniel Marcus: Well, I believe in in you, Carol.
Carol Newhouse: Oh my God, I don't know about that.
Carmen Winant: Yeah, you know, you use this word majestic. I've had a few experiences, Carol, walking through the galleries because I walked past the Wexner on the way to my office and the art building, and so sometimes I’ll take a meeting in there. I just meander through, and you know there are a lot of students in there—there are community members and different folks, but there's a lot of students in particular because we're on campus. And you know, I had one experience where I was walking around the gallery and there was a student looking at Billie’s pastels, and then I went for an hour for a coffee in the cafe and I came back, and the student was still in gallery B. I just felt like something is happening here.
And this is something, of course, that we talked about quite a lot, which is these points of intergenerational exchange and these points of intergenerational inheritance. So, something we talked quite a lot in the program and something we talked about between the three of us in our own friendship and collaboration. And so it was very moving. It has been moving to see. You know, the show is for everyone, every kind of audience member. But it's been moving for me in particular to see how students and younger folks are taking in the material and really sort of staying with it, in my experience.
And I know you've already mentioned the [Reassembly] program. It's come up a few times, but there were a lot of students in the room that day, and folks from all walks, and I found that to be such an incredibly… I’m biased, but the most moving program that I've ever been to at the Wexner. Something happened there that felt very atypical and unusual within an academic space, as people were talking about sort of decentering themselves in service of this larger community experiment, that I just left feeling so energized. And the show was obviously the spark for all of that. And so, you know, how we think about it will change over time…
Carol Newhouse: I would imagine.
Carmen Winant: But it feels to me like it did Its work in that way, you know, in terms of thinking about the sort of creativity required to be an artist being not so dissimilar from the creativity required to build a lesbian land. It's like, how to imagine something that doesn't yet exist. We talked about this quite a lot. Carol. That's a joyful project. That's an optimistic project. You have to have optimism as this sort of tool of imagination and of ideology. And so that to me felt like we got at something there with the show. Although we can make a hundred more shows that I think would get at it in different ways.
Carol Newhouse: Well, I can say something just briefly about a segue into Fox and Lycan. So WomanShare is passing, gifting their land on to queer women of color, identifying as a matriarchal, queer land, Two-Spirit, and particularly influenced by Indigenous women.
And I sent the photo that your friend took, Daniel, to Fox and Lycan,
Daniel Marcus: And we should say for listeners, Fox and Lycan are the current residents at WomanShare, and who are starting this new project called Native WomanShare.
Carol Newhouse: Fox was very moved by the picture, and pointed out the diversity of the audience, and the intergenerationality. And several things like that, and I think in a way, was re-inspired also or, you know, equally inspired, kind of like we're talking here um! And I was very happy to see that.
Daniel Marcus: There's a whole dimension of this exhibition that I think, certainly I didn't expect. And, Carmen, I don't know if you anticipated this either, which is just that the making of the show, which initially was really solely focused on Carol and Carol's work and then expanded to include Billie Miracle, who is still essentially living at WomanShare—she lives next door to Woman Share, but has been just a kind of stalwart of the community for decades. The exhibition, as it expanded to include Billie and then as we became more familiar just with the present situation at WomanShare, we realized that the exhibition was running into this completely transformative conversation that Carol and Billie were having with Fox and Lycan, and that the question of the future of WomanShare was like quite literally at stake right now, that it's something that you all were working out. I don't think there was any moment where we sort of sat down and said to ourselves, well, let's figure out how the exhibition can participate in that process. I think it always felt like that process was your process, Carol, and you were.
Carol Newhouse: Yes, definitely, sure.
Daniel Marcus: We wanted to support. But we're, you know, primarily just making an art exhibition. But at the same time, I do think the exhibition has… It's at least been a kind of movement in the background. As you all have kind of tried to take stock of the future, here's this exhibition that is in some sense taking stock of the past. I don't know. I think it's incalculable how these things meet, and what their convergence means. But just that we were able to do this project collaboratively at the same moment that you were beginning to work with Fox, and in earnest, is wild. And it made the show more than a show to me.
I think the last turning point in my mind around the exhibition, Carol, was when I went to Berkeley over the summer—this past summer—to meet with you and just kind of do a final check and make sure that all the photographs were what we thought they were, and just make sure everything was in order. And I remember you were telling me about your most recent trip up to Oregon up to WomanShare, and you were just describing the meetings you were having with women in the community to kind of bring them into the process of this transition. Obviously it's a moment of transformation for WomanShare, but WomanShare is part of this much larger community. And so what happens to WomanShare matters for the lesbian lands as a whole. You are describing these meetings that just required such patience and care.
And I think at that point, too, I realized that our conversations with Billie had become something more than just, well, here's someone who's gonna loan us some art for this show. I mean, that Billie had become sort of part of our family as well, and that feeling of being familially bound together, that was emotionally part of the process as well. And that's when Sharing Circles came into force as a title. That's that moment, I think, where I realized that, like sharing… It's about relationships, and it's about vulnerability, and it's about openness to other people. And that's sort of the core the show. And that, to my mind, was like the last real turning point, because I think that that idea had been latent in everything that we've been doing, but it wasn't until you came back from that meeting with Fox and Lycan and everyone around in the wider community that it hit me that it's fundamentally a story about community—that it is a show about circularity in such a large sense.
Carol Newhouse: And when I hear you say this, I think of trust. That's why I took that time, because those conversations were going on for a while, to take a look at you and think—intuitively, again, you know it wasn't calculated—I should talk more about this. You know what I mean? And that's that whole privacy and safety thing also, right? As I hear you talk, I think. Woooo! Ah, I did that. And there was a reason, like you're saying. I hadn't cognitively known the reason, but it was about what you're saying: I was trying to give voice to the look. Look at all this, you know? And it's so relational. And some of those people are artists as well, or creators, too. So you've got that piece.
Daniel Marcus: Well, it's just been such a a singular and special experience, and the nice thing is that we can talk about the exhibition having a lifetime, you know, but I feel like the three of us will be in touch for many more years than this exhibition is up on view at the Wex. So this for us, I think, is the beginning and the exhibition is just sort of one manifestation of this conversation. That's how it feels to me, at least.
Carmen Winant: Yeah, I can't imagine it any other way, although I do owe Carol a few phone calls and return emails. But I'm not going anywhere.
Melissa Starker: We hope you enjoyed this conversation between artist Carol Newhouse and Sharing Circles cocurators Daniel Marcus and Carmen Winant. For more information about this exhibition and all things Wex, go to wexarts.org. For the Wexner Center for the Arts, I’m Melissa Starker. Thanks for listening.
Top of page: Sharing Circles: Carol Newhouse and the WomanShare Collective, installation view at the Wexner Center for the Arts.