O’Hanlon Hosts Feminist Artist

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Marin County artist Marguerite Elliot creates steel sculptures that often incorporate the natural world. Photo courtesy Marguerite Elliot

Innovative multimedia artist Marguerite Elliot is not afraid to let the sparks fly. In fact, it’s one of her favorite aspects of working primarily with welded steel to create massive sculptures. 

“I love the transformation of the steel,” Elliot says. “How the intense heat, which is 3,200 degrees, can melt the steel and you can bend it, shape it, do whatever you want with it. I love the process.”

Beginning in the 1970s in Los Angeles, Elliot has cut a trailblazing path in the art world. Based in Fairfax for more than 20 years, she is still hailed not only as a mixed-media artist who exposes social and environmental issues through her art, but also as a member of the feminist art movement that shook up the art world and which continues to address urgent issues.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Elliot will appear in an online conversation, “Still Unleashing the Power,” and will join Elizabeth Addison, her artistic colleague from the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art, to discuss women artists Elliot knew back in the 1970s and the current wave of feminist artists. Elliot will also share examples of her work and examples of interesting artists whose work tackles the pressing issues of the day—ranging from wage inequalities to the immigrant detention camps at the U.S. border.

O’Hanlon Center for the Arts presents the Zoom talk in conjunction with the center’s online exhibit, “Women Artists Making Their Mark.” Available to view now in a virtual gallery, this exhibit is the center’s 12th annual art show devoted to women artists, and this year’s exhibit focuses on honoring pioneer women artists who paved the way for others.

“What we did was important, and what women artists do now is important,” Elliot says. “What artists bring to the table to inspire, to guide or just to highlight what’s going on.”

On the forefront of feminist art, Elliot first gained attention as a founding member of the Los Angeles–based Woman’s Building art organization in 1973, and her work from that time recently joined the archives of the Getty Research Institute at the world-renowned Getty Center in L.A.

“We addressed issues that had been taboo in the art world,” Elliot says. “Such as sexuality, work issues, motherhood; all kinds of things that had never been talked about.”

Elliot has worked with steel since the 1980s, and uses industrial materials to forge art that speaks to hot-button issues ranging from homelessesness to environmental preservation.

Recently, Elliot has been working on a sculpture series she calls “Sentinels.” The series features large steel towers, 10 to 12 feet tall, that resemble cell-phone towers. These Sentinels are often painted a striking red color, and are adorned with gold-leaf and head pieces that speak to the towers’ environmental setting. One such tower, “California Sentinel: Eco-Warrior,” can be seen at the Fairfax Parkade.

“A sentinel is somebody who stands guard, keeps watch or bears witness,” Elliot says. “I feel like we have to bear witness to what is going on in our world today.”

“Still Unleashing the Power” features Marguerite Elliot in conversation on Zoom Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 5:30pm. Admission by donation. ohanloncenter.org.

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