This triptych watercolor was painted in 1987 in response to the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. Bork’s view the U.S. Constitution included no right to privacy. His view represented a swing to the right and there was an aggressive campaign mounted against his appointment. Senator Ted Kennedy declared from the Senate floor: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, [and] schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution…”
Reproductive choice means that the right to reproductive choice refers to a woman’s capacity to decide whether or not to have children, whether or not to bear or terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and the sort of family planning and contraceptive technique she desires.
I was 34 years old in 1987. I was a working-class woman in graduate school for art. It was clear to me that I was only able to go to university because I could control my reproductive health, and that Roe vs Wade made the range of choices I had much safer. I knew I would have done anything to stay in school.
This painting envisions the power to achieve and retain personal autonomy no matter what….
The figure is in a disintegrating room with walls made of hangers. You can see the phases of the moon in the sky, and a caduceus of snakes with the rod removed. She wears a mouthless mask, as well as a religious habit and surgical gloves. She holds a hanger and gazes into a pool where her naked self reached back toward her for comfort.
It seems many today would again have us live in Robert Bork’s America….
My visual concerns run the gamut from careful study to poetic, symbolic and sometimes political representations of nature and human nature.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Helen Klebesadel is an artist, an educator, and an activist. Raised in rural Spring Green, Wisconsin, she maintains her art studio in Madison, Wisconsin. Best known for her environmental and women centered watercolors, Helen’s watercolors push the traditional boundaries of the medium in scale, content, and technique. Ranging in size from the intimate to the monumental, her paintings are transparent watercolors on paper and canvas.
Klebesadel earned her BS, a certificate in Women’s Studies, and an MFA in art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally. The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum presented her first solo museum exhibition in 1994. Helen believes good collaboration can be a model for world survival. It is both the hardest and most rewarding creative work she has done. She is co-facilitator of the Exquisite Uterus Project with Green Bay artist Alison Gates. The Project, focusing on reproductive justice, has over 200 participants from thirty states and four countries. Since 2014 she has exhibited and expanded upon another collaborative project created with artist Mary Kay Neumann called The Flowers Are Burning: An Art and Climate Justice Project. This project uses their art and website to address current climate change issues.
Helen Klebesadel is a past national president of the national Women’s Caucus for Art (1994-96). Her near four-decade academic career included teaching and administering programs in art and women and gender studies at Lawrence University, Beloit College, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She continues to teach privately.
© Helen Klebesadel