William Weege, “Take a Letter to Mary,” 1971

William Weege, an American print-making artist, born in Milwaukee in 1935, is known mostly for his political posters created in the late 1960’s to the late 1970’s—a monumental time in American history.  Weege generally works with silk-screening, photography, and hand-made paper.  His piece Take a Letter to Mary, created in 1971, is in the permanent collection at Oklahoma State University.  The piece is a beautiful 23” by 18” print of a woman who appears to be partially nude.  In the background, trees and open sky are displayed. The sky is composed of colorful, floral-like patterns that give a very psychedelic feel, which is particularly reminiscent of the time in which the print was created.   The colors give off a “hippie” vibe, which is exaggerated with the inclusion of the trees in the background and the seemingly liberated and gypsy-like woman.

William Weege, "Take a Letter to Mary," 1971. Screenprint with flocking, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

Weege seems to be celebrating the sexuality and liberation of women in his piece.  The female subject in Take a Letter to Mary is standing in a very grandiose and free-spirited manner.  This sense of “grandiosity” is heightened by the angle in which the photo was taken.  From a distance it appears as if the woman is actually a huge statue that towers over the trees. Weege uses a copper-like tone to cover the woman, which makes the woman seem even more statuesque. Weege is celebrating the female body by showing its beauty.  The woman in his piece is covered in shingles that cover the most intimate parts of the body, while still showing the beautiful shape the body inhabits.  Take a Letter to Mary is similar to AfriCOBRA artist Wadsworth Jarrell’s piece, Revolutionary, in its use of color patterns and the proud nature of the female subject.  In Revolutionary, the colors are incredibly vivid and seem to jump off the page.  The bright colors, similar to the colors used in Weege’s piece, are also reminiscent of the 1970’s.  Both pieces feature a strong-willed woman.  Both women appear to be proud of their femininity.  The women in the pieces are fighting against the social expectations of women during that time.  This is shown with how each woman wears her hair.  Angela Davis, featured in Jarrell’s piece, is wearing her hair in an afro, which is representative of her African-American and feminine liberation.  The woman in Weege’s piece wears her hair down. Her hair appears to be wild and natural, which could also represent her liberation and free spirit.

Wadsworth Jarrell, "Revolutionary," 1971. Acrylic on canvas, private collection.

Take a Letter to Mary is an aesthetically beautiful piece of political art.  The use of colors, patterns, and subjectivity of a woman is a successful method of representing the feminist movement that began in the 1970’s and of the general civil rights movement during that time.  This work is an important piece of political art history that deserves to be proudly displayed for the public to view.

Rachel Self is a student in ART 4613: Art Since 1960 this semester (Spring 2011).

About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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