Lead singer for Omaha based rock group The Mynabirds, Laura Burhenn launched an online portrait project earlier this year to honor modern day women warriors in the community. The project is entitled The New Revolutionists and was inspired after a trip to Washington, DC where she toured a Richard Avedon exhibit in 2008, around the time that President Barack Obama was elected. With this year being an election year, Burhenn thought it would be perfect timing to draw attention to women who are making a difference in their communities.
To feature a revolutionary woman in the community, complete a nomination form via the website. It is then the nominee’s responsibility to have a black and white portrait taken of them and complete a profile that becomes viewable when a site visitor clicks on the portrait. Portraits do not need to be professionally done. Some portraits on the site were taken with cell phone cameras.
Burhenn explained how the project began in a recent interview while touring through Chicago with The Mynabirds:
One of the photos [at the Richard Alevedon exhibit] was called Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). It’s a photo of older women in starch satin gowns with tiaras and sashes, they’re members of DAR. I thought, ‘Wow, that title doesn’t seem to go with that photo.’ I was thinking of women who were revolutionary, and that wasn’t the image I had in mind…I started writing a protest record [‘Generals’] about revolution- what it means, what I’m angry about, and trying to move that into positive energy. When we went to do the album art, I was thinking we should do Alvedon style photos, but I think they should be warrior portraits…I was thinking of photos from the Civil War era and other photos of iconic women that I love: Yoko Ono, Nina Simone, Georgia O’Keeffe…We did a few of them, and then I thought this should be a whole portrait series.
She later continued:
Women aren’t quick to claim their power and their revolutionary ways. You hear, ‘Oh, I’m just a mom, or I’m just a teacher. I’m just a doctor. I’m just doing what I do.’ Often times women don’t recognize how truly remarkable they are…I think women have been shocked in a positive way to be honored by family members or friends or even strangers about how inspiring they are to them.
The project received some early criticism about the diversity of women featured in a Huffington Post article, but Burhenn shed further insight by explaining:
The first day it was live, the Huffington Post covered it…I kind of wished they waited to write the article because there were maybe only 20 women [profiled] when the site launched…I decided to start small…So there was initially some criticism because the women were kind of homogenous- a lot of artists, a lot of mostly white women from Omaha [where I live], and that’s not what the project is meant to be. It’s meant to be very diverse in terms of what people are doing with their lives and in terms of their background.
Michele Stander-Reimer was recently nominated but not yet profiled on The New Revolutionists website for her work in Milwaukee on projects such as SlutWalk Milwaukee and Never Alone Milwaukee.
For more information about The New Revolutionists visit TheNewRevolutionists.org.