Controversial artist/activist Niki Johnson will be the featured guest at the 30th Annual Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic (PPHP) East End Benefit on Saturday, June 2 at the LTV Studios in Wainscott. Johnson will speak to the vital role artists have in addressing social change. To that, her provocative piece, Hills & Valleys, created from signage from the six Planned Parenthood health centers closed under Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker administration, will make its East Coast debut. Hills & Valleys makes a strong statement about Congress’ assaults on women’s reproductive rights.
"I am thrilled to bring Hills & Valleys to a new audience,” stated Johnson. “Women’s reproductive rights are under attack like never before and access to affordable care is jeopardized. Like me, many of my friends have not been able to afford health care. Putting off appointments. Waiting until payday to take care of themselves. Fearing shame in the exam room on top of the bill. That is the motivation behind Hills & Valleys.”
“I am excited for our supporters to hear from Ms. Johnson and see Hills & Valleys,” said Vincent Russell, President & CEO, PPHP. “The piece is inspiring and conveys an important message about the current state of reproductive health in our country.”
Proceeds from PPHP’s 30th Annual East End Benefit fund the organization’s health care and education programs on Long Island’s East End. Regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, or their ability to pay, PPHP provides care, no matter what. The overwhelming majority of PPHP’s patients are economically disadvantaged women; nearly 61% report incomes that place them at or below the Federal Poverty Limit. For many of these patients, PPHP provides their only access to primary health care services. The majority of health services PPHP provides include family planning – annual gynecological exams, contraception and contraceptive counseling, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, menstrual cycle irregularities and other reproductive health problems – as well as STI testing and treatment, HIV testing and counseling, abortion services, prenatal care, and menopause management.
“Many women in my life have had an abortion,” Johnson continued. “We’ve sat together, holding hands in the waiting room. A new, uninterrupted shot at the future ahead. I am one of these women.” In addressing the inspiration behind the artwork, Johnson said, “I began collecting signage from defunded Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin in the fall of 2013. As a lifelong supporter of Planned Parenthood and women’s rights, I recognized the aluminum signage as a powerful symbol of love and loss. I woke up to a rough drawing of a pair of women’s hips standing in front of a quilt. Across her pubic mound rose a vajazzle of the US Capitol.”
This is not Johnson’s first controversial piece of art. In 2013, Johnson completed her best-known work, Eggs Benedict, a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI woven out of condoms. The piece was created as a protest piece when the Pope refused to advocate for the use of condoms against the spread of HIV and AIDS. “Eggs Benedict exists because I believe it is my responsibility as an able-bodied person living in our current cultural climate to incite further discussion about the direction our leaders point us in. As an artist, my thoughts manifest in my artwork best. It’s a pretty simple relationship.” Eggs Benedict garnered 500 comments within hours after an online article was posted about it in a local newspaper. is in the permanent collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Tickets and sponsorships for PPHP’s East End Benefit start at $250 and must be purchased in advance by visiting www.pphp.org/eastend2018. For more information, please call Jenifer Van Deinse, PPHP’s Director, Development at (631) 240-1128 or [email protected].