The 1970’s were pivotal in the Women’s Rights Movement in America that opened a Pandora’s box of feminist issues that led to the plethora of gender agendas that plague us today. This decade of social revolution and anti-war protest led to legalized abortion, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment and major Civil Rights legislation. More recently the gay community has been successful in promoting same sex rights epitomized in the Supreme Court decision of 2015 that legalized gay marriage. The current #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on the victims of sexual abuse leading to more acceptance of their credibility. As the pendulum swings both ways arguments are raised based on different value systems. On the one hand men are still harassing and raping women who face injustice. On the other, powerful men have been brought down without due process. The progress in
gender identity awareness has been pushed to absurd limits with some people claiming the younger population is being forced to accept ambiguous and uncomfortable norms.
The status of women in the arts today has greatly improved since the 1970s with the feminist artists now featured in major museum exhibitions. These pioneering artists addressed women’s social roles, sexuality and feminine spirituality in Goddess imagery. Their stand for female empowerment was instrumental in expansion of art forms and new media.
In recent issues of Scene4, I presented a sequence of scenes from my screenplay THE GODDESS IN EXILE, a fictionalized account of the brief life of Cuban born artist Ana Mendieta that deals with themes of wife murder, the natural versus the man-made world and the mythic feminine. Ana Mendieta’s death at age 36 became a scandal that rocked the art world at its zenith making headlines. My screenplay adapts the basic story of her alleged murder by her husband, prominent minimalist artist Carl Andre, who was acquitted by a judge without a jury and explores the premise ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. My character Elvira creates art that celebrates the divine feminine while her husband Hans arranges geometric forms in abstract spaces. The action takes place in the vivid milieu of the New York City art scene in the 1970's, capturing the excitement of the elite intelligentsia with character
vignettes from the highest echelons of American artists and art world doyennes.
In this sequence after Elvira’s murder her best friend Joanne gains support from her Goddess Circle friends who protest inequality in the art world in front of the New York City criminal courthouse. Joanne then stops at a newsstand to pick up a copy of her article in the Village Voice that her art publisher refused. Hans visits his friend Frank who gives him money for bail. Prosecuting attorney Schmidt visits Elvira’s studio where Joanne tries to prove that Elvira couldn’t have landed on their back if she jumped from the window. When her friend Tony visits she seduces him in exchange for being silent on his confidences about Hans incriminating phone call.
THE GODDESS IN EXILE
149 - INT. GODDESS LECTURE HALL - MID AFTERNOON
A group of about 150 women gather in the hall preparing for a rally in support of ELVIRA and art by women in front of the NYC criminal courthouse. They carry posters that read:
"HANS WHIT IS GUILTY - DON'T LET ELVIRA LIVE IN VAIN",
"THE GODDESS LIVES - BUT NOT IN NYC GALLERIES",
"THE ART WORLD IS CORRUPT",
"MURDER IN ART MAKES PROFIT",
"WHITE MALE DOMINANCE IN THE ART WORLD MUST GO",
"WIFE MURDER - THE NEXT AVANT GARDE",
"ELVIRA WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN".
JOANNE pushes her way through the crowd to the podium. A WOMAN approaches her.
Did your article get published?
No one will touch it.
Do you think our rally will end the "quiet' conspiracy to acquit HANS?
There's been a "quiet" conspiracy against women since
the cave man. Do you think it will end now?
Give me a copy of your article. My friend is a top editor at the VILLAGE VOICE.
JOANNE gives her article to WOMAN 2. She speaks from the podium and the women quiet down.
We know there is no justice in the courts.
But there can be in the streets.
The court is ruled by law.
But we are ruled by the truth.
Wife murder is done in the dark.
It's up to us to turn on the light.
Onward to the court.
The girls file out of the hall on their way to rally at the Courthouse. On their way the women talk.
Out of 100 artists represented by New York's top galleries, only 10 are women.
Elvira was just beginning to blossom.
Ruby gave her a rave review in the Times and suggested that she be nominated for the Venice Biennale.
Well, let's make sure her work gets in. They could mount a memorial exhibit.
All the GIRLS stop and join in.
Onward and upward to the Biennale!
150 - EXT. NYC STREETS - DAY
A few days later, the sounds of the women chanting still ring in her ears. JOANNE stops at a newsstand and pays for a copy of the VILLAGE VOICE.
CLOSE ON the headline article with picture of HANS. "ART WORLD ELITE COVERUP WIFE MURDER." by JOANNE HARRIS.
151 - INT. FRANK SMITH'S STUDIO - AFTERNOON
FRANK SMITH is seated on a high stool in a work area of his loft in front of a large red canvas. HANS in collapsed on a low director's chair. FRANK is very agitated and moves his hands and arms abruptly.
Jesus, Hans, I never thought it would come to this, never. You're indicted. You have to face trial.
FRANK turns around to look at his painting.
What do you think, Hans?
He turns around and studies HANS slumped form.
You can't think about anything else. It's eating you alive. I've got the check. Two Hundred and fifty thousand bail, right here.
FRANK takes the check out his pants pocket and hands it to HANS who studies it dispassionately.
It doesn't look good, asking for charity at MAX’s, Talk to me - confide in me - you can trust me.
HANS makes a gesture and can't speak.
Do you have a good lawyer?
Yes, a spic dude. I thought he might appeal to minority jurors.
Tell your buddies not to come to trial. You'll look more vulnerable - innocent.
FRANK gets up and puts his arms around HANS' neck.
Good Hans - good boy.
152 - INT. ELVIRA'S STUDIO - SUMMER AFTERNOON
In a last ditch effort to prove her point of view, JOANNE has invited the prosecuting attorney, Mr. SCHMIT, [a slender man in his early forties with gray hair and steel rimmed glasses], up to ELVIRA'S studio to witness an experiment she has designed. JOANNE has constructed five elementary statutes (15' high) of women in soft earthenware clay. As she and the attorney stand by the window JOANNE explains her experiment.
How could Elvira step onto this ledge, jump and land with her back on the roof below. Unless she jumped backwards, she would land her face down.
JOANNE then proceeds to push four clay forms, on back of which she has painted a yellow stripe, out the window. The pathetic pieces fall and there are four yellow stripes on the roof seen from the window above.
Good thinking Joanne, but watch this.
MR. SCHMIT takes the last statute and instead of pushing it from behind, he gives it a slight twist to the shoulder. As the form falls, the twist rotates the figure face up and it falls with its back to the roof.
It is possible that she went forward, twisted in an effort to stop herself and the twist rotated her body face up.
I was her closest friend. She was never suicidal. She never sought therapy. She was preparing to leave Hans the next day.
153 - INT. JOANNE STUDIO APT. - NIGHT
JOANNE'S studio apartment is decorated in baize and blue with simple modern furniture in light wood.
JOANNE, wearing a simple white cotton robe, is seated at her desk sipping a glass of white wine and studying ELVIRA'S secret diary. She looks at her sketches from her trip to the Amazon, which consist of realistic renditions of natural forms that evolve into hybrids of woman and nature. JOANNE hears the SOUND of the doorbell ring and goes to the buzzer.
Who is it?
It's me, Tony.
JOANNE takes two glasses from her kitchen cupboard and a half finished bottle of wine out of the refrigerator. The doorbell rings and JOANNE lets TONY in.
What do you want to see me for?
Joanne. I'm sorry, did I disturb you?
She guides him to her kitchen table, they sit and she pours him some wine. TONY coughs, then takes a swig of the wine.
I'm going on the stand tomorrow. I'm afraid.
Mr. Schmit said they can prove you erased part of the tape, what are you going to say?
That maybe I erased it... not thinking it was evidence - then I realized that and I stopped.
Maybe you won't go to jail for perjury and you can take care of Sue and the baby.
TONY, nervous, gets up from the table.
I loved her too. more than Hans. I was close to Hans to be part of the scene that maybe he would help me become successful.
He gave you a lot of money...
I didn't ask for it.
Neither am I!
TONY is astounded at her come on. He looks at her shocked. He is embarrassed by the look in her eyes. He goes over to her and kneels. He kisses her legs then puts his head in her lap and starts to cry. JOANNE caresses his head.