Courtesy of Michele Pred
People often stop to stare at the American flag displayed in the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York City. With its vibrant red, white and blue circles, the flag itself is a showstopper, but it isn’t until onlookers step closer that they discover the stars and stripe were created using 1,443 birth control pills.
Part of Oakland artist Michele Pred’s new series on reproductive rights, the flag, like her other works, uses unconventional materials to encourage people to react and comment on a variety of contemporary social issues. An East Bay native and mother of a 3-year-old daughter, Pred has created hundreds of distinctive art pieces that have been shown throughout the world.
“My art reflects the issues that I’m touched by,” Pred says. “If my art inspires people to have conversations about these topics and perhaps develop a different viewpoint, then
I consider it a success.”
Born in San Francisco and raised in Berkeley and Stockholm, Pred remembers lively conversations around the family dinner table with her father, the late Allan Pred, a renowned American geographer and professor at University of California, Berkeley.
“His politics and ideas definitely influenced my artwork,” Pred says. Although she initially decided to major in photography, Pred fell in love with art as a student at the California College of the Arts in Oakland where she now teaches.
At CCA, Pred learned to use a variety of materials to create works of art.
“After Sept. 11, 2001, I became interested in the items that were being confiscated by airport security,” she says. “There were sentimental and personal items that were now being viewed as weapons and taken from passengers by security personnel.”
After many months of cajoling, Pred convinced airport security into allowing her to access the many ownerless items, including corkscrews, knitting needles, scissors and cigarette lighters. She transformed them into a series of artworks entitled Confiscated: Homeland Security.
“The pieces are almost like a time capsule illustrating how dramatically life changed after 9/11,” Pred says, pointing to a blue heart made entirely of cigarette lighters confiscated from the airport. “This body of work really resonated with me and helped to catapult my career.”
Pred says her art begins with an idea and is followed by finding the proper materials, a chore which often amounts to a scavenger hunt, as in the case of the birth control pills where Pred put out requests on social media asking for expired and unwanted pills.
“In many ways, my work is similar to an investigative journalist,” Pred says. “As I work to complete a piece, I meet people and go to places, I would never have gone otherwise.”
Michele Pred’s work can be viewed online at www.michelepred.com and at the Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary St., Suite 418, San Francisco, www.jackfischergallery.com, or in New York at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, www.nancyhoffmangallery.com. She has a solo exhibition of her Homeland Security series — (In)Security — planned Nov. 13–Dec. 14 at the Thompson Art Gallery at San Jose State University.