The Sangers- Artists and Rebels

The Sangers – Artists and Rebels on Display May 1 for First Friday Art Walk

Exhibit features the artwork of Margaret, William and Alexander Sanger

As a part of First Friday Art Walk, May 1, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) will sponsor The Sangers – Artists and Rebels, an exhibition of the paintings, drawings and photographs of two generations of the Sanger family, Margaret, William and Alexander. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, took up watercolors after moving to Tucson, Arizona in the late 1930’s painting mostly desert scenes (photo attached). By contrast, her husband, William Sanger, was a professional painter as well as architect, and began displaying his work in the 1910’s (photo of painting attached). A frequent visitor to Maine, many of his canvases are stormy, dramatic and visceral. Alexander Sanger took up drawing and watercolors after his retirement as President and CEO of PPNYC in 2000. He paints, like his grandfather, on the Maine coast and also in New York City.

Artists and Rebels exhibit coincides with the 50 anniversary of PPNNE and the centennial anniversary of William Sanger’s arrest and imprisonment for distributing information about birth control. In early 1915, with his wife in exile in Europe, he was entrapped by an undercover police officer sent by Anthony Comstock into handing out one of his wife’s birth control pamphlets in violation of the Comstock Laws. His trial in September 1915 was a.  William challenged Comstock to his face, stating that, “it is the law, and not I, that is on trial here today.” He spent 30 days in the Tombs.

WHEN:   Friday, May 1, 2015
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM Reception with artist Alexander Sanger
(Press can preview the exhibit Wednesday, April 29 or Thursday, April 30)

WHERE:  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England,  443 Congress Street,              Portland

WHO:  The public is invited to view an exhibit of the artworks of Margaret Sanger, her husband William Sanger and their grandson Alexander Sanger, who will be in attendance.

Brief Bios of the artists:
Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966), born in Corning, New York to a sculptor and his wife was the sixth of eleven children. Educated through the eleventh grade, she became a kindergarten teacher and then a nurse. Married in 1902 to William Sanger, she had three children and by the end of 1910, was a recruiter for the Socialist Party and an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. Margaret participated in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912 and then the Paterson Silk Workers Strike of 1913.  In 1914, she published seven issues of her newspaper, The Woman Rebel, and was indicted for violating the Comstock Laws, which prohibited the giving out of, or advocating, contraceptive information. In 1916, she opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. and went to jail for 30 days. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Thirty years later, she conceived and organized the development of the birth control pill, and founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In 1965, the United States Supreme Court declared the Comstock Laws unconstitutional. Margaret died the following year, one week before her 87th birthday. She took up watercolors after she moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1937 for her health. Among her teachers were Ralph M. Pearson and Hobson Pittman, who delivered a eulogy at her funeral. She was part of the Tucson Watercolor Guild and took painting trips into the desert around Tucson and down into Mexico.  She also painted with DeWitt Peters on several trips to Haiti in the late 1940’s.

William Sanger, (1873-1961) painter and architect, was born in Berlin, Germany and was educated at Cooper Union. He later studied architecture at Atelier Masquery and painting at the Society Beaux Arts. William studied pictorial composition with Hugo Ballin, Edward Simons and Robert Blum. In 1915, he was arrested for handing out one of his wife’s birth control pamphlets and spent 30 days in the Tombs Prison. In May 1917 with a world war raging, William journeyed to Spain to see El Greco’s paintings first hand. He traveled around northwestern Spain and painted watercolors of the Gates of Glory at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He returned to New York in April 1918. William traveled to Maine in the 1920s, 30s and 40s to paint, venturing as far Down East as Eastport and Grand Manan Island. At his death in 1961, he was working on copper etchings for an illustrated biography of Thomas Paine.

Alexander Sanger was born in New York City, the 4 of 6 children to Edwina and Grant Sanger, his father Margaret Sanger’s second son. Educated at Andover and Princeton, he earned law and business degrees from Columbia and an advanced law degree from NYU. He practiced law as an associate and then partner of the firm of White & Case for 14 years, before setting out to help run a family manufacturing firm. In 1991, Alexander was named President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, a position he held until 2000. In that year he became, and remains, Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council as well as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund. In 2004 he wrote a book, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century.  He operates a website, AlexanderSanger.com where he writes on reproductive rights issues. He took up drawing in 2000, studying with Betty Edwards, and watercolor painting in 2011, taking classes with Joan Iaconetti, Charles Reid and Tim Clark. His photo essay, “The First Day of School”, was exhibited at the Waterman’s Community Center in North Haven, Maine in 2011.

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