The brilliant sensitivity of the art show She Is is found in its inclusionary embracement of feminism. Feminism in this space is not a celebration of a selected few at the expense of marginalizing the rest, but rather, an attempt to capture the multiplicity of backgrounds and identities that more accurately encompasses what it is to be a woman. To truly enrich women, we must allow our differences of race, age, sexual identification, and orientation, to reign.
Curator Marina Dojchinov had one mantra in mind when she initially envisioned the exhibit: I am woman hear me roar. The fruit of her vision is this show, featuring the works of 20 female artists from all over the world. I had a chance to speak with many of these artists, who each shared with me not only their vision but also their journey in coming to acceptance with their individual terms of womanhood.
Adina Andrus is a Romanian-born artist who primarily works with copper. She has an affinity for rusty, copper-toned palettes because of its appearance of long age and deterioration—in fact, many of her works are inspired by artifacts of primitive, prehistoric figures. She describes her subjects as “a mythical heroine is making her way through trials to get to her goal. Her journey might sometimes seem aimless, meandering, but, forging forward, she finds beauty to enjoy, sadness to cry about, bridges to cross and crossroads to chose from.”
Katelyn White is Salt Lake City-born artist, interested in challenging representations of reality and hyperreality. Her photographs of floral paper cutouts are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers. “The sunflower is mine, in a way,” Van Gogh writes to his brother. From afar, her photographs appear painting-like, but upon closer examination, you can see the interplay of light and shadow that reveals its medium. White tests the relationship of different forms of dimensionality: the 3D cutouts have been flattened through the medium of photography, but its original three dimensionality remains visible, confounding the concept of depth.
Jean Chiang is an artist and writer interested in Chinese history of female foot binding, which was practiced till as late as the 20th century. Small feet were a standard of beauty, but hidden beneath this superficiality lay a deep-rooted patriarchy that sought to literally break the female body into obedience. Foot binding debilitated most of its subjects, and was a form of keeping women submissive, indoors, and dependent on their parents or spouse. Chiang explores this history in her ceramic work, The Golden Lotus.
On view at She Is is her installation piece titled Five of Hearts. The work is partly based on her open-heart surgery that took place in 2012. She uses paint, ceramics, and embroidery on canvas to depict the surgery and her healing process.Chiang contributes to the notion that womanhood is not a single, universal experience, but rather a collection of distinct experiences.
Debbie Dickinson is an art photographer, among many other occupations. She has an incredibly personable character, and has brought together many of the women featured in the show, such as artists Soheir Khashoggi, Petrina Ryan – Kleid, and Echo Shi Volla. Dickinson is influenced by her past and current relationships: her past business relationship as a model with fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld, and her current friendships formed through the art community. Her photographs represent three seasons, and her deep awareness and gratitude for Nature’s details thread her artworks together.
Cleopatra Browne is a painter from Trinidad preoccupied with memories of her native land. She paints scenes of traditional festivals and landscapes that are characteristic of her country. Her painting that resembles a window pane portrays a vibrant sunset paired with the purple sea, evoking nostalgia and romanticism for the Caribbean.
These 20 artists assert their feminism at times explicitly, with symbols of the female body and domesticity; and at times implicitly, with narratives of personal experiences. Inherent in all of their works is a dialogue between the history of female artists and the current ones who continue to echo, express, and reshape the remarkable journey of womanhood.
She Is is on view at One Art Space, a new exhibition space at 23 Warren Street in Tribeca. March 16-23. The opening was presented by Rockefeller Vodka.