Feminine Space, Strength, & Sarcasm: Chelsea Art Exhibitions November ‘17
This month, several galleries in Chelsea showcase female artists who take inspiration from the personal and political place of women in today’s world. Artists on display at three selected galleries draw on what interests them about their own femininity, empowering them to reimagine identity within contested cultural and socio-political contexts.
Jane Lombard Gallery – 519 W 19th St.
At Jane Lombard Gallery, “Modern Domestics” (Nov. 2 – Dec. 21) offers the manifold attitudes of artists Ashley Lyon and Jane Bustin toward the domestic setting and its traditionally feminine association. Lyons has created precise ceramic renderings of soft household items such as pillows and blankets, producing sensations undulating between comfort, warmth, solidity and fragility. The same investigational approach to household materiality is taken by Bustin, who considers the interplay of contrasting textiles in her minimalist compositions. The artist combines traditional household materials with contemporary found materials, balancing her audience on the fine line between objects themselves and the sentimental warmth we ascribe to them. These artists take a fresh deconstructive approach to the “uniquely feminine domain” as they fabricate a more acute awareness of the emotional, tactile household.
Jack Shainman – 513 W 20th St.
When Hayv Kahraman’s family fled Baghdad during the first Gulf War, they carried only survival necessities and a mahaffa — a hand-woven palm leaf fan. In her solo show “Re-weaving Migrant Inscriptions” (Oct. 26 – Dec. 20) Kahraman extracts these personal memories of trauma and dislocation through a cathartic process yielding a visually and conceptually poignant body of work. By isolating and reweaving tumultuous female figures, she not only explores how gender and racial power dynamics at large point to the horror of violent militarization, but also how her own personhood as an Iraqi woman in the United States “is at once fetishized and feared.” This exhibition is a testament to the role cherished objects can occupy for injured memories, bodies, and cultures.
P.P.O.W. – 535 W. 22nd St.
P.P.O.W. recently housed Robin F. Williams’ show “Your Good Taste is Showing,” in which she surveys the contradiction and absurdity that saturates modern feminine identity. The women of Williams’ paintings assume uncomfortable, often ultra-sexual poses, recalling 1970s adverts and art historical imagery alike. The artist subverts these influences, reimagining traditional depictions of female desire and sexiness in order to turn viewer attention to the contrived illusory nature of current portrayals of female sexuality. Her subjects embody the same contradiction that many women face today, making this exhibition an ironic spectacle of female agency.
Words by Michelle Costanza