NO MAN’S LAND: Re-Think the Nude

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Mira Dancy, Isa Genzken, and Mickalene Thomas use images of the female nude in unexpected ways.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Mira Dancy’s Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014

Mira Dancy (b. 1979, England) says that while her work “revolves around making paintings” her process often “extends into other forms,” including neon, vinyl, Plexiglas, video, and poetry.

In her work, Dancy is interested in creating images of women that “summon the implicit trauma that comes with subjecthood, the gaps that are forged between an inner and outer being.” Dancy’s nudes serve as explorations of broader ideas through the use of the female body. “The bodies I paint are not realistic,” she says. “I often think of them as wearing ‘nude suits.’ Their flesh is silver, blue, green, red, hot pink. The body is not the subject, but the medium.”

Isa Genzken’s Schauspieler, 2013

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Isa Genzken (b. 1948, Bad Oldesloe, Germany) once said, “I want to animate the viewers, hold a mirror up to them.” This attitude is evident in Schauspieler, from a series of life-size mannequins that “appear indistinguishable from those in department store windows,” but are “disrupted by lines of spray paint on their bodies, tape wrapped around their mouths, and other interferences.”

Schauspieler, meaning “actor,” critiques capitalism and commodification of the female body. The figure’s wig, glasses, and drawn markings—evocative of plastic surgery—point to the futility women face in their efforts to conform to an unobtainable physical ideal.

Through the “role reversal” of channeling art-viewers, Genzken challenges the public to think differently about representations of the female body.

Mickalene Thomas’s Whatever You Want, 2004

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, New Jersey) reproduces her own photographs as paintings with acrylic, enamel, collage, and rhinestones. Drawing inspiration from sources ranging from 19th-century French painting to 1970s Blaxploitation films, Thomas’s work attempts to “inject black women into the art historical canon.”

Whatever You Want features a black female protagonist in a pose referencing the portrayal of white female nudes in the Western painting tradition. Thomas’s figures typically meet the viewer’s gaze “while lounging in outlandishly patterned interiors and exuding an aggressive sexuality.” Their confrontational gazes contain “awareness: they exist, are present, and they are not going to let you go away easily.” By portraying “real women with their own unique history, beauty, and background,” Thomas broadens the representations of black women in art.

Reserve your spot to meet artist Mira Dancy at NMWA on December 13, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation. Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Modern Makers: Printed Wild

Inspired by the Makers Mart at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), the Modern Makers series highlights local women makers and their diverse companies.

Eva Calonder of Printed Wild in her studio; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

Eva Calonder at work; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

Company: Printed Wild
Maker: Eva Calonder

Printed Wild features a line of handcrafted goods with patterns inspired by nature. Eva Calonder fashions accessories like pouches, clutches, and tote bags as well as home décor products.

How did you get started?
I worked as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator for several years. I had the opportunity to re-think my career. I decided to combine my love for patterns and design into something more crafty. So I took classes at the Corcoran School of Art. I took sewing classes at Bits of Thread, a local sewing school, and then I registered for my first craft fair at the Hillyer Arts Space.

What does the word “maker” mean to you?
I think I was always more interested in making crafts than buying things. As far back as I can remember, my sisters and parents mostly received handmade presents from me.

What inspires you?
My main inspiration is nature. I spend a lot of time observing it to create patterns. I use Micron pens with very fine points to achieve the level of detail I’m looking for. I’m also influenced by trends in fashion. Because my drawings end up on bags, I try to pay attention to the latest accessory looks.

Do you have any insights to share as a female business owner?
There are so many strong and wonderful business women in Washington, D.C. Going to markets and meeting the makers is truly empowering. Share tips and support each other!

How do you begin a new project?
I always start from an original drawing for my patterns. I cut stencils, carve linoleum blocks, and draw very intricate nature scenes. After I have my design, I scan the pattern and edit it in Photoshop. Then the final design is transferred onto a silk screen. I also make all the bags for my designs, which involves cutting fabric or leather, ironing, and sewing.

What is your favorite work from NMWA’s collection?
I discovered Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes’s work. She and her husband opened an art school in 1899 to encourage artists to paint directly from nature. I also loved May Stevens’s SoHo Women Artists, which portrays an incredible group of New York City-based women artists from the 1970s. It’s an era that I would have liked to experience—plus, Stevens paints absolutely gorgeous patterns!

What inspired the limited-edition NMWA product?
I decided to go with what I do best, which is designing patterns inspired by nature. I drew directly from May Stevens’s painting in the museum’s galleries. I combined the patterns I saw in the painting and created one wild pattern.

Browse the Modern Makers products on Museum Shop’s website, including the limited-edition large foldable clutch and slim clutch by Printed Wild. Browse #NMWAMakers on Twitter to see more creations.

Happiest Hours: “Artists in Conversation” Invite You to Eat, Drink, and Connect

How can NMWA offer a distinctive type of artist talk program, one that engages attendees, activates artwork, and highlights the personalities of the guest speakers? The new “Artists in Conversation” program engages small audiences in the galleries during intimate group happy hour events.

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

The museum invited artists Rozeal, Analia Saban, Mira Dancy, and Suzanne McClelland for a series of three “Artists in Conversation” programs highlighting their respective works featured in the contemporary exhibition NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. In this new format, participants have time to explore the galleries, look closely at the artists’ works, enjoy food and drink, and engage in conversations with the artists and fellow attendees.

On October 18, 2016, Rozeal captivated participants in a discussion of her work Sacrifice #2: it has to last (after Yoshitoshi’s “Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era). Rozeal explored the influence of American hip-hop culture clichés on Japanese culture, namely ganguro, a sub-culture fascinated with dark tans and thickly applied contrasting makeup.

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal portrays her protagonists with natural hairstyles such as dreadlocks, knots, or Afros, whereas her villains appear more sexualized, with intricate weaves and extravagant embellishments. Brown’s sources span the gamut—from 19th century Japanese woodblock print techniques and masters to popular culture. She cited J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as an inspiration for her own use of elaborate details in her work. Influenced by comedians like Bernie Mac and Rob Schneider’s Deuce Bigalow character, Rozeal often incorporates Easter Eggs in the form of hidden, humorous references. She revealed, “I usually end up laughing quite a bit when I make these paintings.”

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

On November 11, 2016, Analia Saban introduced her works Acrylic in Canvas and Acrylic in Canvas with Ruptures: Grids. “While working on my MFA at the University of California in Los Angeles, I was curious why painting received more attention than sculpture,” explained Saban. By using acrylic and canvas in unexpected ways, she said, “My artwork opens up dialog about the boundaries between these two mediums.” Saban amused attendees with anecdotes about her trial-and-error artistic process. She recounted one night when a sculpture “exploded” and flooded her apartment with acrylic paint.

Join us for the delightful opportunity to talk with not just one—but two—NO MAN’S LAND artists in the same evening. On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, Mira Dancy and Suzanne McClelland will converse with small groups about their respective backgrounds, artistic process, and works. Find out what inspires McClelland’s large abstracted canvases and Dancy’s neon nudes. Reserve your spot today for the upcoming “Artists in Conversation” happy hour at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

—Olivia Lussi is the fall 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: December 2, 2016

Artsy writes, “Women working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men, before controlling for other factors.”

Artsy delves into the study published in the December 2016 issue of Social Currents. The survey of more than 33,000 people found that the “motherhood penalty” is not as prevalent in arts fields.

Front-Page Femmes

Elle interviews Fresh Talk speaker Emma Sulkowicz about her protest and performance art.

NO MAN’S LAND artist Helen Marten received the first Hepworth sculpture prize and is in the running for the Turner prize.

NPR highlights the Prado’s first solo exhibition dedicated to a female artist—17th century Flemish painter Clara Peeters.

Hyperallergic shares Cecily Brown’s works on paper and sketchbooks.

At the age of 83, artist Rose Wylieis having something of an art world moment.”

Guerrilla Girl Käthe Kollwitz says, “We are creative complainers, and our complaining has made a difference…we decided to give everyone a chance to complain.”

In her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, Mickalene Thomas says, “I wondered how I could…attack an art history that has never deemed black women important enough to put forth.”

Shirin Neshat and Vivian Beer are among the selected artists for the 2016 United States Artists fellows.

Bridget Riley designed a semi-transparent painting-drawing for a first-floor window in The Hague’s Gemeentemuseum.

Kimsooja creates an immersive, shimmering installation that “harnesses pure color and light as essential materials.”

Two Native American artists, Rebecca Nagle and Graci Horne, traveled to Standing Rock, North Dakota, to create a healing tent and address issues of sexual violence.

The Huffington Post shares Angela Fraleigh’s work transforming the passive female muses of art history into subversive female characters.

The first art fair at Miami Art Week is Conception Art Fair—owned and produced exclusively by women.

artnet explores PULSE Miami Beach and writes, “Strong feminist statements are to be found at every turn.”

Multidisciplinary artist Susan Goethel Campbell documented a year of weather in Detroit.

Justine Kurland publishes Highway Kind, a semi-autobiographical book that “pushes the limits of storytelling.”

One Google Doodle celebrated Little Women author Louise May Alcott.

Shows We Want to See

Kara Walker’s exhibition The Ecstasy of St. Kara at the Cleveland Museum of Art “shakes even the heartiest of souls.”

“How is it possible that I have never heard of this person?” asks one Hyperallergic writer when seeing photographer Kati Horna’s retrospective at the Americas Society.

Frida Kahlo at The Dali features 15 paintings, seven drawings, and numerous personal photographs.

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the School of Contemporary Art showcases Sasha Biryulin’s solo exhibition Just Love, Love, exploring the correlation between attractiveness and the significance of a man in today’s world.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Beyond the Fold: Colette Fu’s Pop-Ups

Did you know that early pop-up books were intended for adults and not children? The earliest examples of movable books illustrated scientific theories. It was not until the 18th century that these pop-up techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment.

Installation view of Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Installation view of  two of Colette Fu’s pop-ups in Wanderer/Wonderer; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Colette Fu (b. 1965, New Jersey) is an American photographer and pop-up paper engineer whose work reflects ideas of identity and its relation to society. The special exhibition Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu, on view at NMWA through February 26, 2017, features ten pop-up books that explore Fu’s personal experiences through combined images of people, architecture, and nature.

Four works from Fu’s earlier series “Haunted Philadelphia” explore some of the spooky landmarks of the historic city. She ventured into “dark tourism” attractions, including Fort Mifflin and the Byberry Mental Hospital, which inspired her large-scale pop-up books.

Colette Fu, Rodin Museum: Lovers, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” 2005–06; Artist’s book with color prints, Chinese Joss paper, and Philadelphia newspapers, 53 x 36 x 22 in. (open); NMWA; Museum purchase with funds donated by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia

Colette Fu, Rodin Museum: Lovers, from the series “Haunted Philadelphia,” 2005–06; Artist’s book with color prints, Chinese Joss paper, and Philadelphia newspapers, 53 x 36 x 22 in. (open); NMWA; Museum purchase with funds donated by Lynn Johnston and Julie Garcia; © Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

One work from Fu’s “Haunted Philadelphia” series, Rodin Museum: Lovers, was inspired by the  story of two lovers who secretly met at the museum’s garden but were separated and died tragically. Associating the story with the unhappy love affair of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, Fu created pop-up versions of their sculptures in the museum’s garden.

Colette Fu, Yi Costume Festival, from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–14; Artist’s book with color prints, yarn, and Chinese brocade fabric, 32 x 31 x 9 in. (open); Courtesy of the artist

Colette Fu, Yi Costume Festival, from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People,” 2008–14; Artist’s book with color prints, yarn, and Chinese brocade fabric, 32 x 31 x 9 in. (open); © Colette Fu; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Soon after graduating college, Fu traveled to China’s Yunnan Province where she reconnected with her family’s roots and found a sense of pride and identity that encouraged her to pursue her passion for photography and storytelling. Fu’s series “We are Tiger Dragon People” (2008-13) depicts the culture and traditions of Yunnan and other minority areas.

“As I grow older I start to understand the importance of preserving one’s identity and culture, and the significance of learning one’s roots,” says Fu. She traveled specifically to photograph ethnic minority groups as a way to preserve their identities and spread awareness of their existence. Tales passed on from experts and elders inspired Fu’s vivid representations. Her works share stories of folk festivals, ritual celebrations, and local cooking.

The pop-up Dai Food from the series “We are Tiger Dragon People” introduces viewers to the cooking of the Dai people, one of the ethnic minorities in the Yunnan province. Fu photographed a young Dai woman wearing a long skirt and bodice. She is shown with street-food specialties of the region such as grilled chicken, fish, pig tail, pork liver, and snails.

Fu blurs the line between the real and the imagined. Through her pop-up masterpieces, Fu says that she wants “eliminate boundaries between people, book, installation, photography, craft, and sculpture.”

Wanderer/Wonderer: Pop-Ups by Colette Fu is on view in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts through February 26, 2017.

—Francisca Rudolph is the fall 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Charismatic Canvases

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Artists Natasja Kensmil, Cecily Brown, and Suzanne McClelland test the expressive boundaries of painting.

Natasja Kensmil, Desperate Land, 2004; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Natasja Kensmil, Desperate Land, 2004; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Natasja Kensmil’s Desperate Land, 2004

Ominous themes of the human condition and the power of history are on view in painting by Natasja Kensmil (b. 1973, Amsterdam). Her somber colors and craggy brushwork reflect the dark nature of connections between religion, mythology, and power.

Kensmil created a series of work based on the Romanov family. In Desperate Land, she portrays the Russian mystic Rasputin in the center wearing a pointed hood, surrounded by followers. She obscured Rasputin’s features, allowing the scene to stand as an emblem for zealous fraternal organizations. Kensmil’s multilayered painting style evokes shadows and discord.

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999

Although paintings by Cecily Brown (b. 1969, London) appear to combine elements of abstract and figurative painting, she says, “I often avoid using the terms figuration and abstraction because I’ve always tried to have it both ways. I want the experience of looking at one of my paintings to be similar to the process of making the painting—you go from the big picture to something very intense and detailed, and then back again.”

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Cecily Brown, Service de Luxe, 1999; Oil on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In Service de Luxe, Brown depicts a reclining female nude. Through her loose brushwork—which she uses to call attention to the sensuous nature of oil paint itself—forms become imprecise but alluring. She says, “I think it’s almost impossible to not allude to something.”

Suzanne McClelland, Forever, 1991; Acrylic, gesso, and charcoal on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Suzanne McClelland, Forever, 1991; Acrylic, gesso, and charcoal on canvas; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Suzanne McClelland’s Forever, 1991

“Being trained in both, I have always loved and been attracted to abstraction in music and art,” says Suzanne McClelland (b. 1959, Jacksonville, Florida).

McClelland explores the links between audible language and its written image—in her work, letters curl around to mimic their acoustic form and reflect meaning. Beginning in the 1980s, she says, “I wanted the thoughts or the words that I had in my head, and the sounds that I heard in the city, to be subjects for my painting.”

On depictions of the female body, McClelland says, “It’s been painted and drawn and described and photographed so many times that I don’t feel the need to join in on reclaiming the female body when there’s the voice.”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017. Reserve your spot to meet artist Suzanne McClelland at NMWA on December 13, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Unexpected Materials

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Helen Marten and Mary Weatherford evoke meaning by juxtaposing unexpected mediums.

What’s On View?

Helen Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014

“A lot of people look at my work and think it’s an amalgam of junk, like a granny’s attic,” says Helen Marten (b. 1985, Macclesfield, England). Yet, “All of this stuff is murderously plotted.”

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Helen Marten, Under blossom: B. uses frenzy, 2014; Screen-printed suede, leather, waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marten’s Under blossom: B. uses frenzy includes a list of materials typical of her meticulously handcrafted assemblages: screen-printed suede, leather and waxed cotton, pressed Formica, ash, cherry, walnut, welded galvanized steel, glazed ceramic, strings, cast bronze and aluminum, and colored pencil on paper under resin.

In the center of this work, Marten printed an image of a skull reliquary layered with drawings of hands in positions suggestive of sign language, mudras, and massage. It also incorporates ceramic vessels and cast metal dishes resembling bird bottles and transmitters. Her pictorial puzzles invite the viewer to tease out new and multiple meanings, sparking associations of communication, connection, and discovery.

Mary Weatherford’s past Sunset, 2015

In contrast to Helen Marten’s enigmatic works made of disparate elements, Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) works with a sparer set of materials—paint and often neon—to create pieces that reference her experiences.

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mary Weatherford, past Sunset, 2015; Flashe and neon on linen; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Weatherford’s large-scale works are abstracted depictions of places she has seen. past Sunset subtly references landscapes near New York City. She painted with large brushes and sponges to achieve the canvas’s saturated blue-blacks and soft oranges, suggesting a late evening atmosphere.

Describing her use of neon, Weatherford says, “I know if I’m going to put a light on it; I paint it to have something missing . . . I know that the painting is empty and lacking enough that it’s going to need another element. Sometimes I get going, and I think, ‘Wow, that is a painting, and it doesn’t need anything else.’”

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: November 18, 2016

Contemporary photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be on view in East London at Whitechapel Gallery in Terrains of the Body (January 18–April 16, 2017).

The Art Newspaper reports that NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling says it is important “now, more than ever, to champion women at the forefront of contemporary art.”

Front-Page Femmes

Rad Women Worldwide is a collection of paper-cut illustrations that celebrate 40 women who have fought for equality.

Mashable shares hand-drawn work by five female Instagram artists exploring feminism, mental health, and loss.

New York magazine features an image by Deborah Kass with the headline “How to Live With, For, and Against Trump’s America.”

The only previous record of Frida Kahlo’s Niña Con Collar was a photograph taken by Kahlo’s friend, fellow artist Lola Álvarez Bravo.

Hyperallergic reviews the exhibition Feminism as Politics!

A New York gallery invites women artists to submit work for the exhibition Angry Women.

Kathy Prendergast’s latest exhibition contains more than 100 modified road atlases on tables.

Juliana Kasumu’s photography explores “narratives of West-African womanhood with a confident and curious lens.”

Elle highlights “15 Women Artists Who Are Changing Their World—and Ours.”

Tatiane Freitas repairs broken furniture with translucent acrylic.

Alessandra Rossi’s translucent layered sculpture of a young girl “almost vanishes against the horizon of Bondi beach.”

In her series “Warm Gun,” Natalie Baxter creates a collection of quilts and fabrics shaped into automatic weaponry to address masculinity, violence, and gun ownership.

Groundbreaking journalist Gwen Ifill, who covered the White House, Congress, and national campaigns during three decades, died on Monday at the age of 61.

A crowdfunding effort raises money to restore and re-release more than a dozen movies made in the U.S. by female directors between 1910 and 1929.

Although women are winning top literary prizes more often, novels in which the main character is female win far fewer prizes than novels with a male protagonist.

Prominent women authors react to the U.S. election results.

Lead actresses of Good Girls Revolt joined Eleanor Holmes Norton and Lynn Povich for a panel about the 1970 sexual-discrimination class-action suit by 46 female researchers at Newsweek.

Shows We Want to See

The Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska features NO MAN’S LAND artist Hayv Kahraman’s recent work representing “her first memories of war-torn Iraq.”

Mickalene Thomas: Do I Look Like a Lady? on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) presents silkscreened portraits alongside an installation inspired by 1970s domestic interiors, in addition to a two-channel video.

The Agnes Martin retrospective at the Guggenheim “traces her practice as she developed and refined a format to express her singular vision.”

Corita Kent: Spiritual Pop at the Portland Art Museum includes about 50 prints spanning the career of the nun, artist, teacher, and activist.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

NO MAN’S LAND: Fragmented Bodies

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making.

Josephine Meckseper, American Leg, 2010; Mannequin leg, hosiery, glass, and mirror; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Josephine Meckseper, American Leg, 2010; Mannequin leg, hosiery, glass, and mirror; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Josephine Meckseper, Wangechi Mutu, Solange Pessoa, and Marlene Dumas integrate fragmented and constructed bodily forms in their works.

What’s On View?

Josephine Meckseper’s American Leg, 2010

“I see my work as a call for street activism,” says Josephine Meckseper (b. 1964, Lilienthal, Germany). “My aim is to present consumer display systems that have an auto-critique built within.” In her series of sculptures formed from consumer products, Meckseper reflects on the subversive power behind commercialism.

With its mirrored base, American Leg evokes the glamorous presentation of banal objects in retail spaces—while reflecting the legs of visitors standing nearby. This sculpture’s glass vitrine references store-front displays that are often smashed during periods of civil unrest.

Wangechi Mutu’s The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi) blends watercolor with collaged photo clippings and gold leaf to build biomorphic forms that sometimes merge into female figures. Mutu’s work often celebrates the female body. She says, “Females carry the marks, language, and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.” Her constructed bodies often incorporate images that mark war and injury, but the collaged elements in The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start depict the natural world, alluding to the Garden of Eden or a mythical, primordial time.

Wangechi Mutu, The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008; Watercolor, gold leaf, and collage on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Wangechi Mutu, The Evolution of Mud Mama from Beginning to Start, 2008; Watercolor, gold leaf, and collage on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Solange Pessoa’s Hammock, 1999–2003

In her large-scale sculptures, Solange Pessoa (b. 1961, Ferros, Brazil) combines elemental materials and abstract shapes to develop a range of organic associations and psychological moods.

Solange Pessoa, Hammock, 1999–2003; Fabric, earth, and sponges; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Solange Pessoa, Hammock, 1999–2003; Fabric, earth, and sponges; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

In Hammock, fabric pouches resemble proliferating biological growths. By suspending the sculpture from two points, Pessoa emphasizes the weight of the pouches’ contents, whether a biological substance or cultural history and meaning. She notes that “physicality,” which she achieves though scale, density, and abundance, is essential to her art.

Marlene Dumas, Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996; Ink and metallic acrylic on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marlene Dumas, Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996; Ink and metallic acrylic on paper; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Marlene Dumas’s Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again, 1996

Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town, South Africa) frequently finds inspiration in newspaper and magazine photos. “Yes, I paint portraits and I use the human figure, but actually I want to paint what you cannot see,” says Dumas. “More the spirit of things, or the relationships and the dialogue between them.”

Dumas’s figure in Oh, Oh, Oh, Not Again is arranged for maximum drama against an empty background. In a subdued and eerie palette, the image on the paper seems to appear out of almost nothing. Ink and metallic acrylic bleed together to form a haunting expression.

Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Modern Makers: Stitch & Rivet

Inspired by the Makers Mart at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), the Modern Makers series highlights local women makers and their diverse companies.

Katie Stack, owner of Stitch & Rivet; Photo: NMWA, Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry

Katie Stack, owner of Stitch & Rivet; Photo: NMWA, Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry

Company: Stitch & Rivet
Maker: Katie Stack

Katie Stack owns the studio and retail shop of Stitch & Rivet. Based in Washington D.C., Stitch & Rivet is a canvas and leather bags and accessories company. The business offers a collection of handmade products, including handbags, unisex wallets, belts, small pouches, and other items for everyday use.

What does the word “maker” mean to you?
Being a maker means, to me, the act of creating with your hands.

How did you get started?
I started making things as a small child. My parents tell stories about me in the middle of the night. They would get up and hear me making noise in my room and they would come in and say, “What are you doing?” . . . and I would say, “I am making things.” When it came time for me to go to college I studied costume design and pattern making and started making things professionally.

What inspires you?
At Stitch & Rivet I get my influences for the designs from customers. Customers come in and say, “Hey! I am looking for this thing that does this and I can’t find it anywhere. What would be your take on it?” I do a lot of my work based on my desires for products that I’m not finding in the marketplace. I like to design things that are useful and have a lot of functionality.

What is your favorite work from NMWA’s collection?
My favorite work from NMWA’s collection would have to be one of the Alma Thomas paintings. She was an artist who worked in Washington D.C. and I admire how she used color in such an impactful way.

Can you name a woman artist who inspires you?
The female artist that has inspired me the most is Julie Taymor. She is a costume designer, director, and puppet maker. I saw her speak when I was a freshman in college. I was very impressed that she was a woman working in a male-dominated industry.

What inspired the NMWA limited-edition product?
The NMWA limited-edition product was inspired by the burgeoning Made in D.C. project and the museum itself. The National Museum of Women in the Arts focuses entirely on women’s achievements and this small pouch is a product that we designed together to support that important work.

What else do you want readers to know?
It is important for us as a society to inspire young female artists to continue to produce work and to find their own voices. We should help female artists express themselves creatively and assertively.

Browse the Modern Makers products on Museum Shop’s website, including the limited-edition waxed-canvas utility pouch by Stitch & Rivet. Browse #NMWAMakers on Twitter to see more creations.