Art Fix Friday: August 25, 2017

Recent articles from Forbes and Variety rank the highest salaries among Hollywood actors and actresses, revealing that white men earn far more for their roles than women and people of color. Emma Stone, the highest-earning actress, only earns 38.2% of Mark Wahlberg’s salary.

The earning gap has decreased for television actresses over the age of 40, perhaps due, in part, to the rise in women-driven shows. The prevalence of male-dominated franchises offers actors more space for salary negotiations than their female counterparts.

Front-Page Femmes

Hyperallergic raves about Magnetic Fields, the first major exhibition in the U.S. of work by women of color working in the field of abstraction, on view at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Magnetic Fields opens at NMWA on October 13, 2017.

A recent biography by Marie Darrieussecq examines the life of Paula Modersohn-Becker, whose unapologetic depictions of the female body subverted voyeuristic male interpretations of femininity.

Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi’s use of soft colors and mysterious settings exposes the mystery within the mundane, conveying profound wonder at nature’s beauty.

artnet suggests 11 women who they think would excel as the next director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Unless women can see themselves represented, they won’t think they can do the same,” argues all-women music collectives.

Crafting embroidery designs based on old family photos, Anastasia Zhenunk delves into the past, celebrating her matriarchal line’s creative ingenuity while also honoring her deceased father.

Nashra Balagamwala’s new board game offers a critique of arranged marriage in Pakistan.

In an interview with Art in America, Elizabeth Jaeger discusses her new sculptures and her effort to “instill the female form with a more dangerous meaning.”

Julie Cockburn tries to capture the spirits of the unknown through hand embroidery on found photographs.

In celebration of an ongoing exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, Artsy profiles Editta Sherman, whose “bohemian spirit and unbounded tenacity” helped her in her efforts to photograph celebrities.

Elia Alba draws on Afrofuturist aesthetics to transform her subjects into fantasy icons, reclaiming a narrative of power for marginalized groups.

Shows We Want to See

New landscape-inspired works that delve into memory and mythology by British artist Jessica Warboys are on view at Tate St. Ives. For Sea Painting, Zennor 2015, Warboys worked on a beach near St. Ives, casting mineral pigments onto a damp, folded canvas, which she then submerged under the sea.

The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam will showcase the work of Charlotte Salomon, whose intimate paintings blended the fantasy and reality of her tumultuous life.

DePaul Art Museum presents Senga Nengudi: Improvisational Gestures, featuring sculptural works that serve as an exploration of the socialized body.

Appropriating militaristic aesthetics, Pouran Jinchi’s The Line of March examines the intersection of art and language as methods of communication.

Women in Colour, on view at the Rubber Factory, provides a scholarly context highlighting women and color photography.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Renaissance Rebel: Lavinia Fontana

One of the oldest works in NMWA’s collection, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580), was painted by late Renaissance artist Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614, Bologna, Italy). NMWA’s collection holds three of Fontana’s paintings. Considered the first professional woman artist, Fontana worked within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent. She earned a living through her art, broke barriers, and earned a list of superlatives and appellations.

Fontana trained in her father’s studio. Her family, though not noble, moved among a well-educated circle which valued the education of women. Bologna’s university accepted women, and Fontana earned the degree of dottoressa.

In 1577 Fontana married Gian Paolo Zappi—a marriage which proved unique. Fontana was married without a dowry on the assumption that she would earn her income through painting. Her marriage contract required that she and her husband remain in her father’s household, and that Fontana would continue to contribute to the family’s workshop. Though a painter himself, Zappi recognized his wife’s talent and acted as her agent and assistant, prioritizing her career as an artist.

Fontana could not join the Carracci School because the institution emphasized the drawing of nudes—and women were not allowed access to nude models. Fontana did not let that discourage her. She proceeded to paint nude figures anyway, like in the case of Minerva Dressing (1613). Some scholars claim that Fontana was the first woman to paint female nudes, though this is difficult to prove. Later in life she was elected to the Roman Academy, increasing the value of her paintings and allowing her to collect art and antiques herself.

Best known for her portraits, Fontana also painted historical and religious subjects. Portraiture was deemed an appropriate subject for a woman, but history and religious painting were not. Undeterred, Fontana made more than a dozen altarpieces. More than 100 of her paintings survive, more than any other woman artist from her time. The quality and breadth of her oeuvre becomes all the more impressive when one considers that she gave birth to eleven children, however, only three survived her. Pregnant for nearly a decade of her life, Fontana worked through the physical and emotional strain of motherhood.

A savvy businesswoman, Fontana maintained friendships with many of her sitters. Often naming them as godparents of her numerous children, Fontana guaranteed herself upper-class patronage. By 1604 Fontana and her family relocated to Rome to paint for the papal office. Her youngest son’s godfather was Cardinal Camillo Borghese, who later became Pope Paul V.   

Reportedly charming, Fontana was a sought after portraitist among nobility—particularly noblewomen. Biographer Malvasia stated, “All the ladies of the city would compete in wishing to have her close.” Sitters for Fontana knew to expect a flattering portrayal that highlighted both their beauty and their intelligence, with particular attention to jewelry and fabric.

Visit the museum to see paintings by this Renaissance rebel!

Chloe Bazlen is the summer 2017 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Humanly Possible: Patricia Piccinini

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Installation view of Patricia Piccinini’s The Young Family; © Yassine El Mansouri

Patricia Piccinini (b. 1965, Freetown, Sierra Leone)

Patricia Piccinini lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. She earned a degree in Economic History before studying painting at the Victorian College of the Arts. In 2016, she received a doctorate in Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Melbourne, where she currently teaches. Piccinini’s work primarily explores the relationships between the natural and constructed worlds, creating hybrid creatures and machines that are simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. Focusing on ideas rather than methods, Piccinini translates her thoughts through a variety of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, video, sound, installation, and digital prints.

The Artist’s Voice:

“My work aims to shift the way that people look at the world around them, and question their assumptions about the relationships they have with the world. I am especially interested in things that fall outside of our traditional ideas of normal or beautiful, or that step across the boundaries that we erect between things. How does contemporary technology and culture change our understanding of what it means to be human? What is our relationship with—and responsibilities towards—that which we create?”—Patricia Piccinini, in an interview with The Condition Report

“My work is all imagined. It’s all imagined in a place that is not far ahead of the space we live in now. I often think it’s about the world we live in actually. . . . But sometimes people think that I’ve got the solutions to what’s going to happen in the future and that in fact my work is a sort of precautionary tale or something of that nature, when in fact I really don’t have the answers.”—Patricia Piccinini, in a video interview with Centenary of Canberra

Patricia Piccinini, The Young Family, 2002; Silicone, acrylic, human hair, leather, and wood, 36 x 65 x 50 in.; NMWA, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Patricia Piccinini

Revival Highlight:

Piccinini’s The Young Family (2002) depicts transgenic beings—organisms into which genetic material from an unrelated organism has been artificially introduced. The artist collaborates with specialists from various fields of contemporary industrial manufacture to make her ideas a reality. Constructed using silicone, acrylic, human hair, leather, and wood, the sculpture shares human and animal features, eliciting both disgust and empathy from the viewer. Piccinini’s imagining of these hybrid creatures takes the form of a mother figure nursing her young. The central creature seems to have a familiar, maternal gaze, but also appears to have much more alien physiognomy. This unsettling juxtaposition sparks conversation about society’s preparedness for the ethical and emotional results of genetic manipulations.

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Roseline Odhiambo is the summer 2017 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: August 18, 2017

According to the National Park Service, only 2% of all historical monuments in the United States are dedicated to women. In recent news, Kanishka Karunaratne, an aide for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, introduced legislation to break through the “bronze ceiling” by aiming to raise city-wide representation to 30% by 2020.

“By having women missing, it sends the message to young girls and young boys that women did not play a prominent role in the building and the growing of our nation,” says Karunaratne in an interview with Time. “It’s as though women did not participate and they do not deserve the respect that men do who are portrayed across the country.” The project joins other ongoing advocacy efforts and initiatives to honor women in public monuments. 

Front-Page Femmes

The Guardian questions the macho definition of heroism in movies—particularly evident with films featuring comic-book superheroes. The article encourages “quiet moral fortitude and patient hard work” in lieu of violence.

Artist duo JF. Pierets unveil plans for a project to host a wedding in every country where same-sex marriage is legal.

Megan Marrin’s large-scale paintings depict the glory and repugnance of the corpse flower’s life cycle.

Street artist Girl Mobb launched an all-girls graffiti camp to protest the gender imbalance in street art.

For her upcoming solo exhibition in New York, Kara Walker caused a stir with a press release that criticizes celebrity culture.

Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s memorial for drowned migrants will go on display in Madrid’s Palacio de Cristal in the Parque del Retiro.

Hyperallergic features multimedia artist Mary Nohl, who bucked the trend of “narrative-centric” women creators and embraced the artistic mythmaking process.

Martha Rosler is interested in “delineating the physical space that a traveler inhabits” in her ongoing airport photography series.

The “bizarre images and aesthetic genius” of pop culture classics are the inspiration for Nuria Riaza’s highly detailed ballpoint pen pieces.

Women creators and producers step up to counter the male gaze in virtual reality with innovative women-centric storytelling.

Artsy highlights eight Dada artists who made significant contributions to the movement.

Using found materials as frameworks, Agnes Herczeg spins together intricate lace sculptures depicting feminine forms and nature.

Carolee Schneemann talks about her early career, the sexism she faced in the art world, and how she created groundbreaking performance pieces.

Shows We Want to See

Valeska Soares: Any Moment Now, on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, will feature 49 works by the Soares, revealing the artist’s fascination with re-purposing objects and shuffling established narratives.

Sheela Gowda’s installations at Ikon Gallery draw on craft techniques to explore the evolving nature of labor on the Indian subcontinent.

The New-York Historical Society’s Eloise at the Museum celebrates the picture book icon’s history and legacy. Art Daily reports that the exhibition explores the collaboration between cabaret star Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Veiled Meaning: Deborah Paauwe

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Deborah Paauwe (b. 1972, West Chester, Pennsylvania)

Deborah Paauwe, Night Swimming, 2002; Chromogenic color print, 47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in.; NMWA, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection

Deborah Paauwe’s interest in photography began when she took a series of self-portraits in her youth, delighting in the potential for self-revelation through tightly focused images. This fascination takes a seemingly paradoxical form in her work. Her subjects expose their bodies to the lens even as their faces remain hidden. By concealing their expressions and identities from the viewer’s gaze, Paauwe’s subjects seem both innocent and sensual.

Paauwe cites late Victorian figure painting and the tradition of concealing feelings through blank facial expressions among her sources of inspiration. The artist’s concealment of her subjects’ faces only heightens the ambiguous tension present in her work, exploring the space between friendship and hostility, innocence and sensuality, childhood and adulthood.

The Artist’s Voice:

“This sense of floating between stages is what fascinates me. As children we live in the moment but also look forward into the unknown. As adults we can drift back and forth between memory and the present…childhood always exists for us in memory. It is this state of ambiguity that surrounds identity that intrigues me.”

“I have at times both disturbed and delighted people with my images. Most of my works are constructed out of quite innocent and child-like experiences that some viewers have chosen to interpret in particularly dark and sexual ways. Though I quite readily acknowledge the validity of those interpretations it has never been my aim to create just overtly sexual imagery, it is the duality of the situations within my photographs that compels alternate readings.”—Deborah Paauwe, in an interview with Photofile

Deborah Paauwe, Tangled Whisper, 2004; Chromogenic print, 70 7/8 x 70 7/8 in.; NMWA, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; ; © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISCOPY, Australia; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Revival Highlight:

Paauwe’s works Night Swimming (2002) and Lime Dream (2002) hone in on two pairs of legs, veiled by gauzy fabric. Rather than portraying her subjects as idealized, smooth-skinned objects of desire, Pauuwe often shows goosebumps dotting the girls’ legs and hangnails and blemishes on their hands. The girls portrayed are beautiful, but ultimately human. Pauuwe rejects any uncomfortable idealization or even fetishization of her subjects by embracing their imperfections.

Paauwe evokes the performative nature of social interactions between teenage girls in Tangled Whisper (2004) and Tender Locks (2004). The photographs portray two girls in what might be friendly, sensual, or tense situations. Contrast between the dark background and brightly lit subjects imbues the images with sinister undertones. Paauwe uses the body as a venue for possibilities and ambiguities, suggesting raw elegance in a state of liminality.

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Growing Pains: Maria Marshall

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Maria Marshall (b. 1966, Bombay, India)

Although Maria Marshall began her career as a sculptor, her fascination with film led her to explore the short video as an art form. Marshall credits filmmakers with inspiring the lean visual narratives she so adeptly maneuvers. Despite frequently featuring her own children in fantasies inspired by parental fear, her video works and photography never quite fall into the category of autobiography. They straddle the division between personal and universal, serving as “concise metaphors” for the fear lurking in each viewer’s subconscious. Marshall’s surreal images promise narrative but deliver further intrigue. The often dreamlike atmosphere of her photos and video works hint at a setting where the imaginary blends with reality, and assumptions clash with truth.

Maria Marshall, Future Perfect, 1998; Iris print, 56 x 39 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.

The Artist’s Voice:

“My work is very constructed, and I have learned a great deal from filmmakers in this regard. . . . I also look for clean visual information. The language of film is full to the brim of seduction. I like beauty and I like to draw in the viewer, so I get very moved by certain sequences.”

“I purposefully try to create confusion, to muddle the boundaries. . . . I try to make films that go directly to the psyche, that probe it and manipulate it.”—Maria Marshall, in an interview published in Maria Marshall (modo Verlag, 2002)

Revival Highlight:

According to Marshall, her oeuvre stems from fear. Her works featured in Revival are no exception. Striking images of a toddler smoking, a boy in a fur coat, and a rat standing on a child’s head not only catch the viewer’s eye, but may also elicit outrage or concern. Through the portrayal of her own children in apparent moments of endangerment, Marshall plays on traditional conceptions of children as innocent or passive, asserting their personhood with unconventional tactics. Even as she plays on the audience’s expectations, however, she admits her own concerns as a mother unable to protect her children from the harsh realities of the outside world.

Future Perfect (1998) further reflects these complex feelings about growing children. While an adult might scrutinize rats due to the fraught associations they summon, the boy seems accepting of the live rat standing on his head. Whether this reveals his trusting, childish innocence, or a mature acceptance beyond what adults expect, Marshall reveals an incongruity between children and their parents, a dissonance that forms the core of her work in expressing anxiety while acknowledging a parent’s tendency to project. The title of the work alludes to the grammatical tense for a completed future action, hinting at an ambiguous but foregone conclusion.

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Call of the Wild: Polly Morgan

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Installation view of Polly Morgan's Receiver in Revival

Installation view of Polly Morgan’s Receiver in Revival

Polly Morgan (b. 1980, Banbury, Oxfordshire, England)

Growing up in the countryside, Polly Morgan always had a pack of unusual pets keeping her company, forcing her to learn about living with animals. Only after she moved to London did she realize how fascinating their bodies became in death. Today, Morgan makes a career out of crafting haunting sculptures from taxidermy animal carcasses.

Morgan’s work straddles scientific and artistic disciplines. Although she follows in the footsteps of scientific convention, she endows even this process a meaning beyond preservation. Her work forces viewers to contemplate death even as she incorporates taxidermy animals into vibrant sculptures, marking a simultaneous rejection and acceptance of death’s place in life.

The Artist’s Voice:

“I’m not a morbid person, I’m actually really optimistic. I hate the fact that death hangs over us all our lives. I see [the aesthetic of the body] as a raw material to work with; with no soul left, the body becomes a beautiful ornament.”—Polly Morgan, interview in The Independent

“Taxidermy is an ultimately futile effort to harness nature, it allows us to manipulate and control the body of an animal in a way we would struggle, or in my case would not wish, to in life. . . . Most objects can be art; a urinal, a bed, etc. A dead animal presents a problem in that it decays and can therefore only exist a finite amount of time before being altered irrevocably. Taxidermy has thus allowed me to incorporate animals in my work the way other sculptors use ‘found objects.’”—Polly Morgan, interview in Broad Strokes

Polly Morgan, Receiver, 2009; Taxidermy quail chicks and Bakelite telephone handset, 9 x 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Ilene Gutman; © Polly Morgan; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Polly Morgan, Receiver, 2009; Taxidermy quail chicks and Bakelite telephone handset, 9 x 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.; NMWA, Gift of Ilene Gutman; © Polly Morgan; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Revival Highlight:

Receiver (2009), featured in Revival, illustrates Morgan’s capacity for duality in her work. In this piece seven chicks poke their heads from the receiver end of a telephone, beaks agape. Though their tiny heads and nestled bodies imply a tender helplessness in youth, the mere sight of their open beaks evokes a grating shrill in the viewer’s mind.

Morgan incorporates the natural into the artificial, drawing revealing parallels between the chicks and their unexpected nest. Despite representing the possibility of tender interpersonal connection, too often technology like the telephone becomes an outlet for aggression rather than affection, replacing compassion with confrontation. Even as the chicks evoke nurturing tenderness in the viewer, their implied proximity to the listener’s ear makes their pleas a confrontational disruption to gentler discourse. By combining the natural and artificial Morgan draws discomfort from what should represent convenience, calling into question the intention and functional use behind communicative technology such as the phone through deliberate visual dissonance. 

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: August 11, 2017

According to a new USC study, women remain underrepresented in film, both on screen and behind the camera.

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times shared key findings from the analysis of 1,000 scripts:

  • 4,900 male characters to 2,000 female characters
  • Men spoke in 37,000 dialogues, while only 15,000 conversations included women
  • Seven times as many male screenwriters as female
  • Almost 12 times as many male directors

Front-Page Femmes

Artsy profiles Isabella Stewart Gardner and celebrates her “irrepressible personality.”

Justine Varga, winner of the 2017 Olive Cotton Award, uses traditional photographic processes without a physical camera.

Sheila Hicks discusses her public installation at the High Line.

Patricia Renee’ Thomas’s paintings probe the historical exploitation of the black body.

The Washington Post’s The Lilly interviews the leaders of social media for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, Lanae Spruce and Ravon Ruffin.

Julie Mehretu, a MacArthur Foundation “genius,” is executing a monumental new commission for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

NMWA announces creation of a Judy Chicago Visual Archive at the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center.

The social media initiative #VisibleWomen helps women in the comics world gain visibility.

Australian painter Barbara Blackman reflects on her life in a new documentary.

Cindy Sherman made her Instagram public.

Aphra Behn (1640–1689), one of the first English women to make a living writing, was also a translator and Royalist spy.

Barbara Hammer, a pioneer of queer experimental film, talks about her experimental multi-media work exploring the female experience.

A museum dedicated to Yayoi Kusama will open in Tokyo this October.

The Women’s Suffrage and the Media online site helps users explore how various forms of media messaging shaped the suffrage crusade.

Ava DuVernay will produce a television series based on Octavia Butler’s Dawn.

AIGA discusses the prevalence of the gender gap in design fields, according to AIGA’s 2016 survey.

Shows We Want to See

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, a new exhibition at the MoMA, brings together more than a hundred works by women artists working in abstraction.

Between the Lines is the first retrospective of Chiharu Shiota in the Netherlands, provoking dialogues about universal experiences and our personal relationships.

Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery showcases poet Sylvia Plath’s visual art in One Life, ranging from watercolors to collages.

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

Falling into Place: Charlotte Gyllenhammar

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Charlotte Gyllenhammar (b. 1963, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Although Charlotte Gyllenhammar studied painting in art school, her work consists primarily of film and three-dimensional installations. Even after this shift in medium, a painterly sensibility continues to inform her work. Gyllenhammar often incorporates projections and sculptures to create spatial complexity. Her work invites the viewer into an emotionally charged dialogue through intense contrast between images. By employing the surreal, she masks the familiar in an unfamiliar guise, calling the viewer’s concepts of normalcy into question. Her pieces frequently engage with themes such as inversion, sight, and loss of innocence.

The Artist’s Voice: 

“My sculptures are sort of falling, and falling forward, or throwing themselves, and hanging, and hovering, and falling, so I think I have that kind of dynamic—these poles of the more passive, implicit and the more active, explicit.”

“I’m fascinated by that sort of living, sleeping, breathing, resting, and the sort of ultimate point, death. . . . And you don’t know when, you don’t know how, but we know that. But I find it very hard to accept that we are going to die. That’s kind of an unbearable thought that I tried to get used to.”—Charlotte Gyllenhammar, interview in The Parlor

Revival Highlight:

Unrest and repose become bedfellows in Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s Fall (1999), a two-screen video installation featured in Revival. Projected on the ceiling, the video shows a woman hanging upside down, her extravagant dress billowing around her. On the floor another projection shows two men sleeping in a narrow bed. Their occasional movement seems less like an acknowledgement of her frustrated struggles and more like a mundane nighttime reflex.

Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Fall, 1999; Video installation, dimensions variable; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Charlotte Gyllenhammar; Installation photos by Stefan Bohlin

Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Fall, 1999; Video installation, dimensions variable; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Charlotte Gyllenhammar; Installation photos by Stefan Bohlin

Rather than employ traditional narratives, Gyllenhammar seeks meaning in contradiction and contrasting visions. While the woman appears trapped by her suspension, the unconventional angle makes it seems as though she is floating freely. Her solitary struggle contrasts with the men’s peaceful companionship, lending a sense of complicity to their rest. Yet even as this unawareness becomes an accomplice in her discomfort, their innocence shields them from even acknowledging her.

Gyllenhammar’s fascination with sight and seeing comes into play as well. The screens function as windows, allowing viewers to observe the characters like voyeurs. What visitors see reverses the dynamics of vulnerability. Although the hanging woman appears vulnerable through the unwilling exposure of her body, she retains agency in the camera’s concealment of that exposure. The men slumber in a safer environment, yet suffer complete exposure to the audience, completely open and vulnerable in their lack of awareness. Attentive to the unseen as well as the seen, Gyllenhammar crafts a scene that leaves viewers hanging, unsettled but ultimately intrigued.

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Xiaoxiao Meng is the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Fabric of History: Sonia Gomes

In celebration of NMWA’s 30th anniversary, and inspired by the museum’s focus on contemporary women artists as catalysts for change, Revival illuminates how women working in sculpture, photography, and video use spectacle and scale for expressive effect.

Sonia Gomes, Untitled, from the “Torção” series, 2015; Fabric, wire, thread, and beads, 80 x 123 x 14 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Sonia Gomes (b. 1948, Caetanópolis, Brazil)

After beginning her career at the age of 45, Sonia Gomes quickly gained recognition in the global art scene, participating in exhibitions around the world and influencing a younger generation of Brazilian artists. Gomes uses a range of fabrics, thread, and rope—often gifted or found—to create multi-dimensional sculptures. These structures twist, spiral, converge, and taper in organic and graceful ways that recall biological forms and sacred objects. Her use of fabrics carries collective and personal stories embedding the idea that something passed could be brought back to life again. Gomes’s works are inspired by her family, including her maternal grandmother, whose traditional dress and rituals as an indigenous spiritual healer and midwife influenced her, and her father’s family that worked in a textile factory.

The Artist’s Voice:

“Sometimes I think my work might look like my insides because it’s extremely visceral. . . . And I make art by necessity. I think if I haven’t been doing what I do, I would have gone crazy or I might have been in trouble because I can’t live without it…so I discovered life through art.”

“For me, art is about truth. I don’t get politically involved in Afro-Brazilian movements. I participate through my work and now that I’m starting to receive recognition I think it’s important to give my contribution.”—Sonia Gomes, in a video interview with Arterial

Sonia Gomes, Untitled from the series “Torção,” 2015; Fabric, wire, thread, and beads, 95 x 42 x 12 in.; Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Revival Highlight:

Courtesy of the Rubell Family Collection, four sculptures by Gomes are on display in Revival. These sculptures project from the wall, hang from the ceiling, and, in some cases, wander onto the floor. In an untitled work from 2015 from her series “Torção,” Gomes uses fabric, wire, thread, and beads. She binds, knots, and sews together opaque and shear fabrics that evoke the domestic realm while simultaneously forming symbolic re-creations of the body.

Gomes explores issues of identity and memory. Historically, black women have been at the bottom of Brazil’s social strata experiencing limited visibility. Addressing this subject figuratively, Gomes’s sculpture hangs from the ceiling, hovering before the viewer as an insistent placeholder for the absent or unseen body.

Visit the museum and explore Revival, on view through September 10, 2017.

—Roseline Odhiambo is the summer 2017 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.