Live Dangerously

Crouching in the shadow of a highway overpass, three teenage girls with light skin focus intently on lighting smoke bombs.
Sep 19, 2019, to Jan 20, 2020

Live Dangerously reveals the bold and dynamic ways in which female bodies inhabit and activate the natural world. Twelve groundbreaking photographers, including Louise Dahl-WolfeKirsten Justesen, Xaviera Simmons, and Rania Matar, use humor, drama, ambiguity, and innovative storytelling to illuminate the landscape as means of self-empowerment and personal expression. This presentation is drawn from NMWA’s collection of modern and contemporary photography and enhanced by key loans that feature women connected to nature through the lens of the female gaze.

A major section of the exhibition showcases the performative and fantastical works of Janaina Tschäpe. For the first time, NMWA will exhibit all 100 large-scale photographs in the series “100 Little Deaths” (1996–2002), in which the artist stages her own body within sites from her travels around the world.

While some of the featured artists evoke a quiet, reflective relationship with nature, others physically alter and unsettle their environments. Justine Kurland photographs teenage girls setting off smoke bombs, skinny dipping, and climbing trees as a way to rebel against patriarchal institutions and disrupt gendered expectations.

Artists in the exhibition often depict the female body wholly immersed in mountains, oceans, valleys, and deserts. Several of the photographers capture these figures near crashing waves or underwater, as though the ocean’s depths are their natural habitat. Rather than seem daunted by the sublime forces of nature, the women portrayed in Live Dangerously appear carefree, intrepid, and fierce.

Featured artists: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Anna Gaskell, Dana Hoey, Mwangi HutterGraciela IturbideKirsten JustesenJustine Kurland, Rania Matar, Ana Mendieta, Laurie Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, and Janaina Tschäpe.

In front of a stormy ocean, a woman with light skin and blonde, wind-blown hair stands with head turned in profile and eyes closed.

Rania Matar, Rayven, Miami Beach, Florida, from the series “SHE,” 2019; Archival pigment print, 37 x 44 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery; © Rania Matar

Exhibition Sponsors

Live Dangerously is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition is made possible by the Sue J. Henry and Carter G. Phillips Exhibition Fund, with additional support provided by the museum’s members.