“Its dedicated to the sine qua non of women in the arts,” said Robb Gann, the curator and co-director of studios.gallery, the front gallery of Studios Inc. through the lens is directed as a question and an answer to what are the essentials of womanhood and what defines a female artist? To answer these questions, let’s explore the specifics of the exhibition.
A certain movement within studios.gallery is encouraged. An open space to the left of the entrance of the space creates a natural flow, allowing Gann to craft larger moving narratives for his exhibitions. through the lens begins with Transition in Place, from the textile focused artist, Debra Smith. The work is made from the fabrics of deconstructed kimono. Smith stated in the past that the material she uses has a “weight” or historical significance to them. As Smith deconstructs and then builds her pieces they take on a new form that converses with its previous iteration. The historical and cultural significance of the textile industry converses with Debra’s repurposing of the material as a work of inspection. Other works like Hyeyoung Shin’s Unapologetic; Debra Smith’s other feature, Memory Trace; and Kathy Liao’s Yellow Circumstances focus on similar subject matters, examining the societal constructs and expectations of women and how that affects their artistry.
HyeYoung Shin's "Unapologetic" and Debra Smith's "Memory Trace"
As one reaches the corner of the exhibition they turn right and reach Patty Carol’s two pieces Tea Party and Chandelier. Patty Carrol’s work is a continuation of the larger series Anonymous Women. The duo transitions the examination of the work from physical and literal expectations to one grounded in the female body and form. Patty’s work is centered around creating a highly stylized, almost kitschy portrait of domestication from the 40’s and the 50’s anchored by chaos or death. They’re physical representations of the hypocrisy, decadation, and abuse facing women behind the facade of rose-tinted glasses, and “simpler times”. The female form is always front and center, being put in compromised, structural positions that point to an uncomfortable and damaging situation veiled by the beautiful, ornate, and coordinated furniture, walls, drapes, and houseware surrounding her. Jill Downen’s Breast Blocks, and Caitlin Horsmon’s Ground, Frequency focus on similar subjects. Examinations based around the physical forms while exploring the sine qua non of women through the physical body.
Jill Downen's "Breast Blocks"
The exhibition gradually transitions from examining the effect of societal expectations, to one that examines the society through these expectations. It’s a slow-burning crescendo that angles the sine qua non of womanhood into the two-part question mentioned above. The narrative is a deconstruction of metaphysical barriers to inspect the condition of female artists by exploring and comparing their personal expressions of identity through their art. This conversation between the works point to plenty of traits, personalities, and quirks inherent within different artists. through the lens is as much about the individual as it is about the larger themes presented in the narrative. It gauges the different reactions of the artists to the experience of womanhood.
Through these reactions one must reconcile and challenge their knowledge of the patriarchal cultural heritage pervasive throughout humanity. It’s the “weight” that Smith spoke about. It’s intertwined and rooted into our society, and twisted femininity into a single sentence, a punchline, a caricature, spectacle, and something incomprehensible to the reality of the real female perspective. The artists’ art reacquisitions femininity and works to break down the social barriers hemming in the female experience. Through this acknowledgement of the “weight” one breaks down their own prejudices, while acknowledging the uniqueness of each individual artist.
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This article was written by Studios Inc intern, Aaron Turner.