Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Women Who Dare" Reflections from an Artist’s Perspective

“Women Who Dare”
Reflections from an Artist’s Perspective
Curated by Anel I. Flores and Sarah Castillo.

Women Who Dare was an all women artists exhibition that was curated by Anel Flores of Artery Studios and Sarah Castillo of Ladybase Gallery and held at the Carver Cultural Community Center in near downtown San Antonio and ran from November 5 – November 27, 2015.   The core theme of the exhibit was to present the works of “San Antonio women artists who stimulate, provoke, and capture her viewers; allowing space for the movement and speed of the competing world to fall away.”  The outcome of a theme of such a transcendent nature facilitated a contemplative flowering of many distinct artistic languages with interpretations ranging from self-portraits, dissection of mystical feminine archetypes to conceptual mixed pieces that explored topics such as heritage, race, fears and self-discovery.  In disclosure, I was one of the participating artists curated into the exhibition, and my contribution was a painting created specifically for the curatorial premise.  Upon observing and processing the exhibition as a whole, I felt it was integral to highlight how these distinctive artworks correlate to one another in a gender specific exhibition.       
One of first pieces that immediately captured my attention was Audrya Flores’ Hand Talker, created from various fabrics, yarn, pins, and prickly pear cactus.  According to her artist statement, anxiety has been a struggle that insidiously “manifests itself in my hands through fist clenching, fidgeting or sweating.”  Hand Talker essentially is a visual metaphor that unveils this internal battle by depicting a figure made of cut out fabric, curled up in sheets, with white menacing hands advancing towards her.  In the metal wrought frame, appendages made from dried cactus hang, visceral metaphors of the destructive nature of anxiety coming forth within the subconscious dream state.
Leticia R-Z’s Psychopomp Altar I, is a three dimensional work which presents two anima figures constructed of wool felt with animal skulls for heads posed and mounted on circular fabric covered frames.  Psychpomps, whose origins are from Greek mythology, are entities that act as intermediaries to guide souls to the other side or through states of transmutation. In reference to the Roman Catholic tradition of milagritos, R-Z has placed a receptacle to accept offerings from supplicants that are in need of the psychpomp’s assistance, as evidenced by the presence of a lock of hair that has already been placed within. 
In my submission, I also scrutinize death and transition through my oil and egg tempera painting titled La Mystica.  In this old masters’ mixed emulsion technique painting, I present a portrait of a woman that is half alive and the other half is being consumed by many vibrantly hued fungi and other natural elements of decay, in order to confront the viewer with the constant transitory state that existence always resides in.  The subject’s stimulus stems from momento mori, the Latin phrase meaning, “remember you will die,” which has fueled a whole thematic branch of art, notably the vanitas, still lifes that are made to depict the earthly realm’s most impermanent nature.          
Take One. Just Begin by Stephanie Torres is an interactive work, fabricated of handmade little journals with colorful paint spattered covers that each represent the artist’s “…own willingness to take a risk,” placed upon a table with crayons and other drawing tools.  The artist simply asks the participant to take the miniature journal and start something, in any form or fashion; a cheering taunt to start a journey that one has been reluctant to venture forth on, due to fear, or in her case a “paralysis of perfectionism” brought on by anything that is creative.  
Maria Luisa Carvajal de Vasconcellos embraced “the story telling power of the paintbrush” to heal from a crippling nine year depression that was the result from grief of losing her husband when she was thirty-nine.  Within her paintings are the stories of many women in all the many stages and phases of their lives, with a soft and voluptuous stylization.  In Tequila, one can only fathom what the lady seated is pondering, seated alone at a table, with a half empty bottle, surrounded by melancholy blue.   
Linda Arrendondo has created a quadriptych entitled the Medusa series that are female portraits that are painted with fluorescent colors complete with writhing sinuous snakes for hair.  She describes her medium of choice, watercolor: “feminine, loose, delicate, light…It’s not a material that is controlled or dominated but one where some of its best parts are fueled by serendipity and compromise.”  It seems those traits are the exact ones the Medusa women are channeling, sensuous, softness and a hint of unpredictability. The portraits are arranged in a square format, creating a striking visual affect, due to the bold colors, and solidarity of contrast.  They gaze out, fierce and enigmatic, challenging the viewers.
Viewers had the opportunity to be educated about an uncomfortable episode of racial tensions from Texas history brought to light from the archives in Claudia Zapata’s installation project, Dedicated to Hazel Scott about the African American pianist who cancelled her 1948 performance at the University of Texas due to segregation of the audience members.  Hazel Scott’s legacy is reexamined, through videos of her performing playing on screens installed above the gallery space, poster media and informational ‘zine’ style pamphlets.  
Questions about racial and cultural supremacy are also scrutinized in Raquel Zawrotny’s Melanin in Gold a quadriptych done in acrylic ands mixed media that was initially inspired by the controversy the Miss Japan contestant winner generated because of her mixed racial heritage.  The theme of Melanin seeks to “question society’s views of women, particularly Black women…”  Zawrotny’s second goal was to present Black women and their cultural heritage in an engaging light.  In each of the portraits she adorns her subjects with exquisite costumes and colorful embellishments with vibrant colors on a field of gold leaf in order to illuminate their dignity and humanity. 
 Ashley Mireles has created a series of portraiture …..And To All Those Who Died, Scrubbed Floors, Wept, And Fought For Us, which is a series of mixed media portraits that have been produced on handmade paper derived from organic materials that come from the artist’s immediate surroundings, such as “Texas soil, debris, and fallen pecan trees.”  The subjects are rendered in amber hued stylized lines on a Plexiglas that has been mounted over a mauve textural paper.  Depicted are “significant figures” that Mireles has manifested from stories told by those close to her.  Through these portraits she seeks to enshrine their tales of perseverance and contributions to her life and others.            
Some of the artists chose the method of portraiture to facilitate the theme’s interpretation as a method of self-reflection.  Adriana M. Garcia has painted her self as a way of relating with the world around her. Her use of transparent oil glazes and geometric elements work in tandem to facilitate a sense of a transcendent space within her canvas, her gaze looks off toward the side off the panel, in a contemplative perception, with a resonant calm that is further accentuated with her choice of showing a desert horizon background, with white intersecting lines that are etheric indication of connection. 
Kristel A. Puente’s Disambiguation of the Introverted Megalomaniac is a photograph of the artist herself, imbued with decorative elements that reflect her own contemporary style and at once channeling the infamous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. The photograph is framed in artificial roses that reference the flowers that are adorning her hair, in homage to Kahlo’s iconic style.  Instead of native Mexican folk dress, the artist is dressed in a contemporary T-shirt, and is brandishing tattoos and the ‘bird’, confrontationally gazing out at the viewer, channeling the defiant spirit of the celebrated artist, uncompromising and comfortable in her own skin. 
Amanda Bartlett’s sculpture piece Untitled consists of two pieces, one being a spiky metallic armature shell that resembles a stylized anatomical heart.  A feminine touch is evident within the inner lining, as it appears to be encased in lacey and soft material protected by the metal armature, an undeniably an intricate testament to the strength, vulnerability and resilience of emotion.           
Overall, the effect of the exhibition produced an intimate and confessional atmosphere, a self-portrait of each of the artist’s inner psyches, and an establishment of trust to unveil those innermost thoughts and emotions.  The Feminine is redefined in many multifaceted expressions, manifesting through each artists’ own unique hands, as individual as a fingerprint. 

Women Who Dare was on exhibition at the Carver Cultural Community Center
November 5 – November 27, 2015

©Kat Shevchenko, 2015 
 Article origiinally appears in: Plumage-TX Arts Magazine

For More Information about the Exhibition and to Keep up with Ladybase :

Flores, Anel, and Sarah Castillo. "Women Who Dare." Ladybase Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web.

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