Committee on Women in the Arts
Each month, CAA’s Committee on Women in the Arts selects the best in feminist art and scholarship. The following exhibitions and events should not be missed. Check the archive of CWA Picks at the bottom of the page, as several museum and gallery shows listed in previous months may still be on view or touring.
Susan Hiller: Lost and Found
Pérez Art Museum, Miami
1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL
October 14, 2016–June 4, 2017
Commissioned by the Pérez Art Museum and making its debut, Lost and Found, by the London-based artist Susan Hiller, features an audio collage of voices speaking in twenty-three different languages, including Aramaic, Comanche, Livonian, and other extinct or endangered idioms. A pioneer in video installations, Hiller creates immersive, psychologically charged environments. In Lost and Found a translation appears as subtitles to the anecdotes, songs, arguments, memories, and conversations. Oftentimes the themes revolve around language itself.
“A constantly shifting oscilloscopic line gives visual form to the work’s soundtrack, suggesting the poignant idea that individuals separated by time, geography, and worldview remain linked by the physical experience of sound as it resonates through the human body during verbal communication.”
See Red Women’s Workshop Feminist Posters 1974–1990
Published by Four Corners Books
Released in September 2016, See Red Women’s Workshop Feminist Posters 1974–1990 collects sixteen years of posters, calendars, silkscreens, and more from the See Red Women’s Workshop. Founded in 1974, the group “grew out of a shared desire to combat sexist images of women and to create positive and challenging alternatives. With humor and bold graphics, they expressed the personal experiences of women as well as their role in wider struggles for change.” The 184-page book is written by See Red members and features the history of the group, including all of their original screenprints and posters commissioned for radical groups and campaigns.
“Ambitiously, See Red were not about selling a product or even getting over a party political message,” writes the British socialist feminist Sheila Rowbotham in the book’s foreword. “They were up to something far more complex and far more difficult. They aimed to convey ideas about a transformed society in which relations of gender, race and class would no longer be marked by inequality and subordination.”
Ambreen Butt: I Need a Hero
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
January 11–June 26, 2017
Ambreen Butt is the ninth artist in residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, invited to create a temporary site-specific work for the museum’s façade. Throughout this project, Butt explores the ways in which women struggle to find and make use of their own power. Paying tribute to a fellow young Pakistani woman, I Need a Hero is inspired by the story of Mukhtar Mai, who was brutally raped in 2002 by order of her village tribal council as punishment for speaking out against archaic codes of justice. Refusing to be silenced, Mai not only became a spokesperson for women’s rights in Pakistan, but she also created two schools for girls and a crisis center for abused women.
In the Gardner façade piece, the heroine fights a dragon and a monkeylike creature (her inner and outer demons?). The wrestle is set against the background of a dollar bill as a reminder of today’s global economy, while other young women look at her from below and above, expectant on the results of the battle and a possible emergence of their hero(ine).
Butt was born in 1969, in Lahore, Pakistan, where she trained as a miniature painter. As a storyteller, the artist makes use of dramatic imagery from this traditional art form to comment on contemporary issues.
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
14 Wharf Road,London N1 7RW
January 17–March 12, 2017
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art presents the first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom by the New Haven–based artist Tschabalala Self. Curated by Ziba Ardalan, the exhibition brings together paintings, prints, collage, and sculptures drawn from the first five years of Self’s artistic career. The young artist (born New York, 1990) is concerned with the study of the black female body within contemporary culture. Self examines the confluence of race, gender, and sexuality through a variety of forms and narratives, in which each of her “characters,” as she calls them, explores the emotional, physical, and psychological impact of the black female body as icon.
Self’s paintings play boldly with figuration, deconstructing and reconstructing the black female body, sewing together pieces of African or African-inspired cloth, given to her by her mother, with fragments of unresolved pieces of work. Self’s fractured figure seems to assert its own self-defined identity, while mixed media allows her to explore how the black female body functions as a social and political symbol.
In addition to painting, collage, and sculpture, Self presents at Parasol unit her most recent animation work, My Black Ass (2016). Through a series of GIF portraits of abstractly drawn black female figures in a motion that suggests they are twerking, the black female character comes to life, displaying her buttocks and genitals in an energetic dance. Although based on a particular ethnicity, Self’s innovative works nonetheless speak universally of all humanity and its collective concerns.
Elena Dorfman: Syria’s Lost Generation
Mills College Art Museum
5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613
January 18–March 12, 2017
The Mills College Art Museum presents the Los Angeles–based artist Elena Dorfman’s Syria’s Lost Generation, a humanistic perspective to the ongoing Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 470,000 lives and forced the displacement of 6.5 million people.
Dorfman (born Boston, 1965) was on assignment with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2013. While documenting exiled Syrians in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, she was drawn most strongly to Syrian teenagers, a small fraction of a population that has been disproportionately affected by the war. As Dorfman explains, “They seemed particularly shell-shocked and bereft…. [T]hey spoke to me of powerful longing and frustration.”
Dorfman has specialized in documenting extreme circumstances and unusual subjects. Syria’s Lost Generation builds on her previous work as a documentarian—in particular, The C-Word (1998), a series of photographs of teenagers living with cancer. Through visual and audio portraiture, Dorfman brings into exposure their voices, the physical and psychological ills suffered, their uncertain futures, and the fearful of retaliation. Displaced teenagers spoke about the powerful longing and frustration, where the dispossession seems absolute, and the future, lost.
Archived CWA Picks
Browse past CWA Picks, which are archived by month.
New York Conference
December 2012–January 2013