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CWA Picks: Summer 2022

posted by CAA — Jun 30, 2022

Vlada Ralko, Lviv Diary No. 020, 2022, ink and watercolor on paper, 11.5 x 8.5 inches, ©Vlada Ralko, courtesy of Voloshyn Gallery and Fridman Gallery

Exhibitions and Scholarship Selected by the Committee on Women in the Arts (CWA)


If trauma names the psychic impact of damaging events, it also points to the possibility of working through the mute immobility that is trauma’s primary effect. Gender hierarchies are part of trauma and the recovery from it.  In What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference (1993), Shoshana Felman makes a broad and provocative claim: “every woman’s life contains explicitly or in implicit ways, the story of trauma.” The scholarship and exhibitions featured here substantiate Felman’s insight. In a few exhibitions, trauma is pronounced and linked to specific events, such as Russia’s assault on Ukraine. In others, trauma must be discerned in portrayals that attest to the diffuse reality of gender inequity. All of the work tells us that the current historical moment is rife with danger and violence and thereby underscores the necessity of feminism’s insights.   

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.


Trauma-Informed Pedagogy: Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom 
Jocelyn E. Marshall and Candace Skibba (eds.)
Emerald Publishing, 2022 

What role can teaching play in the effort to address gender-based violence? This collection offers practical, creative, and theoretical strategies for addressing this specific form of trauma in the classroom. The editors assert that teaching can create spaces that counter the “silence” and “unempathetic discourse” that gender-based violence most often meets when it is brought into the open. Featuring the artwork of and scholarship on the indigenous artist Julia Rose Sutherland, as well as a conversation between curators Monika Fabijanska and Dineke Van der Walt, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy foregrounds visual art practices as tools for exploring trauma and finding possibilities for recovery. This makes perfect sense, given the “troublesome visual representations” that block out the fact that gender-based violence is pervasive but systematically denied, a trauma in and of itself. 



Women Painting Women 
Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth, Texas 
Through September 25, 2022   

Feminist art tends to be associated with practices that defy medium, genre, and the art historical canon, but what about the women painters who situate their work firmly in the figurative tradition? Curated by Andrea Karnes, Women Painting Women features the work of forty-six painters who have made women their subjects since the 1960s and illuminates the feminism that can animate figuration. Creatively rendering women’s “bodies, gestures, and individuality,” together these portraits play with a range of scales that move from the modest (Somaya Critchlow) to the gigantic (Jenny Saville) and suggest the spaces allotted to women and the spaces they want to claim. Women Painting Women is a refreshingly straightforward but decidedly necessary theme, given how rare it is to see women as artists and artistic subjects at the same time. 



Martine Syms, Neural Swamp 
Philadelphia Museum of Art 
Through October 30, 2022

Martine Syms’ multi-channel video installation Neural Swamp deploys the tactics of surveillance, cinema, and sport to investigate what it means to be a Black woman in a hyper-digitized world. Blurring the line between horror and humor, Syms works with algorithms and artificial intelligence to question the technologies that erase and exploit Black bodies, voices, and narratives. Accompanied by Kit’s World, a series of videos that also explore technological mediation, Neural Swamp was commissioned by the Future Fields commission in Time-Based Media. 



Women at War 
Fridman Gallery, New York 
July 6 through August 26, 2022 

In collaboration with Voloshyn Gallery in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monika Fabijanska curated this timely exhibition that documents how Ukrainian women artists explore the gendered dimensions and consequences of war. Several artworks were made after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, others date from the eight years of war following the annexation of Crimea and the creation of separate ‘republics’ in Donbas in 2014. Together the artwork in Women at War poses questions about women as the natural victims of war and creates a nuanced picture, both of Ukrainian feminism, and the visual practices that have accompanied it. Through a wide array of themes, mediums, styles, Women at War narrates a nuanced history of women in Ukraine and is, more broadly, a historiographic project that meditates on how women become visible when history is written as a war against their agency. 



Cornelia Parker 
Tate Britain, London 
Through October 16, 2022  

One of Britain’s most beloved contemporary artists, Cornelia Parker works with domestic objects and reconfigures their scale through playful visual storytelling that often defies gravity. By doing so, Parker’s sculptures materialize the violence that undergirds everyday life and suspends it in the field of vision for all to see.   



Ancestors Know Who We Are 
National Museum of the American Indian 
The Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Ancestors Know Who We Are is the Smithsonian’s first exhibition to feature Black-indigenous women artists. The title is borrowed from Storm Webber’s 2016 letterpress print, a statement she crafted in black sans serif letters in response to comments that she is neither Black nor Native enough. Across a range of mediums that trouble distinctions between tradition and the contemporary , the artists in this exhibition challenge assumptions that Native and Black experiences have essential and easily discernible features. In so doing, they unsettle the visual economy of race and the permission it gives to question who people are.  



Andrea Bowers 
Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles 
Through September 4, 2022  

This is Andrea Bowers’ first museum retrospective and it surveys two decades of her artwork’s intimate connection to activism. A large part of Bowers’ work reframes protest banners and posters to show that political address is a form of creative expression that seeks to imagine and write more just worlds. Isolation and despair haunt this artwork, but the austerity Bowers brings to her images of protest ultimately draws attention to the bravery of individual activists as they seek collectivities that can confront and transform the regressive politics of twenty-first century mobs. 



Yayoi Kusama, A Poem in My Heart 
Yayoi Kusama Museum 
Tokyo, Japan 
Through August 28, 2022

This exhibition highlights the Surrealism that pulsates through Yayoi Kusama’s hallucinatory visions. Featuring paintings from the 1950s, viewers can see further into the artist’s inner landscapes and psychic worlds. The artwork overflows with organic, idiosyncratic forms that twist and undulate to reveal the poetics of Kusama’s creative heart. 



Suzanne Lacy, The Medium is Not the Only Message 
Queens Museum 
Queens, New York 
Through August 14, 2022

The Medium is Not the Only Message is a major survey of an artist who helped define feminist performance in the 1970s. Lacy has consistently put social issues—sex work, violence against women, racism, labor rights, poverty, and aging—at the center of her work. In recent years, she has become an artist who expands the reach of the museum, bringing institutions into the public worlds in which they are situated. This exhibition focuses on two dimensions of Lacy’s practice: personal narrative and conversation. Both underscore the value she places on relationality, co-creation, and mutual learning, all of which rebuff the presumption that technological mediums really allow people to communicate with each other. Featured projects were selected for their connections to Queens and demonstrate Lacy’s commitment to community-based practices that move “Between the Door and the Street,” the title of a 2013 project that featured women talking about the issues that impact their lives. 


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