This past Sunday I went to the ArtsWestchester exhibition SHE: Deconstructing Female Identity . Being new to Westchester and Yonkers I wanted to start exploring the local arts scene, and I’m glad I did. SHE is a wonderfully curated event of NY artists, all who happen to be women. Let’s be honest they are the only ones who should be deconstructing female anything. A few of the artists whose work spoke to me were Debbie Han, Mari Ogihara and Laurel Garcia Colvin.
Debbie Hans large format photos melding classic faces with current bodies create a fascinating commentary on body identity and how we have been taught to see our bodies as women in a world so diverse with an ideal that is so limiting.
Mari Ogihara’s Mannequin pieces, ingeniously layer what appear as dissected layers of body parts reconstructed; it is both beautiful and discomforting. Her piece Strip and Dismantle is made of a row of legs on tip toes as if in heels. The legs appear to be broken and yet still hold their shape. One side is carved with beautiful patterns that though visually pleasing, somehow seem to expose an internal rawness. The other side is porcelain white with delicate designs like fashionable hosiery. My mind immediately connected the concept of fashion and pain. As women we wear high heels to enhance our features and in turn suffer pain and discomfort. It is acceptable and often expected that we be willing to endure the breakdown of our bodies for an aesthetic. I’m not quite sure that was her intention, but I personally visualized the pain I feel in a pair of heels.
The piece that sparked something in me as an activist artist was Laurel Garcia Colvin’s, Beyond a Room of Our Own. The installation is set in the far back corner of the gallery. It immediately catches your attention from across the room. The walls are covered in that stark blue and white toile wallpaper in the patterns so many of us recognize seeing in our grandparents’ home, it draws you in. What is most successful is that when you enter the room, you become a part of the fabric of the piece surrounded by words, books, quotes and the powerful women who have and are changing the world. Feminist books and stories about strong women and girls line the walls screaming READ ME. I wanted to just sit down and take note of all of them, or plop down in the beanbag chair and have a good read. Each piece of furniture there for you to sit on meant something, even the wallpaper speaks to you with compelling words of formidable women etched into its design. My favorite component was the small table covered with purposefully created baubles, letters and photos. I wanted to bring the glass covered chair home. This is a sincere and theatrical installation that invites the viewer to be a part of it. It was inspiring.
The SHE exhibit runs though June 25th at ArtsWestchester.