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13 Artists Explore Female Empowerment in American Art

Inside '(em) POWER DYNAMICS: Exploring the Modes of Female Empowerment and Representation in America.'

Georgia O’Keeffe’s colorful feminine flower paintings and Ana Mendieta’s Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations) self-portraits serve as the inspiration for the Gateway Project’s latest show, (em) POWER DYNAMICS: Exploring the Modes of Female Empowerment and Representation in America, part of the ongoing curated series, Visualizing Our Americana. “There is a brashness in both works that are unique to the moment they were created in,” Rebecca Jampol, who curated the group show along with Jasmine Wahi, says of the O’Keeffe and Mendieta works. “That is a bit of a common thing in contemporary art now, however at those specific moments they were stepping above the comfort zone of the common maker. Artists invited to participate in this exhibit are the successors of this thought process.”

Chitra Ganesh, Atlas, 2013, Edition 3/3, Lightjet Print. Courtesy of the artist

The exhibition features an array of female artists—Jaishri Abichandani, Renée Cox, Ayana Evans, FlucT, Angela Fraleigh, Chitra Ganesh, Rachel Mason, Marilyn Minter, Sophia Narrett, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Michele Pred, Ventiko, and Shoshanna Weinberger—who each use their art practices to critically consider the past and future of feminism in American culture. “Each artist gracefully embraces the topic in a way that elevates women, hence the title, (em)power,” explains Jampol. “Michele Pred's blinking vintage purses tell the tale of the fight of ownership over one's body and ongoing lessons in women's rights. Shoshanna Weinberger's large scale painting, Backlit Smoker, glorifies bedroom pleasures. And Angela Fraleigh explores fantasy, sexuality and nostalgia in large-scale, heavily gold-leafed canvases unveiling what never was.”

Installation photo by Michele Pred

Taken together, the work shines a light on female representation in contemporary art and continues the conversation around how female artists choose to represent themselves.The art on display at the Gateway Project stands in stark contrast to the art historical practice of female figures rendered through the gaze of male artists. “This work keeps the edge sharp, the dialogue moving, and the brain advancing in terms of how women have the ability to shape notions of sexuality, gender equality, family, society, and life in general,” adds Jampol.

Shoshanna Weinberger, Back Lit Smoker: One Topless Enterprise under a Perpetual Mid-Night, 2015. Gouache/mixed media on paper. 71.5 x 48 inches

The show also squares up with the larger goals for the Gateway Project art space itself: “Each artist featured presents different approaches to discussing feminism and topics of the evolution of womanhood, reflecting important part of the Gateway Project's mission to host socially engaging programming to cultivate critical social dialogues,” states the exhibition’s curatorial statement. “The Gateway Project is an arts space founded, directed, and staffed by women from diverse backgrounds," explains Jampol, who is also a cofounder of the Gateway Project. "As a woman working in an industry of brilliant women, it is exciting to highlight their voices and welcome this exhibition as part two of the ongoing curated series, Visualizing Our Americana.”

Jaishri Abichandani, from the Before Kali Series, 2013-2015. Mixed media- plaster, ceramics, paint, gems

(em) POWER DYNAMICS: Exploring the Modes of Female Empowerment and Representation in America is on view through October 23rd at the Gateway Project. For more information, click here.

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