This open art call for the Les Femmes Folles: Feminist Connect art exhibit received over 200 responses from artists across various disciplines reflecting on the possibilities for the arts and feminist inquiry. We offer this virtual art exhibit as a gift during this time of pandemic, with a desire to contribute to making meaning through creativity. As curators we have a significant role to play in what is published, represented and how artists are brought together through the exhibiting process. This art exhibit builds upon the feminist relational model towards curating with purpose by engaging topics that are often demonized or not valued, such as Katie Hovencamp's photographs of domestic images addressing women's roles in society or the theatrics of women in everyday life by Phyllis Bramson. Teetering in-between personal and public realms, Bramson's paintings grapple with contradictions and partial stories in lyrical visuals.
In Latin, curator means guardian or trustee. We define curator in the context of this exhibition as an umbrella term to include scholar, artist, facilitator, educator. We pivot curator as the practice of curating as researcher, contributing to the production of knowledge, theorizing, creating worlds, suggesting hypotheses, and proposing a form of narration. In this vein, artist Ghislaine Fremaux articulates her quest to "investigate the phenomenological experiences of being naked, of being pleasured, and of seeing and being seen - and the anxieties, uncertainties, and wonder that attend them..." as a lens for generating new perspectives. Feminist art is the lineage of art making that is creating about marginalized and suppressed knowledges and creating within them (Anzaldúa & Keating, 2015). Sara Ishii cements her paintings of suspended forms grappling in awkward contortions on queer Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera (1995), describing nepantla as a challenging and uncomfortable space. Ishii's series centering on her Japanese biracial identity alludes to an embodied experience in nepantla, a Náhuatl word for "in-between space."
All art submissions for Les Femmes Folles: Feminist Connect art exhibit were collected virtually. We carved out time to look through all the submitted art works individually and then came together with our notes and went through each artist's work. Together, we viewed the art pieces, looked at the artists websites, and closely read the artist statements about the submitted works and their coorelation to our Feminist Connect theme. We sought out artworks that firmly substantiated a feminist connection of lived experiences, feminist lineage and larger social issues. In doing such, our role as curators is not passive but rather active as we are in conversation, through the art, with individual stories by the artists, but also curating a collective visual language that centers on co-creating knowledge with care. In this vein, curating is education, research, scholarship and a feminist pedagogical approach that is described as 'taking care of power' (Horne et al, 2016, p. 124). Bell hooks explains this power through art as a rarity, "where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact" (1995, p. 8). Nayda Cuevas's series, #FierceLatinas engages conversations of power by challenging the representations seen in mainstream media and showcasing powerful Latinas.
Proudly, we have included work by emerging, mid and mature creative contributors, curating art works with care and critical reflection, ethical considerations to the issues that the artists works address through personal and collective narrative. Significant themes presented themselves, despite being an open call for submissions; menstruation, the body, grief, love, identity, and invisibility. They reflect action and meaning-making through artmaking. For example, the work of Eve Picher, Creatix series, and Amy Chaikin's Cultured Pearls series highlights the often silenced, erased and buried female historical lineages. Lauren Selden's, abstract work, Before and after the storm and Home engages conversations of the female body and imagery and the "contested territory and that is female bodies, stories, and prescribed genders." Artists engage with the intricate and complicated conversations through lived experiences and embodiment, such as Stumpf's Vessure mixed-media work entangled with her own biography and secrecy in relationship to memory and artmaking. Anzaldúa explains that by writing she is able to put order in the world, give it a handle to grasp it by--in creating art, we are enacting that same energy of creating meaning for ourselves and the world we inhabit.
Any sales inquiries for works in this exhibition should be directed to the individual artists.
Sally Brown and Leslie C. Sotomayor