5 Fast Facts: Hung Liu

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Hung Liu (b. 1948), whose work Winter Blossom (2011) is on view in NMWA’s newly reinstalled collection galleries.

1. Child of the Revolution

Hung Liu was born in northeastern China in 1948, two years after the start of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Liu’s father, an officer in the Nationalist army, was arrested when the family crossed into Communist territory looking for food. Liu would not see him again until 1994.

2. Secret Paintings, Secret Freedom

Liu studied painting in the Soviet art tradition of Socialist Realism. Rebelling against the strictness of the style, she began to make small landscape paintings in secret, an act she described as “having a dialogue with the wider world.” Only 30 of her estimated 500 to 600 “secret paintings” have survived.

3. Junkyard Happenings

At the University of California, San Diego, Liu studied under performance artist Allan Kaprow, who once took his students to a junkyard and encouraged them to create with the available materials. Thinking of her strict art education, Liu felt frozen, then realized there were no rules—she could create any art she wished.

Hung Liu, Winter Blossom, 2011; Woodblock print with acrylic ink, 32 1/4 x 29 3/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Hung Liu

Hung Liu, Winter Blossom, 2011; Woodblock print with acrylic ink, 32 1/4 x 29 3/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Hung Liu

4. Drip, Drip, Drip

Liu’s trademark style of drip-laden, colorful portraits is created by mixing linseed oil with paint. She often incorporates historical photographs, and she has portrayed prostitutes, refugees, street performers, soldiers, laborers, and prisoners in this way. She says the technique is meant to “give the feel of distant memory.”

5. Life as an American

Much of Liu’s newer work explores her identity as an immigrant in America. One large painting represents a “resident alien” identity card on which she has given herself the name “Cookie, Fortune.” Other paintings based on Depression-era photographs by Dorothea Lange capture the universality of struggle and migration.

—Mara Kurlandsky is the digital projects manager at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: January 11, 2019

NPR profiles Asian-American women artists who are re-creating the food of their cultures in sculptural form, a way to pay tribute to their heritage and celebrate their identity.

Artist Stephanie Shih’s porcelain dumplings; Courtesy of Robert Bredvad

Artist Stephanie Shih’s porcelain dumplings; Courtesy of Robert Bredvad

Artists Stephanie Shih, Monyee Chau, and Annie Shen craft dumplings, sticky rice buns, pork belly slices, and bao sandwiches using plaster, paint, and porcelain. Of her work, Shih says, “I’m thinking about my younger self and what these images might mean to someone who feels that they have been deprived of having their own culture elevated.”

Front-Page Femmes

Scientists discovered the blue pigment lapis lazuli in the teeth of a medieval female skeleton and have established she was likely a painter, contributing to the lavish illustrations of sacred texts.

Artprice released a list of the Top 20 Female Artists in the Global Art Market for 2018. Though the art market’s gender gap still persists, data reveals that women artists under 40 are taking the secondary market by storm.

Art in America reviews Lisa Yuskavage’s just-closed show Babie Brood, praising her technical brilliance and observing lowbrow inspirations.

Ruth Estévez has been named senior curator at large at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum.

The Haus der Kunst in Munich has canceled two separate shows by women artists Joan Jonas and Adrian Piper. Painter Markus Lüpertz will replace them, leading many to criticize the move as a “return to the proven figures of the art world, who are primarily German and male.”

Graciela Iturbide, Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México, (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico), 1979; Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Graciela Iturbide, Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, Juchitán, México, (Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Mexico), 1979; Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The New York Times profiles renowned Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide in advance of her exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, opening on January 19.

The art of Fahrelnissa Zeid graced Google’s homepage on January 7, what would be her 118th birthday. She was one of the first Modernist female painters in Turkey.

Colossal profiles the latest collection from Amber Cowan, who is transforming discarded vintage glass into enchanting “sculptural paintings.”

Art in America’s list of the Best Photography Books of 2018 includes Janice Guy, Laia Abril, Deana Lawson, Klea McKenna, and Zanele Muholi.

Curator Carmen Hermo reflects on the late Sister Wendy Beckett.

Sotheby’s has announced the full lineup of this year’s Female Triumphant, a selection of masterworks by 14 female artists from the 16th to 19th centuries.

Shows We Want to See:

The “intimate, imperfectInstagram photos of poet and writer Eileen Myles are the subject of an exhibition at Bridget Donahue in New York City. Back Room: Eileen Myles – poems presents snapshots captured on walks around lower Manhattan, scenes around Myles’s apartment, and other bits of daily life. The show closes on January 13.

Judy Baca, Absolutely Chicana, 2002. Screenprint. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Harriett and Ricardo Romo, 2013. © Judith F. Baca

Judy Baca, Absolutely Chicana, 2002, Screenprint; Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Harriett and Ricardo Romo, 2013; © Judith F. Baca

The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio will open Estampas Chicanas on January 17. The exhibition will present the works of women artists of the Chicano labor movement who were often overlooked and unheard. Pieces also depict other women in the movement, including labor leader Dolores Huerta and musician Lila Downs. Participating artists include Judy Baca, Patssi Valdez, Barbara Carrasco, Ester Hernandez, and Alma Lopez, among others.

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Connecting the Threads: Audrey Niffenegger and Rodarte

NMWA’s exhibition Rodarte celebrates the innovative American fashion house, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. The show—open until February 10, 2019—is a survey of the designers’ visionary concepts, impeccable craftsmanship, and impact on the fashion industry. The dresses on view share visual appeal and many common threads with works in NMWA’s collection. From technique to theme, dive into five innovative works by artists at NMWA in this series, “Connecting the Threads.”

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Tragic Figures

Audrey Niffenegger, Black Roses (In Memory of Isabella Blow), 2007; Linocut, Gampi tissue, and thread on Japanese paper, 67 x 25 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the artist; © Audrey Niffenegger; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Audrey Niffenegger, Black Roses (In Memory of Isabella Blow), 2007; Linocut, Gampi tissue, and thread on Japanese paper, 67 x 25 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the artist; © Audrey Niffenegger; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Eccentric British aristocrat and fashion icon Isabella Blow committed suicide in 2007 at age forty-eight. She was famous for her unfiltered wit and visionary fashion sensibilities. Artist Audrey Niffenegger (b. 1963) was a stranger to Blow, but so moved by her life and death that she created a series of works for her. Black Roses (for Isabella Blow) (2007), the largest piece in the series, is part of NMWA’s collection. It features a skeleton adorned in a cascading skirt of black roses and a black rose hat—a nod to Blow’s close friend and acclaimed hat designer Philip Treacy. Of these works, Niffenegger said, “After she died I had dreams about her. I wanted to give her something…. So I made some pictures for her. It isn’t much, but it is in a language she would have understood.”

In 2017, the Mulleavys wrote and directed their first feature film, Woodshock, which starred Kirsten Dunst. The story traces the emotional unraveling of Dunst’s character, Theresa, as she grieves the loss of her mother and considers suicide. Her personal state, intensified by the use of psychotropic substances, is mirrored in her wardrobe, which becomes both increasingly distressed and elaborate.

Wearing Emotion

The themes of mortality and the passage of time are of interest to both Niffenegger and the Mulleavys. Blow was said to have suffered after being unable to find stable footing in an industry that could not “compute her value.” In Woodshock, Theresa is shown in the grips of an existential crisis, questioning her own place in the world after her mother’s death.

In both cases, the artists used delicate materials to convey grief and depression. Niffenegger used Gampi tissue paper, silky and translucent, to form the flowing skirt in her piece—perhaps also referring to the fact that even in her anguish, Blow was always dressed elegantly. The Mulleavys worked with silk crepe, lace, and chiffon to create Theresa’s black-and-white dresses. They colored the white dresses with mauve and beige so that they appear bruised over time, communicating Theresa’s sadness and isolation.

Layers of Meaning

The works of Niffenegger and the Mulleavys also portray deeper facets of their subject’s emotions. Blow openly talked about her desire to commit suicide and approached the subject with candor and humor. Niffenegger captured elements of Blow’s personality in the skeleton, which appears in an almost conversational pose—mid-sentence with hands mid-gesture. In Woodshock’s ending, Theresa reaches destructive depths and the dresses take on new aspect: there is a violence and power in their bruised coloring and the black that cloaks Theresa’s body like a shield.

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Modern Makers: Rose Jaffe

Q&A with Rose Jaffe, a D.C.-based artist and native Washingtonian whose multidisciplinary works feature women and community at the center. Her vibrant murals can be found around D.C., and now in the Museum Shop where a selection of her smaller works are also on sale.

Rose Jaffe and the NMWA mural, photo by Adriana Regalado

Rose Jaffe and the NMWA mural, photo by Adriana Regalado

What is the inspiration behind the NMWA murals?

I want my art to bring color, energy, light, and meaning to a space. The powerful and vibrant women around me inspire my work. I am intrigued by the lines of a face and the stories our bodies tell. By painting larger-than-life portraits of everyday women, I celebrate and honor their existence.

You work in a wide array of mediums—how have you become so versatile?

I have an insatiable appetite for learning and playing with new mediums. More than anything, I tire of paint after a certain point and want to switch it up. I am working on 3D forms now—sculpture, exploring more wood and metal. It’s very exciting to me. I love how art can exist in so many mediums, almost like languages, telling the same story.

What drives the strong thread of activism in your work?

I was lucky to be raised by socially aware parents who took me to marches and rallies in my youth. I stayed engaged in college, and joined an activist collective of artists upon returning to D.C., which influenced me to use my art for a purpose. Art is an amazing conduit for us to build community, create connections, and process and heal trauma. I am passionate about this and always learning how art can spread messages of social empowerment and social change.

Can you name a notable visit to NMWA?
I know I came as a kid, and I remember visiting after college. But my most memorable experience was attending a Fresh Talk featuring the artist Swoon. I got to meet her and fangirl a bit. I cannot express how amazing NMWA’s programming is—and how important the existence of this museum is.

Which women artists are you inspired by right now?

Oh, so many! Painter Lynnea Holland Weiss, artist-activist Kate DeCiccio, illustrator Sara Andreasson, and painter Jessalyn Brooks, to name a few.

Art Fix Friday: January 4, 2019

As a new exhibition of Frida Kahlo photographs opens in Australia, The Guardian dives into the commodification of her image, asking, “are we losing the artist under the kitsch?”

Frida Kahlo, by Guillermo Kahlo, 1932; © Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida Kahlo, by Guillermo Kahlo, 1932; © Frida Kahlo Museum

Makeup bags, candles, air fresheners, baby onesies, phone cases, earrings, pill boxes—Kahlo’s face is now found on thousands of products, a symbol selling modern feminism. Would Kahlo be pleased by this? The article explores both sides and wonders “if this commodification of an artist’s body has, or would ever, happen to a man?”


Front-Page Femmes

Hyperallergic interviews Faith Ringgold and explores the origins of her visual storytelling.

Artsy explores the performance work of Carolina Caycedo at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in California. Her work engages with the injustices committed against people of color in the institution’s history.

The Los Angeles Times profiles director Sophia Takal, who is bringing the female gaze to horror movies.

Judy Chicago, Tania Bruguera, and Deana Lawson are among the women featured on Elle’s list of creative tastemakers who are shedding light on critical issues.

Nicola L., Little TV Woman: ‘I Am the Last Woman Object’, 1969; Photo by Kyle Knodell, collection of Xavier Gellier

Nicola L., Little TV Woman: ‘I Am the Last Woman Object’, 1969; Photo by Kyle Knodell, collection of Xavier Gellier

French pop artist Nicola L. has died at age 81. Throughout her prolific career, she “carved unexpected paths through acts of making.”

A new biography on writer, artist, and “unlikely feminist icon” Eve Babitz is published. The Washington Post calls author Lili Anolik’s portrayal of the provocateur’s wild life a “swooning, sometimes madcap look at Babitz.”

Get to know eight influential women artists from Germany who overcame personal and societal limitations to conquer the global art scene.

Buzzfeed explores how zine libraries highlight and preserve the stories of women of color and other marginalized voices.

Deborah Marrow, the recently retired leader of the Getty Foundation, reflects on her 35 years at the institution.

Artsy looks at the work of Hannah Wilke, who simultaneously found success and “critical dissatisfaction” using her own naked body as subject.

Muriel Miguel, a founder of the feminist Native American collective Spiderwomen Theater, is interviewed by the New York Times on the upcoming First Nations Dialogues New York/Lenapehoking, a gathering that aims to build lasting “institutional support for Indigenous performing arts worldwide.”

Shows We Want to See

At Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde in Dubai, artist Hoda Tawakol’s When the Dates Turn Red works to deconstruct gender stereotypes. The exhibition comprises hand-dyed and sewn textiles, sculptures, fabric collages, and works on paper that “mimic female cycles of life.” The works are inspired by the 1970s feminist movement and her experiences growing up in France, Germany, and Egypt.

Hoda Takawol, Jungle #1, 2018, Fabric, wadding, thread, metal and wood, 220 x 350 x 25 cm

Hoda Takawol, Jungle #1, 2018, Fabric, wadding, thread, metal and wood, 220 x 350 x 25 cm

Empresses of China’s Forbidden City at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, tells the “little-known stories of how imperial women influenced court politics, art, and religion.” The dramatic show contains portraits, silk court vests, festive headdresses, silk scroll paintings, and artifacts. Included among them are “200 rare loans from Beijing’s Palace Museum, most of them visiting America for the first time.”

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Director’s Desk: Women Artists Address Migration

At first glance, it might be difficult to identify common threads in works by Ingrid Mwangi, Jami Porter Lara, and Betsabeé Romero. Each artist uses vastly different materials—the female body, plastic water bottles, and recycled tires—to address the challenging subject of migration. Through their art, these women are engaging with topical and consequential issues.

Born to a Kenyan father and a German mother, Ingrid Mwangi of the collective Mwangi Hutter describes being seen as white while living in Africa, but seen as black after immigrating to Germany. She used her body to call attention to issues of migration and racism in her 2001 photo diptych Static Drift, featured in NMWA’s collection. Two photographs show her torso as a canvas. She used stencils and sunlight to create her subject: in one, darker skin surrounds the shape of Africa with the words “Bright Dark Continent,” while in the other, lighter skin surrounds the shape of Germany with the words “Burn Out Country.”

Mwangi Hutter, Static Drift, 2001; Two chromogenic prints on aluminum, 29 1/2 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Mwangi Hutter, Static Drift, 2001; Two chromogenic prints on aluminum, 29 1/2 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Jami Porter Lara, LDS-MHB-6SBR-0916CE-01, 2016; Pit-fired clay, 10 x 6 ½ in. diameter; Courtesy Central Features Contemporary Art; Photo by Addison Doty

Jami Porter Lara, LDS-MHB-6SBR-0916CE-01, 2016; Pit-fired clay, 10 x 6 ½ in. diameter; Courtesy Central Features Contemporary Art; Photo by Addison Doty

While Porter Lara was exploring a remote stretch of the U.S.–Mexico border, she saw discarded plastic water bottles that had been carried by migrants. She also encountered the remains of similarly discarded items: pot shards from ancient cultures. This juxtaposition inspired Porter Lara, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to consider the distinction between artifact and trash. Her thinking about how the plastic bottle might be seen as a “contemporary artifact” led to the creation of her ceramic vessels, which were recently on view in the NMWA exhibition Border Crossing.

Mexico City-based Romero embraces materials and techniques related to popular culture. She frequently transforms automotive components because cars have a broad cultural appeal. Four newly commissioned works are now on view outside the museum in the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, the only public art space in Washington, D.C., featuring rotating installations of contemporary work by women artists. Romero’s carved and painted tires symbolize humankind’s profound connection to cultural traditions, as well as a yearning to keep families safe and thriving. The car-based imagery and themes of migration and movement resonate with the hum of activity at this busy D.C. intersection.

Betsabeé Romero, Huellas y cicatricez (Traces and scars) (detail), 2018; Four tires with engraving and gold leaf and steel support, approx. 192 1/2 x 86 5/8 x 9 3/4 in.; Courtesy Betsabeé Romero Art Studio; Photo by Mara Kurlandsky, NMWA

Betsabeé Romero, Huellas y cicatricez (Traces and scars) (detail), 2018; Four tires with engraving and gold leaf and steel support, approx. 192 1/2 x 86 5/8 x 9 3/4 in.; Courtesy Betsabeé Romero Art Studio; Photo by Mara Kurlandsky, NMWA

Be it body, bottle, or tire, these three artists have found their artistic vehicles and used them to convey an intimate understanding of issues that affect our world. From migration to racism to identity, the symbolic content makes connections for viewers and elevates their work. They see a bigger picture outside themselves, and their powerful ideas implore viewers to ask questions.

—Susan Fisher Sterling is the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: December 28, 2018

The Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles has announced the WCCW Stock Photo Project to diversify the internet’s stock photo database.

WCCW Stock Photo Project, Handywork/gardening category

WCCW Stock Photo Project, Handywork/gardening category

The L.A.-based nonprofit created the initiative in response to the homogeneous and “plastic” stock photos currently available. The goal is to feature “people of color, women, genderqueer, and disabled folks of all ages and body types, in a variety of settings and narratives.” Read more at Hyperallergic.

Front-Page Femmes

The New York Times profiles Denise Murrell, businesswoman turned curator, who is championing art’s black models by telling their stories and contextualizing their presence.

Louise Bourgeois’s first large-scale Spider sculpture leaves its home at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo to begin a multi-city tour around Brazil.

Artsy’s Most Influential Artists of 2018 list includes Judy Chicago, Adrian Piper, Joan Mitchell, Cao Fei, Simone Leigh, Wu Tsang, Charline von Heyl, and Andrea Fraser.

Hyperallergic reviews Kara Walker: Virginia’s Lynch Mob and Other Works at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey. A show of “racially charged, morally fraught fantasies that offer no easy way in, or out.”

Detail of The Bower of Bliss, 2018, by Linder. Courtesy of Linder and Modern Art / Stuart Shave

Detail of The Bower of Bliss, 2018, by Linder. Courtesy of Linder and Modern Art / Stuart Shave

London’s Southwark tube station now features a feminist mural by the artist Linder, who succeeds in “seizing centuries of the male gaze through a woman’s lens.”

NMWA’s Arkansas Committee announces a statewide tour of “Arkansas Women to Watch 2019: Heavy Metal” that will kick off on Jan 7th.

Sister Wendy Beckett, nun and TV art critic, has passed away at age 88. Beckett was famous for her unscripted BBC arts documentaries.

Black Excellence highlights 10 Black Women Artists to Know.

Buzzfeed interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey on her new collection, her time as U.S. poet laureate, and history—both personal and political—as a driving force in her work.

Shows We Want to See

A new exhibition in Moscow explores Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s connections to Russia. Viva La Vida: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera includes Rivera’s mural Glorious Victory, which sat in storage for 50 years before being rediscovered a decade ago. A photo of Kahlo’s largest painting, The Wounded Table, is also included—the real piece has been missing since 1955 and the show’s curator is in search of it.

In Dresden, The Medea Insurrection: Radical Women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain showcases work created during the Soviet period by women artists from East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. They explored mythology, protest, and self-definition against classical figures like Medea and Cassandra with “punk provocation and defiance.”

Allerleirauh, Heike, Berlin (detail; 1988), Sibylle Bergemann; costume design by Angelika Kroker. Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin; © Estate of Sybille Bergemann

Heike, Allerleirauh, Berlin (detail; 1988), Sibylle Bergemann; costume design by Angelika Kroker. Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin; © Estate of Sybille Bergemann

At the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Anne Brigman: A Visionary in Modern Photography rediscovers the work of the first woman in America to take nude self-portraits. Brigman’s ethereal photographs, most all taken outdoors, “prefigured much of the feminist art that would come decades later—in their fearless depictions of the body, expressed as rebellious freedom rather than submission.”

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: December 21, 2018

artnet profiles artist-activist Vanessa German, who has won the $200,000 Don Tyson Prize. German is an acclaimed sculptor, painter, poet, and performance artist who also runs a community-based art education program for children, Art House.

Vanessa German at the Art House; Photo by Sean Carroll

Vanessa German at the Art House; Photo by Sean Carroll

German bought the house, located in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, with her art world earnings. She plans to use the Tyson prize money to open the Museum of Resilience, which will honor the neighborhood’s single black mothers and their children and inspire “social healing and connection.”

Front-Page Femmes

The Los Angeles Times reports that 2018 marks the first year in history that more women than men had solo exhibitions in L.A. art museums.

Meet the eight Latinas changing the conversation in the art world.

Hyperallergic reports on the sexual assault allegations at India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale. During a Q&A with the Guerrilla Girls, protestors called out the biennale’s lack of action after allegations were made against its cofounder and two other prominent members.

The Tate Britain announces it will reinstall its free galleries with only work by women artists starting in April 2019.

Feminist artist Judy Chicago talks with artnet about visibility and her legacy.

Architect Amale Andraos, founder of WORKac, is chosen to design the Beirut Museum of Art, which will open in Lebanon in 2023.

Artsy profiles the new online database AWARE (Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions), which aims to rewrite art history “from a more gender-equal perspective.”

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, ca. 1615–7; © The National Gallery, London

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, ca. 1615–7; © The National Gallery, London

London’s National Gallery unveiled a newly acquired Artemisia Gentileschi painting, and plans a pop-up tour and major show of the artist’s work in 2020.

The Guggenheim releases a short video introduction to Hilma af Klint, the mystical painter who is currently the subject of a high-profile exhibition.

Artsy’s 5 Photographers to Follow this December features four women.

Yalitza Aparicio, the star of the new film Roma, becomes the first Indigenous woman ever featured on the cover of Vogue Mexico.

Forbes talks artistic entrepreneurship, art world inclusivity, and more with Tiffany LaTrice, founder of TILA Studios, an arts incubator in Atlanta supporting black women visual artists.

Travel + Leisure reports on women muralists sparking a social dialogue in cities around the world.

Shows We Want to See

Cecilia Paredes, Sea of Roses, 2011; Photographic paper mounted on aluminum sintra, 39 ⅛ x 43 ¼ in.; Image courtesy of Cecilia Paredes and saltfineart

Cecilia Paredes, Sea of Roses, 2011; Photographic paper mounted on aluminum sintra, 39 ⅛ x 43 ¼ in.; Image courtesy of Cecilia Paredes and saltfineart

To create her camouflaged self-portraits, Peruvian artist Cecilia Parades wraps, covers, and paints her body to match richly patterned materials. She explores themes of identity, home, and cultural integration in work on view at the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles.

Pioneering feminist painter Yun Suknam’s portraiture work is the subject of a major exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Portraits of the World: Korea features a wood assemblage portrait of her mother as well as portraits of American artists including Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Marisol, and Kiki Smith.

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Connecting the Threads: Petah Coyne and Rodarte

NMWA’s exhibition Rodarte celebrates the innovative American fashion house, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. The show—open until February 10, 2019—is a survey of the designers’ visionary concepts, impeccable craftsmanship, and impact on the fashion industry. The dresses on view share visual appeal and many common threads with works in NMWA’s collection. From technique to theme, dive into five innovative works by artists at NMWA in this series, “Connecting the Threads.”

Eclectic Experimentation

Contemporary American sculptor and photographer Petah Coyne (b.1953) is critically acclaimed for her use of unconventional materials in her poetic pieces. Coyne renders human hair, scrap metal, wax, taxidermy, mud, chicken-wire, velvet, and more into haunting works with incredible emotional range. “I gather materials everywhere I go,” she has said. “Materials are a language.”

In their early collections, Rodarte drew acclaim for their use of unconventional materials that fused the dressmaking and art-making processes. Layering metallic ribbons, eyelash yarn, wire, chainmail tube, leather, Swarovski crystals, silk tulle, and more, their works upended conventional fashion practices by letting their material choice determine each silhouette.

Petah Coyne, Untitled #781, 1994; Wax, plastic, cloth and steel, 62 x 35 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of the Artist; © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Petah Coyne, Untitled #781, 1994; Wax, plastic, cloth and steel, 62 x 35 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of the Artist; © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Petah Coyne, Untitled #781, 1994; Wax, plastic, cloth and steel, 62 x 35 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of the Artist; © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Emily Haight

Petah Coyne, Untitled #781, 1994; Wax, plastic, cloth and steel, 62 x 35 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of the Artist; © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Emily Haight

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Rodarte exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C.; Photo: Floto+Warner

Masters of Craft

Her complex and layered sculptures require Coyne to do it all: she sews, she waxes and wires flowers, she paints, she manipulates wire, and she learned a Victorian method for making jewelry out of human hair. Coyne even worked with a chemist to “patent an archival wax formula that she uses in melted form, like a pigment. It has become her signature.” This is seen in Coyne’s Untitled #781 (1994), part of NMWA’s collection (not currently on view).

Rodarte’s early works also reveal a rapid command of their craft. Entirely self-taught, the Mulleavys mastered one technique after another, skillfully combining them in subsequent collections. Their approach to design is dictated by the textural qualities of their fabrics and driven by process and materiality.

Embodying Contradictions

At the heart of Coyne’s work is dissonance—an exploration of the fine lines between lushness and decay, beauty and grotesqueness. In Untitled #781, the pink-and-white sculpture alludes to a tutu, a birthday cake, or a party dress—symbols of girlhood and innocence—but it also appears to be curdling before the viewer’s eye. The piece seems to float, but is actually quite heavy, constructed over a wire-and-steel core. Throughout her work, Coyne thumbs these fine lines while also exploring the larger theme of life and loss at the core of her creations.

The Mulleavys are also interested in juxtaposing ideas in their collections. Through a complex layering of techniques that simultaneously build and destroy the materials, they transform their works into hybrid creations—both perfect and ruined. “We are attracted to imperfection and to beauty and chaos,” Kate Mulleavy has said. This dissonance has surfaced in many Rodarte designs, including their work for the costumes in the film Black Swan. “We were inspired by the idea of transformation, specifically the dichotomy between perfection and decay.”

—Alicia Gregory is assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s no secret: NMWA’s Museum Shop is a local favorite for fun, funky, and fresh gifts from women owned companies around the world. We rounded up our favorite products to help you find last-minute gifts for the art-loving feminists in your lives.

Visit the shop Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. –5 p.m., and buy select products online.

Museum members receive a 10% discount on purchases both in-store and online.

For the Fierce Feminist

1. “Girls Do It Better” T-Shirt  ($35)

2. Little Box of Feminist Flair ($9.95)

3. Guerrilla Girls Bandanna ($22)

4. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit  ($12.95)

5. Retro Venus Magnet ($6)

6. “Woman Power” Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($26)

 

For the Fashion-Forward

NMWA’s first fashion exhibition, Rodarte, is on view November 10, 2018-February 10, 2019.

1. Aperture Magazine “Fashion” Issue, Fall 2014 ($24.95)

2. Rodarte “Radarte” Sweatshirt ($90)

3. Small Embroidered Pouch ($21)

4. Leather Bead Adjustable Necklace ($48)

5. Zass Design Earrings ($46)

6. Fashion Oracles Card Deck ($14.99)

For the Art Buff

1. Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 ($60)

2. Frida Kahlo Earrings ($22)

3. Mickalene Thomas Pocket Mirror ($28)

4. Louise Bourgeois Tea for One Set ($62)

5. Yayoi Kusama Print ($32)

For the D.C. Native

Shop small, buy local from these beloved D.C. brands.

1. “Do Not Touch the Artwork” T-Shirt – District of Clothing ($28)

2. Lotus Blossom Candle – Handmade Habitat ($28)

3. “Like a Lady Boss” Print – Grey Moggie Press ($33)

4. Frida Kahlo Kids Shoes – AuggieFroggy ($37)

5. Mini Leather Wallet – Stitch and Rivet ($50)

6. Small Ceramic Bowl – Tin Tin’s Pieces ($32.50)

7. Bandanna – Printed Wild ($22)