Art Fix Friday: July 12, 2019

The 2019 Women’s World Cup brought deserved attention to the talents of the world’s best female footballers, and it also shone a light on the many female photographers who cover the game.

Megan Rapinoe, captain and star of the U.S. Women’s National Team, celebrates with her arms up in the air after scoring the opening goal in the World Cup final

Megan Rapinoe, captain and star of the U.S. Women’s National Team, celebrates after scoring the opening goal in the World Cup final; Photograph by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The Guardian rounds up pictures by six female photographers who captured joy and despair on the field.

Front-Page Femmes

Artist, poet, and filmmaker Himali Singh Soin has won the 2019 Frieze Artist Award and will create a new commissioned work for Frieze London this fall.

PEN America interviews Native American writers Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton, editors of the new anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers.

Yayoi Kusama will take over the New York Botanical Garden with a massive exhibition opening in spring 2020 billed as “the first-ever exploration of the artist’s profound engagement with nature.”

The New York Times publishes an op-ed on the dominance of the white male critic—and how our conversations about culture have the same blind spots as our political discourse.

Faith Ringgold will design a new set of stained-glass windows for a Yale University common room; her work will replace panels that commemorated the life of John C. Calhoun, an influential champion of slavery and white supremacy.

The Washington Post reports on the new wave of female museum leaders and the impact their posts could have on the longstanding gender pay gap.

An infographic detailing the gender pay gap for male and female chief curators from the 2017 National Museum Salary Survey; the stats are typed in two ornate, gold frames: one reads "Male Chief Curators $71,050 median salary, the other reads "Female Chief Curators $55,550 median salary

The longstanding and systemic gender pay gap among museum leaders is highlighted in the 2017 National Museum Salary Survey; Photo courtesy of the Washington Post

ARTnews has published the transcript of a conversation between Joan E. Biren, Lola Flash, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden, participants in the panel “Picturing Herstory: Queer Artists on Lesbian Visibility.”

The Guardian profiles painter Lucy Jones, whose “cerebral palsy makes painting a huge physical effort, yet her unflinching self-portraits could rival any Hockney.”

Hyperallergic reviews Cristina Camacho’s recent show /ˈvʌlvə/, featuring multilayered, woven canvases that are a “gesture to name what has been expropriated from women…what male-dominated language concealed from the world: vulva.”

The New York Times reports on the new wave of transgender opera singers who are upending preconceptions about voice and gender.

Shows We Want to See

Suzanne Jackson's sculpture "Her Empty Vanity" made from acrylic, mixed papers, canvas, panel, lace, mirror with shells

Suzanne Jackson, Her Empty Vanity, 2017; Acrylic, mixed papers, canvas, panel, lace, mirror with shells; Photo by Dana Melaver, © Suzanne Jackson

At the Tate Modern in London, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary portraying the life of the artist and her friends through the 1970s and 1980s. Goldin described her work as capturing “the struggle in relationships between intimacy and autonomy… and what makes coupling so difficult.”

The Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando presents Immersion into Compounded Time and the Paintings of Firelei Báez, which explores the visibility and construction of complex cultural identities within the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora.

Suzanne Jackson: Five Decades, the first full-career survey of the artist, is on view at Telfair Museums in Savannah. The show includes 42 signature works made between 1959 and 2018, as well as ephemera spotlighting her connections to dance, theater and costume design, poetry, and social activism.

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

Director’s Desk: Space Explorers

At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, we regularly rotate our collection to spark new thematic connections. This is an essential part of our curatorial philosophy. In a six-post series, I will explore the themes featured in our most recent collection installation. Read about our “Family Matters” and “Rebels with a Cause” themes, and stay tuned for more.

Kirsten Justesen's Sculpture #2, a square cardboard box that features, on the top, a photo of the naked artist curled up inside of a box.

Kirsten Justesen, Sculpture #2, 1968/2010, Edition II, 1/5; Painted cardboard box and screened photograph, overall: 20 in x 24 in x 24 in.; Gift of Montana A/S

Spaces, both physical and metaphorical, often have strong gendered associations. Historically, conventional ideas about women’s purportedly delicate sensibilities led them to be regularly restricted to private, interior environments—sites of protection and confinement. Such isolation limited women’s active participation in the exterior, public realm directed by men.

Many women artists evaluate the complex interrelationships of inside/outside and the female body. Employing imagery and materials that frame, envelop, or reflect the body, they reconfigure our assumptions about personal space.

Gallery Highlights:

Body-art pioneer Kirsten Justesen subverts the conventional approach to sculpting the nude female figure. For centuries, artists positioned figurative sculptures atop a plinth in order to provide the viewer a 360-degree view. Justesen’s compelling Sculpture II (2010), a remake of an object she first created in 1968, upends this tradition. The piece comprises an open cardboard box that reveals a photograph of the artist’s own curled body. This image of a woman in a box disrupts the viewer’s voyeuristic perspective and, perhaps, provides commentary on social constraints imposed upon women.

Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene also depicts a woman in a confining situation. In her photograph Untitled (68) (1999), she positioned her model in a domestic space: hidden beneath the cushions of a living room sofa, like a child at play. The pillows envelop the woman, who rests with her eyes closed, and suggest both containment and comfort.

With her back to the viewer, the figure in Alison Saar’s print Mirror, Mirror: Mulatta Seeking Inner Negress II (2014) is also somewhat concealed, her face visible only through her reflection in the frying pan she holds. The figure and the print’s title evoke the fairy tale Snow White, which contains themes of female self-critique and a culturally narrow standard of beauty.

Hellen van Meene, Untitled (68), 1999; Chromogenic color print, 15 3/8 x 15 3/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Hellen van Meene, Courtesy of the Artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery

Director’s Desk: Space Explorers

Alison Saar, Mirror Mirror: Mulatta Seeking Inner Negress II, 2014; Woodcut on chind colle, 40 1/2 x 23 1/3 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Dean Emerita of Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore; © Alison Saar; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Director’s Desk: Space Explorers

Berthe Morisot, The Cage, 1885; Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 15 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Director’s Desk: Space Explorers

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Natalie with Birdcages, 1950; Gelatin silver print 14 x 11 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Helen Cumming Ziegler

Although she worked more than a century before these contemporary artists, impressionist Berthe Morisot created a deceptively serene view in her painting The Cage (1885). She applied paint in vigorous strokes on an unprimed canvas to depict a pair of caged love birds. Huddled close together and positioned beside an exuberant vase of flowers, the birds appear diminutive and vulnerable.

Decades later, photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe also used the bird cage. Rejecting studio settings and mannequin-like poses, she brought a formal precision and an irreverent sense of humor to the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar from 1936 to 1958. Natalie with Bird Cages (1950) depicts a woman standing between two bird cages, seemingly at ease and assured—and by no means confined or caged herself.

These and other works in “Space Explorers” showcase how elements of architecture, mirrors, and other objects highlight the physical and psychological nuances of enclosure.

—Susan Fisher Sterling is the Alice West Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: July 5, 2019

In an op-ed for The Art Newspaper, artist Xaviera Simmons responds to art critics who thought the 2019 Whitney Biennial was “not radical enough.”

Xaviera Simmons

As the critiques were written by white critics, Simmons calls for a “white radicality in contemporary art,” where the burden of response over this country’s systemic maladies is not solely placed on people of color. “If radical change is truly desired in such a place, then those who have the bounty of privilege should shoulder the greater risk.”

Front-Page Femmes

Douriean Fletcher, the jewelry designer for Black Panther, recently featured in NMWA’s Fresh Talk series; she spoke to The Art Newspaper and NPR about her work and the power of adornment.

Curbed reports on the efforts to save Nina Simone’s childhood home led by a group of artists including filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and painter Julie Mehretu.

At the Phillips’s summer sale in London, paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Marlene Dumas brought in double their estimates.

A black model walks the Dior runway in a wearable golden doll house; the background in lush greenery.

Feminist artist Penny Slinger was tapped to help create a wearable golden doll house dress for Dior’s autumn/winter 2019 couture collection

Vogue UK interviews Penny Slinger, the feminist artist who helped create a golden doll house dress for Dior’s autumn/winter 2019 couture collection.

Artsy profiles six women artists who are furthering Cindy Sherman’s vision.

The New Yorker looks at “the imperfect, unfinished work of women’s suffrage” a century later and why it’s important to remember why suffragists fought so hard—and who was fighting against them.

Meet the art stars of Entre Nous, a dinner series for women of color in the art world.

Luchita Hurtado, named one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” this year at age 98, speaks to Art21 about motherhood, creativity, and finding balance.

ArtNews looks at how Harmony Hammond’s art and activism has championed Queer women over the past 50 years.

Forbes profiles 29-year-old Amar Singh, the male art entrepreneur who is championing women artists with his London-based Amar Gallery.

Laura Raicovich interviews Maia Chao and Josephine Devanbu, the founders of Look at Art. Get Paid., about their innovative program and vision for the future of museums.

Vogue UK publishes an essay by Florence Welch, of the band Florence and the Machine, on her internal battles and path to happiness: “To self-crucify in the name of art always means that the art stops, and another voice is lost.”

The Asian Journal interviews Malaka Gharib, author of the graphic memoir I Was Their American Dream, on identity, the intimacy of sharing art, and why first generation Americans need their own dreams.

Shows We Want to See

At the Whitney Museum of American Art, Julie Mehretu presents a mid-career survey of the artist’s examination of painting, history, geopolitics, and displacement.

Julie Mehretu's Retopistics: A Renegade Evacuation painting, which features a variety of precise abstract shaped atop a cream background.

Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Evacuation, 2001; Ink and acrylic on canvas, 102 × 216 in.; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Photograph by Edward C Robinson III

At the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, One Life: Marian Anderson explores the life of the famed singer, her achievements, and how she became a symbol of the civil rights movement.

Menesunda Reloaded, the recreation of Argentine artist Marta Minujín’s seminal installation La Menesunda, is now open at the New Museum. The show is described as “a distinguished precursor to today’s rage for immersive experiences.”

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

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Monumental Public Art

Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling presents the artist’s monumental cedar wood sculptures alongside newer works for the first time. The poetic and expressive works, which also use leather, linen, and other organic materials, reveal the process by which von Rydingsvard gives outward visual form to her innermost ideas and emotions.

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Ursula von Rydingsvard's SCIENTIA stands outside of a MIT building at twilight at 25-feet high; Its soaring bowl form features variegated coloring and a lace-like perforated segment at the top. A student places her hand on the sculpture.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, SCIENTIA, 2016; Bronze; A gift commissioned by Lore Harp McGovern for the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Public Art Collection of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Photo by Jerry L. Thompson

In addition to her works on view in museum galleries, Ursula von Rydingsvard has created large-scale sculptures that can be visited in public parks, plazas, and civic buildings across the country. Curious to discover more of her work? Here are five to see:

Ona (2013), Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York:

Just outside of the Barclays Center, Ona is more than 19 feet high and weighs nearly 12,000 pounds. To create the bronze sculpture, as she does for all of her monumental cast works, von Rydingsvard first constructed a scale model in cedar to get the details exactly right. The artist recognizes that the finish of the bronze will change color from being touched and rubbed by passersby. She is glad to see its patina evolve over time, a result of the work’s connection with the public.

Ocean Voices II (2013), San Francisco International Airport, California: 

The San Francisco Arts Commission emphasized public art in the airport’s Terminal 3. Standing more than ten feet high, von Rydingvard’s Ocean Voices II is made from  4-x-4 cedar beams, the artist’s signature material.

URODA (2015), Princeton University, New Jersey:

On Princeton’s campus, outside the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, von Rydingsvard installed URODA. Its surface is made of more than 3,000 pieces of copper, hammered by hand to conform to the curves of her textural cedar model. While it may seem familiar to fans of her work—the towering funnel shape marks it as one of von Rydingsvard’s “bowl” sculptures—its creation broke new ground as the artist’s first large-scale piece made primarily of copper.

SCIENTIA (2016), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge:

The 25-foot-high bronze SCIENTIA was commissioned for MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Its soaring bowl form features variegated coloring and a lace-like perforated segment at the top.

Ursula von Rydingsvard's Ocean Voices II stands on a white square platform in the San Francisco International Airport; the cedar wood structure is shaded with graphite and looks as if it is organically growing out of the platform from a smaller base that gradually widens larger at the top.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Ocean Voices II, 2013; Cedar, graphite; Photo courtesy of the SFO Museum

katul katul (2002), Queens Family Courthouse, Jamaica, New York:

In the Queens Family Courthouse, von Rydingvard’s katul katul is made of molded plastic and aluminum, although it, too, was first created in cedar. It carries light downward through a skylight-illuminated atrium.

Still want to see more? Von Rydingsvard’s sculptures can also be found in museums’ sculpture gardens, with works on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Massachusetts; and The Contemporary Austin, Texas, among others.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: June 28, 2019

Vice has published never-before-seen photos of New York City’s 1977 Pride March by photographer Meryl Meisler.

Three women at the 1977 New York City Pride Parade stand smiling in a black and white photo; the woman in the middle wears a white tank top with the word "Fem" across the front, the two women on either side of her wear identical black t-shirts that say "Butch"; Photo by Meryl Meisler

Three women at the 1977 New York City Pride Parade; Photo by Meryl Meisler

Shortly after coming out, Meisler attended and shot the march, developed the film, and didn’t look at the images again for 42 years. The black-and-white photos depict the joy, creativity, and inclusivity of the event. Other works by Meisler are included in the New-York Historical Society’s current exhibition Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall.

Front-Page Femmes

Buzzfeed rounds up 12 books by—and about—lesbian and bisexual women to read this Pride Month.

artnet profiles Helen Cammock, a social worker turned Turner Prize nominee who believes all art is political.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently deaccessioned a Mark Rothko painting for $50.1 million in an effort to diversify its collection; this week the museum announced the acquisition of works by 10 artists including Alma Thomas, Kay Sage, Leonora Carrington, Mickalene Thomas, and Rebecca Belmore.

Creative Time has named Natasha Logan its next deputy director; Logan succeeds Jean Cooney and most recently worked as director of programming at the organization.

A six-story mural by Amy Sherald has been completed in Philadelphia’s Center City; it depicts a local resident, 19-year-old Najee Spencer-Young.

Amy Sherald’s new mural in Philadelphia, depicting local Najee Spencer-Young wearing a white coat with black flowers, a yellow hat, on a bright blue background; the figure is painted in Sherald's signature grey-scale skin tone.

Amy Sherald’s new mural in Philadelphia, depicting local Najee Spencer-Young; Photo by Steve Weinik

Dazed interviews three Iranian women artists who are addressing their country’s complicated history of women’s rights in their work.

Vogue declares that the most exciting new menswear designers are…young women. This new generation of talent is “changing the sensibility of men’s fashion.”

Vox goes inside Felicity House, a New York social club for women with autism, which includes an art studio.

Animation filmmaker Suzan Pitt, who addressed women’s sexuality, depression, mortality, and miracles, has died at age 75.

ArtNews reviews Susan Te Kahurangi King’s drawings, currently on view in a major survey at Chicago’s Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

artnet profiles Jamian Juliano-Villani, “the jokester painter who appropriates, provokes, and doesn’t apologize.”

A recent exhibition in Paris featured photography by six female refugee artists from Afghanistan and Iran to highlight the subjugation of women.

Shows We Want to See

A surrealist painting by Dora Marr featuring a strange, bird-human hybrid wearing a purple nightgown and purple socks seated on a white bench in a long hallway that extends and warps to the left.

Dora Maar, 29 Rue D’astorg, 1936; © Centre Pompidou

Life: Six Women Photographers opens today at the New-York Historical Society and features more than 70 images by the women who worked at Life magazine between the 1930s and 1970s—a time when female photojournalists were a rarity.

A major survey of Surrealist artist Dora Maar’s work is on view at Paris’s Centre Pompidou and will travel to the Tate Modern in London and the Getty Center in Los Angeles later this year and in 2020. The show presents more than 500 works and documents,  liberating her from her lover Picasso’s shadow.

Liz Johnson Artur’s first solo show, Dusha, is on view through August 18 at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition showcases the Russian Ghanaian artist’s “Black Balloon Archive,” which is a “vibrant chronicle” of the global African diaspora.

At Hauser & Wirth in New York, Lorna Simpson. Darkening presents a suite of new large-scale glacial paintings that explore identity, gender, race, and history.

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

Interview with Fresh Talk Speaker Maia Nuku

A headshot of Dr. Maia Nuku

Dr. Maia Nuku will speak at Fresh Talk: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action on June 30

Dr. Maia Nuku is the Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nuku was born in London and is of English and Maori (Ngai Tai) descent. Her doctoral research focused on early missionary collections of Polynesian gods and their extraordinary materiality, which sparked an interest in drawing out the often eclipsed cosmological aspects of Oceanic art.

On June 30, NMWA welcomes Nuku as she takes part in FRESH TALK: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action, a conversation about the aesthetics of gender equity. We asked her three short questions to get us thinking:

What is one experience, project, or person that made you recognize that you were doing important work? Being of Maori descent has impacted my curatorial practice in the sense that, over time, I’ve moved away from the idea of the gallery as simply a place where we present art from a particular region. Instead, I’ve shifted towards an understanding of it as a place of encounter: a place to dialogue and confront complex colonial histories. I prefer to approach the galleries as a place to host in the manner that Pacific people are accustomed to do. In this way it becomes a very active and dynamic space. When I host Maori and Pacific islanders in the galleries and see that they feel comfortable in the space and that they’re moved to engage with their ancestors naturally just as they would at home, I feel that we are on our way to getting something right. It’s encouraging to feel the warmth of their response and the excitement they feel at sharing their culture with visitors from around the world.

A portrait from the 1870s of a Maori woman who wears a black Victorian style blouse with lace ruffles, two white-tipped feathers in her hair sticking straight up, and black tattoo chin markings

Portrait of Maori woman; Samuel Carnell studio, Napier, New Zealand, 1870s; National Library of New Zealand

Can you describe a moment in which you realized the power of adornment? In my early 20s, I visited an exhibition of early portraits of Maori women called Moko: 19th Century Portrait Photographs of Maori. It featured large black-and-white studio portraits taken in the 1870s by photographer Samuel Carnell in Napier, New Zealand. Many of the women photographed were from the Ngati Kahungunu iwi (tribe) and, seeing the pakeha (European settlers) in town visiting the studio to have their portraits taken for cartes de visite and to send home to family, decided they wanted similar portraits. Wearing black taffeta and moiré-silk Victorian style bustle dresses, their features were off-set by the dark ink of their tattooed chin markings (moko kauae), dramatic white-tipped huia feathers in their hair, and greenstone hei tiki pendants worn around their necks. Ribbons and brooches typical of the Victorian era were pinned to their dresses. I was fascinated by the clash of Maori and European cultures, which seemed to be an encounter between history and art, fixed in a single photographic moment which hinted at otherwise-untold stories. These photographs affected me personally. They were a mirror of the two cultures from which my own bloodlines are constructed. Seeing them was a turning point: soon after, I decided to leave the work I was doing, began to study history, art, and anthropology, and started my journey into museums.

What is one way that your work engages with gender equity and/or gender roles? Gender and gender roles have been constructed and re-evaluated in the Pacific over time as necessary—they’re not always strictly defined; Pacific cultures have also always had a space for the non-binary which was not necessarily defined, labeled, or prescribed. So the continued work—by scholars, curators, Pacific artists, and cultural practitioners—to recover the coordinates of indigenous cultures in all their glorious nuance, detail, and complexity helps us to tackle and confront issues of race, gender, and equity. As we immerse ourselves in the detail of indigenous knowledge, we see and feel other ways of being in the world, and we glimpse more equitable ways of interacting which we can build upon.

In FRESH TALK: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action, Dr. Maia Nuku joins in conversation with Douriean Fletcher, Marvel Comics’ jewelry designer for Black Panther (2018), and Dr. Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Co-Director at Estate Little Princess Archaeology Project.

How have we communicated gender and power through adornment in the past, and how does such a rich history translate to adornment practices today?

Watch online starting at 4:30 p.m. (EST) on June 30: nmwa.org/freshtalk4change.

—Grace DeWitt is the spring 2019 public programs intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Meet Fresh Talk Speaker Ayana Flewellen

In her forthcoming book, A Black Feminist Archaeology of Adornment (working title), Dr. Ayana Omilade Flewellen investigates how clothing, hair alterations, jewelry, body piercings, scarification, and other methods of self-making shaped the identities of African American farmers in post-emancipation Texas. Flewellen uses the word “sartorial” to define these forms of bodily modification and adornment, practices which are deeply influenced by systems of oppression and power.

A headshot of Dr. Ayana Flewellen, who stands in a white blouse with a silver necklace; the blurry background is a landscape of lush green trees and mountains in the far background.

Dr. Ayana Flewellen will speak at Fresh Talk: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action on June 30

For Flewellen, archaeology is responsible for turning over every stone—both in physical practice and in critical discourse. By applying understandings of gender, class, and race to preconceived history, Flewellen has become a leading figure for intersectional anthropology and the growing field of black feminist archaeology.

We are thrilled to host Flewellen, Co-Director at Estate Little Princess Archaeology Project and President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, at NMWA on June 30 as she takes part in Fresh Talk: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action, a conversation about the aesthetics of gender equity. We asked her three short questions to get us thinking:

  • What is one experience, project, or person that made you recognize that you were doing important work? My maternal grandmothers are at the center of my work. My first book project is an ode to their lives. Through material culture and documentary evidence, I explore how women, like my great-grandmother Dovie Lee Tyler, lived and labored in Texas and how they adorned their lives in the face of racism, sexual exploitation, and economic disenfranchisement.
  • Can you describe a moment in which you realized the power of adornment?As a child, witnessing the women in my life allowed me to see the power of adornment at a very young age. I grew up in a household with my mother, who loved bright colors. She also handcrafted and sold jewelry, in addition to working for a number of nonprofits before she went back to school. It was from her crafted pieces—seeing the care and skill that went into their production—that I understood their intrinsic value and the power they held for the wearer.
  • What is one way that your work engages with gender equity and/or gender roles? My research looks at the formation of identities from slavery through freedom within the African Diaspora in the Atlantic World. Doing this work requires an intersectional lens that allows for the creation of historical narratives that revel in the complexities of the lives of people of African descent.

For Fresh Talk: Adorning Wakanda—Accessory to Action, Dr. Flewellen joins in conversation with Douriean Fletcher, Marvel Comics’ first licensed jewelry designer and official adornment artist for Black Panther (2018), and Dr. Maia Nuku, Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How have we communicated gender and power through adornment in the past, and how does such a rich history translate to adornment practices today?

Watch online starting at 4:30 p.m. (EST) on June 30: nmwa.org/freshtalk4change.

—Grace DeWitt is the spring 2019 public programs intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: June 21, 2019

Poet, writer, and musician Joy Harjo has been named the new U.S. poet laureate—she is the first Native American to serve in the position.

A headshot of Joy Harjo for the Library of Congress; the writer wears her black hair parted in the middle with some wispy bangs, a slight smile with red lipstick, and long intricately beaded earrings.

Joy Harjo; Photo by Shawn Miller for the Library of Congress

Harjo is the author of eight books of poetry, a memoir, and a number of children’s books. She will represent both her Indigenous culture and all those of the U.S. when she succeeds Tracy K. Smith this fall. About the appointment, Harjo said, “I bear the honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors…It’s such an honoring for Native people in this country.”

Front-Page Femmes

Elizabeth Acevedo is the first writer of color to win the Carnegie medal, the U.K.’s most prestigious children’s book award, in its 83-year history.

The New York Times profiles the re-emergence of female surrealists, reviewing two current shows featuring work by Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

Painter Joyce Pensato, whose work addressed the sinister side of cartoon iconography, has died at age 78.

A new survey revealed that only a quarter of solo museum shows in Switzerland have been dedicated to women over the past decade.

A woman stands in the middle of Yayoi Kusamas LOVE IS CALLING Infinity Room, which is full of neon pink, green, and yellow sculptures with black polka dots that rise from the floor like tentacles, but are also reflected on all of the mirrored surfaces to create a fully immersive environment.

Exhibition employees admire Kusama’s installation LOVE IS CALLING, which will be on view at ICA Boston in September 2019; Photo by Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images

Yayoi Kusama will debut a new Infinity Mirror Room at David Zwirner Gallery in New York this fall; the ICA Boston will also open its recently acquired Infinity Room—the largest owned by a museum in North America—around the same time.

According to new research, more women are directing independent films than ever—and when there’s a female director, there are more women writers, editors, and cinematographers hired.

Marin Alsop, head of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first women to lead a major American orchestra, has started a fellowship for women conductors.

The Art Newspaper looks at the life of U.K. sculptor Mary Spencer Watson (1913–2006), whose 16th-century farmhouse is now open year-round and includes reproductions and a permanent exhibition.

Vanity Fair features an exclusive first look at Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan’s remake of the classic Little Women, which will hit theaters in December 2019.

Shows We Want to See

MOOD: Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2018–19 is on view MoMA PS1. It features the work of Allison Janae Hamilton, Tschabalala Self, and Sable Elyse Smith and resituates the often-trending social media hashtag #mood that describes moments both profound and banal.

Five textile sculptures by Mrinalini Mukherjee hang from the ceiling in a row. They are different shades of muted purple, orange, and yellow and are larger than a person. Each sculpture resembles a creature in the way the fabric has been constructed to look like it is around a body, but also is unfolding in ways that resemble otherworldly costumes or deities.

Left to right: Mrinalini Mukherjee’s Basanti (She of Spring), 1984; Yakshi (Female Forest Deity), 1984; Pakshi (Bird), 1985; Rudra (Deity of Terror), 1982; and Devi (Goddess), 1982; Photo by Ben Davis

Mrinalini Mukherjee’s Phenomenal Nature is on view at the Met Breuer in New York City. It is the first comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in the U.S. and explores her work with fiber, along with her forays into ceramic and bronze. Throughout her career, Mukherjee “[did] the labor of staking out new terrain, navigating the psychic dilemmas of art-making in post-colonial India.”

On June 27, Cindy Sherman opens at the National Portrait Gallery in London. This is the first major U.K. retrospective of the artist’s work and includes 150 works from the mid-1970s to the present day. It will explore the artist’s manipulation of her own appearance and the tension between façade and identity—including the influence of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

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

Finding Meaning in Form: Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Process

Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling presents the artist’s monumental cedar wood sculptures alongside newer works for the very first time. The poetic and expressive sculptures, which also use leather, linen, and other organic materials, reveal the process by which von Rydingsvard gives outward visual form to her innermost ideas and emotions.

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Ursula von Rydingsvard’s sculptural practice is a way to give tangible form to her feelings and ideas. The artist primarily works with cedar wood and describes her relationship to it as emotionally complex. “Cedar is the one material that comes closest to saying what I need to say in a visual form,” she has said, and her skill with it has earned her the moniker “Sorceress of Cedar.” She imports the wood in four-by-four beams from a mill in Vancouver to her studio in Brooklyn. There, she and a team of assistants begin a labor-intensive process to bring her ideas to life. Her artistic process must not only be understood in technical terms, but also as an emotional progression—through the physical act of sculpting, the artist searches for meaning.

UVR with assistants

Ursula von Rydingsvard, center, surrounded by studio assistants in front of Bowl With Folds (1998–99) in Detroit in 2017; Photo courtesy of Kevin Silary/Galerie Lelong & Co.

UVR drawing on floor

Ursula von Rydingsvard begins a sculpture by drawing an outline on her studio floor, 2017; © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Morgan Daly

Ursula marking cedar

Ursula von Rydingsvard marks cedar, 2007; © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Zonder Titel

UVR applying graphite

Ursula von Rydingsvard applys graphite through perforated plastic on For Staś (2011–17); © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Morgan Daly

UVR working on OCEAN VOICES

Ursula von Rydingsvard applys graphite to OCEAN VOICES, 2012; © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Andria Morales

Von Rydingsvard begins each sculpture by drawing a chalk outline of a base on the floor. She works intuitively and makes adjustments as she goes. “The worst thing is for me to try to figure out exactly and specifically what the sculpture needs to look like,” the artist has said. She then draws lines on stacked cedar blocks—an intuitive expression of her subconscious—that begin to indicate a work’s detail. From there, von Rydingsvard and her assistants use circular saws to shape the works based on these marks, and powerful adhesives are used to glue each work’s layers together. The team wears protective masks and suits because of the equipment, sawdust, and fumes. Sections of each piece are meticulously numbered and screwed together. Then graphite is applied, which takes easily to the porous wood, giving it a ravaged and dramatic effect. For von Rydingsvard, her work is not so much about precision—though her constructions are undoubtedly precise—as much as it is about making her audience feel something.

In her artist statement, von Rydingsvard writes: “Why do I make art? Mostly, to survive. To survive living and all of its implied layers. Because it’s a place to put my pain, my sadness. Because there’s constant hope inside of me that this process will heal me, my family, and the world.” The intensive and cathartic process of cutting, sawing, gluing, and marking is the artist’s method of survival. Similarly, von Rydingsvard’s favorite sculptor, Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), also turned to art to “find a mode of survival.” Through her art, Bourgeois dealt with painful memories from her childhood during World War I, while also exploring the role of female identity. Von Rydingsvard similarly works through her past in her art. The artist and her family fled Nazi Germany and lived in refugee camps for several years. These experiences left marks on the artist’s life—marks that are visible in her sculptures. Every cut, every graphite stroke is part of von Rydingsvard’s quest to find meaning through the act of creating a form, a “contour of feeling.”

 —Louisa Potthast was the winter/spring 2019 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Maria Sibylla Merian and Rachel Ruysch: Opportunity and Mobility

Mobility was key for early modern artists—the ability to travel might make an integral difference to network, train, deliver commissions, or expand their subject matter. However, cultural mores in 17th- and 18th-century Europe discouraged women from being mobile, rooting their work to the home and hindering the careers of women artists. Dutch flower painter Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750) and German naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) navigated these limitations in very distinct ways, nurturing long and successful careers despite all odds.

2.2.2.x-collection-detail-ruysch_roses_convolvulus_poppies_and_other_flowers

Rachel Ruysch, Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge, ca. late 1680s; Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 x 33 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Rachel_Ruysch_-_Spray_of_flowers_with_insects_and_butterflies_on_a_marble_slab_-_1690s_-_PD.38-1975

Rachel Ruysch, Spray of Flowers with Insects and Butterflies on a Marble Slab, ca. 1690s; From the Fitzwilliam Museum collection

Expected to tend to domestic matters, women artists were encouraged to paint the natural world—it could be accomplished from home and did not require live models or significant time in the public sphere. These limitations hindered actions toward building successful careers: the ability to travel to study or observe nature firsthand and the ability to market and promote one’s work. Given this, most known women artists in this period were trained by an artist father or husband. Ruysch’s father, Frederik Ruysch, was a natural scientist who excelled at scientific illustration and trained her from an early age. Merian was trained by her stepfather, still life painter Jacob Marrel.

Marriage and childbirth posed great obstacles to women artists’ careers. After marriage, many women artists either stopped working or were absorbed into their husbands’ workshops. In cases where a woman continued to work independently, viewers may wonder if—or how—having children affected her work. Compare Ruysch’s Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (ca. late 1680s), with Spray of Flowers with Insects and Butterflies on a Marble Slab (ca. 1690s). The earlier work is large in scale and highly detailed. The later work, which dates from her early motherhood years, is smaller and focuses on a simpler arrangement. Merian published her earliest book, Neues Blumenbuch, in 1875, when her oldest daughter was seven. This book featured only 12 examples of flowers and lacked the specimen diversity and scientific ambition of her later works. Viewers may speculate that motherhood had a direct effect on their works, or that perhaps it was simply one of many factors that contributed to a change in their works.

Maria Sibylla Merian, Plate 1 (from "Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam", second edition), 1719; Hand-colored engraving on paper, 20 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Maria Sibylla Merian, Plate 11 (from "Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam", second edition), 1719; Hand-colored engraving on paper, 20 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Maria Sibylla Merian, Plate 18 (from "Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam", second edition), 1719; Hand-colored engraving on paper, 20 1/4 x 14 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Plate 9 (from _Dissertation in Insect Generations and Met

Maria Sibylla Merian, Plate 9 (from "Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam", second edition), 1719; Hand-colored engraving on paper, 20 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Ruysch, a mother of ten, worked primarily from home. Due to her early access to and study of specimens, she was able to show great invention in her flower paintings. Floral subjects were very conducive to the domestic environment and, as a result, she painted prolifically. Her work was highly mobile, even if she was not. Merian, divorced with two children, had greater opportunities for mobility. At the age of 52, she embarked on a dangerous two-year trip to Suriname, in South America, with her youngest daughter to draw and study the indigenous plants and animals firsthand. The resulting illustrated book, Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam, garnered her international acclaim. On the whole, her work helped revolutionize scientific illustration.

Ruysch and Merian built successful careers in spite of the limitations of motherhood and social expectations, issues that still affect women today. Through family connections, opportunities, and their considerable talent, both artists gained mobility and built groundbreaking artistic paths.

—Katherine Ruckle was the fall 2018 educational intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.