Landscape of Change: Janaina Tschäpe’s “100 Little Deaths”

Live Dangerously exhibits all one hundred photographs in Janaina Tschäpe’s 100 Little Deaths together for the first time. Tschäpe began the project in 1996 as an exploration of landscape, transmutation, and death. Each self-portrait depicts the artist sprawled face down in different environments around the world, often with limbs akimbo. Tschäpe’s body decorates a range of landscapes including urban meccas, ancient ruins, manmade interiors, woodlands, and bodies of water.

At face value, the series functions as the artist’s visual travel diary from 1996–2002. Tschäpe felt that each place she visited captured pieces of her, and she wanted to embody that emotion in her photography. Her prostrate form represents the powerful feeling of leaving a part of yourself behind somewhere. “It was the idea of me dying, or living a little history that was very short in every place,” Tschäpe said. Her photos vacillate between comedy and tragedy, making the series both surreal and theatrical.

A woman lies face down in front of the towering Moai statues on Easter Island off the coast of Chile.

Janaina Tschäpe, Moais, from 100 Little Deaths, 2002; Chromogenic color print; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Janaina Tschäpe; Image courtesy of Janaina Tschäpe studio

Changing Landscapes

Tschäpe’s horizontal body becomes a part of the landscape as each location molds and changes her. Each photo is “…related to either new places I was living, or new places I was going to…I was really a landscape,” the artist has said. In Moais (2002), the towering Moai statues dwarf Tschäpe’s body. The neutral tones of her clothing blend into the rock and shadows; only the bright white of her shirt draws the eye to her presence. Tschäpe merges into the scene and loses herself to the massive statues before her in one of the most remote places in the world.

A woman lies face down in a leaf-covered path in the woods. Next to the woman is a cleared space where her body was, too.

Janaina Tschäpe, Frick Park, from 100 Little Deaths, 2000; Chromogenic color print; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Janaina Tschäpe; Image courtesy of Janaina Tschäpe studio

The transformation is reciprocal. Tschäpe constructs and changes the landscapes with her presence, just as these places change her. Frick Park (2000) presents the artist lying in fallen leaves on a wooded path. She has cleared away the fallen leaves next to her in the shape of her body. This outline doubles her presence and emphasizes her effect on the landscape. The leaves will never occupy that exact space again. Tschäpe forever alters the location—if only slightly—by being there.

Ocean Goddess

Many of Tschäpe’s “little deaths” take place in or near water, which may be a way for the artist to pay homage to her name and its connection to water. Tschäpe’s first name, Janaina, is derived from the name of an Afro-Brazilian sea goddess of the Candomblé religion. In Fiji (2002), Tschäpe lays perpendicular to the shoreline of a rocky beach. Her blue pants echo the blue of the water. The still line of her body directs the viewer’s eye to the ocean and the distant mountains that appear on the horizon.

A woman lies face down on a rocky coast with a yellow purse next to her. In the distance, on the sea's horizon, are mountains.

Janaina Tschäpe, Fiji, from 100 Little Deaths, 2002; Chromogenic color print; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Janaina Tschäpe; Image courtesy of Janaina Tschäpe studio

Tschäpe’s “little deaths” represent the transmutation that occurs during her travels. Her prone figure negates her identity. This allows the artist to become a part of the landscape and represents the death of her old identity. The figure is not Tschäpe; it is her old self, left behind. Her new self continues on to her next location and next little death.

—Hannah Southern is the fall 2019 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: October 11, 2019

Clockwise from top: Lorna Simpson, Simone Leigh, and Amy Sherald; Photo by Adrienne Raquel for the New York Times

Simone Leigh, Amy Sherald, and Lorna Simpson discuss the growing institutional visibility of black women artists in a New York Times interview. The three artists talk about experience, audience, and representation in the visual art world.

“In order to think about the artists working today, you also have to think about the work of [those] who came before. Yes, this is an important moment, but it reflects the previous changes that were made within institutions,” Simpson said. “We have to also see this not just as a moment of visibility for black artists but also one of historically white institutions finally dragging themselves into the 21st century.”

 

Front-Page Femmes

The Washington Post closely examines five artworks from Judy Chicago’s The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, currently on view at NMWA.

A sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett recently sold for $389,000, breaking the late artist’s previous auction records; Catlett’s work is currently featured in the acclaimed traveling exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Slate profiles Lauren Gunderson, “the most popular playwright in America,” before her first New York City premiere, The Half-Life of Marie Curie.

Artsy compiles three lessons on how to be an artist from archived interviews with Lee Krasner.

Jill Freedman in 2015; Photo by Maureen Cavanagh, New York Times

Documentary photographer Jill Freedman died on October 9, at the age of 79. The New York Times remembers the “adventurous photographer who immersed herself for months at a time in the lives of street cops, firefighters, circus performers and other tribes she felt were misunderstood.”

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk has been awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in literature; the Nobel Committee postponed the ceremony due to a scandal. Tokarczuk is only the 15th woman to win the Nobel for literature, out of 116 laureates.

The Chicago Tribune highlights the Art Institute of Chicago’s feminist moment: this fall, nearly every temporary exhibition space in the Modern Wing will feature work by women artists.

Frieze reviews Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir In the Dream House, which “tries to account for the vast chasm between the fantasy of a queer life, the reality of the one she once lived, and how this might play out in the reality of the normative, heterosexual imagination.”

Artsy investigates the devastating effects of the student debt crisis on young artists.

Simone Biles won her 22nd world championship medal, breaking the world record for women’s gymnastics; Biles is one medal away from tying the men’s record.

Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018, Installation view, Fowler Museum at UCLA; Courtesy of the artist and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles; Photo © Monica Nouwens

 

Shows We Want to See

Meleko Mokgosi: Bread, Butter, and Power will open on October 19 at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. The 20-panel installation explores the effects of democracy, gender, and labor in the context of southern Africa.

Natalie Ball: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake, now on view at the Seattle Art Museum, challenges the dominant misrepresentations of Native American identity. Art & Object reviews the exhibition that “points out the absurdity of our assumptions [about Native Americans].”

—Hannah Southern is the fall 2019 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Director’s Desk: The Great Outdoors

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,” “Rebels with a Cause,” and “Space Explorers” themes, and stay tuned for more.

A bronze sculpture of a spider.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider III, 1995; Bronze, 19 x 33 x 33 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Art © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Awed by nature’s beauty and complexity, generations of women artists have celebrated and interpreted the environment through art. In the 17th century, artists embraced botany and entomology, uniting science and aesthetics in meticulous illustrations of flowers and insects. Whether investigating familiar or far-flung regions, artists have responded to nature as an expression of their desire to expand human knowledge.

As a setting for human activity or a visualization of an artist’s memories and emotions, landscape imagery piques our curiosity and invites subjective responses. Other artists extend their vantage point beyond the horizon, inspired by the cosmos as a means of understanding the universe and our place in it.

Gallery Highlights:

Spider III (1995), a bronze sculpture by modern art legend Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), proves that natural beauty comes in all forms. Bourgeois, whose mother died when she was 21 years old, associated arachnids with maternal protectiveness. She frequently remarked that her mother shared the admirable attributes of spiders: patience, industriousness, and cleverness.

Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) celebrated an often-overlooked element in nature within her exuberant painting Sale Neige (1980). The work’s French title translates to “dirty snow,” alluding to the grit and grime that spoils the pristine white over time. Mitchell associated cold weather with silence and loneliness, yet her vigorous brushwork and blend of black, white, purple, and green pigments communicate an energetic, even joyous quality.

Joan Mitchell, "Sale Neige," 1980, oil on canvas, 86 1/4 x 70 7/8 in., 1986.220

Joan Mitchell, Sale Neige, 1980; Oil on canvas, 86 1/4 x 70 7/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

justine kurland  grassland drifters

Justine Kurland, Grassland Drifters, 2001; Chromogenic color print, 30 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Justine Kurland, Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

magnetic fields

Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields, 1990; Oil on canvas, 62 x 48 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Georgia Committee and the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © The Mildred Thompson Estate; Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

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

Between 1997 and 2002, photographer Justine Kurland (b. 1969) focused her camera on landscapes as she drove across the United States. In her series “Girl Pictures,” Kurland staged teenage girls in various outdoor settings, creating a dreamlike, dystopian world where they “claim territory outside the margins of family and institutions,” as the artist has said. Her photographs are also on view in NMWA’s exhibition Live Dangerously (September 19–January 20, 2020).

“Magnetic Fields,” a series of intensely colored abstract paintings by Mildred Thompson (1936–2003) convey phenomena not visible to the naked eye, as well as the artist’s personal interest in quantum physics, cosmology, and theosophy. Through her art, Thompson sought to connect scientific knowledge and metaphysical philosophy.

Dutch still-life painter Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750) was renowned during her lifetime. Over centuries, however, she was written out of art history because of her gender. Ruysch created works for an international circle of patrons and served as court painter to the Elector Palatine of Bavaria. With razor-sharp technical accuracy, her floral compositions artfully combine blooms from different seasons, many dotted with insects and spiders. More of Ruysch’s work is featured in NMWA’s exhibition Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age, opening October 11, 2019.

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

Opening this Week: Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age

Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age presents paintings and prints by eight successful artists in the Netherlands during the 17th and early 18th centuries—a period of unprecedented economic growth. Works are drawn primarily from NMWA’s collection, with key loans that illuminate the artists’ lives and careers. The exhibition highlights women who excelled as artists in this era, pushing boundaries in art and in life. On view October 11, 2019–January 5, 2020, this presentation features works by Judith Leyster, Maria Sibylla Merian, Clara Peeters, Rachel Ruysch, and more.

A dark still life oil painting that shows a bowl of dead fish and a plate of shrimp and clams, along with a cat with his paws on one of the dead fish.

Clara Peeters, Still Life of Fish and Cat, after 1620; Oil on panel, 13 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

The Netherlands experienced unprecedented economic growth from the late 16th century through the first quarter of the 18th century. A rising middle class of wealthy merchants fueled demand for paintings and prints of still-lifes, portraits, and scenes of everyday life. By some estimates, there was one painter for every 2,000–3,000 inhabitants, a ratio exceeding that of Italy during the same period. While this era has been widely documented and studied, the many women artists who were part of this thriving scene are rarely included in museum exhibitions.

In fact, to date, there has never been an exhibition devoted to the Dutch and Flemish women artists of the Golden Age. This is remarkable given the sheer scale of artistic production in the Netherlands during this period. Women artists thrived in this environment. Like those elsewhere in Europe, many Dutch and Flemish women were born into families of artists and received their training from fathers or brothers. However, some took the more traditionally “masculine” route of apprenticing with a recognized master and joining artistic guilds. Considering a group of these women together offers an opportunity to upend common assumptions and uncover surprising connections.

An engraved self portrait in black and white of Anna Maria van Schurman, she wears typical dress of the 1600s and looks to the left.

Anna Maria van Schurman, Self-Portrait, 1640; Engraving on paper, 8 1/2 x 6 3/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Featured artists include:

Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750), one of the most successful artists of this period, who is regarded as the greatest floral still-life painter of the Golden Age. Her prestigious career lasted a remarkable 70 years, and she sold work to an international circle of patrons.

Judith Leyster (1609–1660), one of the first women admitted to the painter’s guild in Haarlem, where she also took on her own students. A recently rediscovered self-portrait by Leyster is a highlight of the exhibition—it is on public view in the U.S. for the first time.

Clara Peeters (1594–1657?), a pioneer of still-life painting and the only Flemish woman known to have specialized in the genre as early as the first decade of the 17th century. Peeters was the artist who inspired NMWA founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay to begin collecting work by women artists.

Considered individually, the stories of the women represented in this exhibition reveal that there was not just one path to becoming an artist, nor was there only one model for success. Through a wider view encompassing each artist’s individual struggles and triumphs, a clearer and more nuanced picture of women artists during the Dutch Golden Age comes into focus.

Art Fix Friday: October 4, 2019

Kara Walker, Fons Americanus; Photo by: Charlotte Hadden for the New York Times

Kara Walker has unveiled her new commission for Tate Modern: a towering counterpart to Buckingham Palace’s Victoria Memorial. The classically inspired fountain, Fons Americanus, turns the traditional monument to empire on its head by exploring the interconnected and violent histories of Africa, Europe, and America.

In a New York Times article, Walker discussed how her art responds to imperialism beyond the United States: “I’m talking about power dynamics…universally, and also in the New World, or in the world that was created by the imperial project.”

Front-Page Femmes

Washingtonian Magazine named NMWA director Susan Fisher Sterling one of the city’s most powerful women.

Artist Stephanie Syjuco speaks to Art21 about how textiles can conjure up America’s unsettling past.

The Gallery at Windsor in Florida will host an exhibition of Rose Wylie’s artwork in collaboration with the U.K.’s Royal Academy. This will be the partnership’s first exhibition of work by a woman artist.

Juxtapoz examines the vivid paintings, prints, and ceramics of Anna Valdez before the opening of her new exhibition at New York City’s Hashimoto Contemporary.

The Getty Museum has acquired artwork by photographer Laura Aguilar following her career retrospective.

The New York Times remembers Abstract Expressionist Mary Abbott who died in late August at age 98.

Mary Abbott in her New York studio in about 1950; Photo credit: McCormick Gallery

Hyperallergic reviews Sara VanDerBeek’s new print series, Women & Museums, which examines how women occupy institutional spaces.

The Art Newspaper interviews painter Elizabeth Peyton on her new solo show at London’s National Portrait Gallery; she is the first artist to have the works in her show interspersed throughout the gallery’s historical collections.

ArtNews reviews artist Nicole Eisenman’s sculpture Procession at the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

Jenny Holzer’s upcoming collaboration with Creative Time, a public light projection on Rockefeller Center titled VIGIL, will address the gun violence epidemic.

Hyperallergic profiles Vietnamese-American artist Cindy Trinh, whose documentary photography captures the Asian and Asian-American experience through food, labor, and culture.

Great Women Artists, a new anthology from Phaidon, presents five centuries of female creativity through more than 400 compelling artworks.

Shows We Want to See

Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates opens October 9 at The Shed in New York City. The exhibition will include three newly commissioned works including an architectural model that aspires to turn a Queens landfill into a forest of trees to address the area’s public health problems. Artforum profiled the conceptual artist in preparation for the retrospective.  

Agnes Denes, The Living Pyramid, 2015; Grasses, flowers, vegetables, earth, wood; Installation view, Kassel, 2017; From Documenta 14; Photo by: Mathias Voelzke

Caitlin McCormack’s Granny opens October 5 at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco. The exhibition explores “the intersection between crochet, gender, and age, viewed through the prism of remembrance.” Juxtapoz interviewed the artist about her distancing from the term “crochet artist.”

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will open Robyn O’Neil: WE, THE MASSES on October 18. The survey spans the past 20 years of O’Neil’s career and includes multi-paneled drawings, graphite on paper, collages, and the animated film WE, THE MASSES (2011).

—Hannah Southern is the fall 2019 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

5 Fast Facts: Alice Neel

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Alice Neel (1900–1984), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. “Collector of Souls”

Neel preferred to paint the intricacies of the human condition. She called herself a “collector of souls,” as her portraits emote psychological intensity and individuality. “Every person is a new universe unique with its own laws emphasizing some belief or phase of life immersed in time and rapidly passing by,” Neel once said.

2. The Personal is Political

Neel often conveyed the struggles of poverty in her portraits. T.B. Harlem, in NMWA’s collection, depicts Carlos Negrón, the brother of the artist’s then-lover, suffering from tuberculosis. The disease spread easily across the overcrowded neighborhood of Spanish Harlem in New York City where Neel and Negrón lived. Neel’s 1940 portrait functions as a form of social activism with her empathetic portrayal.

Alice Neel, T.B. Harlem, 1940; Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © The Estate of Alice Neel/Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York

Alice Neel, T.B. Harlem, 1940; Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © The Estate of Alice Neel/Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York

3. Star Struck

Many high-profile people in the New York art world found themselves in Neel’s studio. She painted portraits of Andy Warhol, Frank O’Hara, Robert Smithson, and Linda Nochlin. The vulnerable and humanizing portraits belie the larger-than-life personas of these cultural icons.

4. Favorite Quotes

Neel cultivated her own artistic style. However, she conveys her art historical acumen by visually quoting motifs and themes of earlier artists. To name a few, Negrón’s wound in T.B. Harlem evokes traditional images of the martyred Christ; Mary Cassatt’s family portraits influenced Neel’s representations of mothers with children; and Neel’s 1977 portrait of Mary Garrard resembles Young Sailor by Henri Matisse (1907).

5. Save the Best for Last

In 1980, Neel completed her first self-portrait at the age of 80. Self-Portrait combines three subjects that Neel had previously probed: the nude, the elderly woman, and the artist. She humorously examines taboos of elderly women in the art world by depicting herself as both the female nude and the wise painter.

—Hannah Southern is the fall 2019 publications and communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 27, 2019

A joint investigation by artnet News and In Other Words found artwork by women artists constitutes only 11 percent of acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 major American museums. While museums outwardly project a narrative of inclusion and diversity, these numbers reflect a troubling status quo and a declining acquisition rate of work by women artists to permanent collections.

The classic Guerrilla Girls poster work which features a reclined nude woman reminiscent of art historical depictions, wearing a Guerrilla Mask with the text "Do Women Have to be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum?"

Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have to be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum?, ca. 1989; Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt

The growing series of articles explore mechanisms of institutional misogyny and strategies to increase representation. In a response published by artnet, artist Adrian Piper challenged the media outlet to examine its own role, and that of journalists elsewhere, in perpetuating this dynamic.

Front-Page Femmes

Judy Chicago will not slow down: adding environmental activism to her feminist oeuvre, and pursuing what the Washington Post termed “a courageous countercurrent to the mainstream art world,” Chicago has opened three exhibitions since her 80th birthday in July—including The End: A Meditation on Death & Extinction at NMWA.

Kara Walker speaks with the Guardian about her upcoming Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern.

MoMA PS1 has announced it will host the first major U.S. survey of French feminist artist Niki de Saint Phalle this spring.

Marina Abramović speaks with the New York Times about her first exhibition in her home of Belgrade, Serbia, in almost 50 years.

Hugette Caland, the Lebanese feminist artist known for abstract interpretations of liberated women, has died at age 88.

Ms. Magazine reviews NMWA’s current photography exhibition Live Dangerously, which explores the relationship between women and nature.

A dreamy underwater photo in which a blonde women wrapped in white sinks/floats surrounded by the immersive blue of the ocean.

Janaina Tschäpe, Naiad 2, 2004; Cibachrome print; On loan from Gaspar Muniz; On view at NMWA in Live Dangerously

Hyperallergic reviews Caroline Hancock’s new book about postwar curator Joanna Drew in the male-dominated art world of Great Britain.

The Met Breuer’s new exhibition Home is a Foreign Place features artwork from Latin America, Asia, and North Africa alongside postwar American Art, considering modern art in a global context of decolonization and displacement.

The Dallas Morning News visits Lucia Hierro’s solo show Objectos Específicos, which explores themes of minimalism, identity politics, and consumer culture.

Vahit Tuna memorializes the 440 Turkish women murdered in 2018 in domestic or sexual violence.

Shows We Want to See

A work from Betye Saar's sketchbook that features the four stages of the moon at the top, each with a face, followed by, in the center of the page, a large face in the middle of a seven-point star atop a blue and black imperfect circle and reddish background.

Betye Saar, Sketchbook, 1970–72; Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, © Betye Saar; Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Amy Sherald. the heart of the matter… is open at Hauser & Wirth in New York City. The New Yorker reviews the eight new portraits that all bear Sherald’s signature pops of color juxtaposed with the intense gaze of her subjects. Sherald tackles issues of representation for the Black diaspora in art.

Betye Saar: Call and Response opened this week at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hyperallergic and the Washington Post praised the juxtaposition of Saar’s never-before-seen sketchbooks with her completed artworks.

Grace Hartigan and Helene Herzbrun: Reframing Abstract Expressionism is on view in Washington, D.C., at the American University Museum at Katzen Arts Center. Curated by Norma Broude, the exhibition explores Hartigan and Herzbrun’s deviations from the New York Abstract Expressionist School. Hyperallergic profiles the artists and examines the addition of personal sentiment to the genre.

—Hannah Southern is the fall 2019 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Judy Chicago—The End: Stages of Dying

The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, the newest body of work by iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago, continues the artist’s practice of tackling taboo subjects. In these works, she offers a bold reflection on mortality and the destruction of entire species. Visually striking and emotionally charged, the exhibition comprises more than 35 paintings on black glass and porcelain, as well as two large-scale bronze reliefs. On view September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020.

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“Death is still a fearful, frightening happening and the fear of death is a universal fear.”—Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 3/6: Anger, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

In 1969, Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (b. 1926) published On Death and Dying, a groundbreaking book in which she first proposed the five stages of grief—a common emotional cycle for those who have lost a loved one or who are facing their own mortality. This model, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, has become a prominent framework for humans to understand our complicated and multifaceted response to loss. Kübler-Ross did not arrive easily at her pioneering work. Her father was strictly opposed to her studying medicine, encouraging her instead to become a secretary or maid. And in 1958, she was disqualified from a residency in pediatrics because she was pregnant—though this led her to accept one in psychiatry.

Continuing her commitment to centering women in history, as she did in The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago (b. 1939) draws on Kübler-Ross’s work for “Stages of Dying,” the first section of The End. Chicago represents these stages of grief and simultaneously reckons with her own mortality.

Judy Chicago - Stages of Dying 1 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 1/6, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint, pen work, and luster on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Denial 2 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 2/6: Denial, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Anger 3 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 3/6: Anger, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Bargaining 4 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 4/6: Bargaining, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Depression 5 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 5/6: Depression, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Acceptance 6 of 6_blog

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 6/6: Acceptance, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 16 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

The main figure in “Stages of Dying” is a nude older woman who shares facial characteristics with Chicago. However, in choosing to portray the woman without hair, Chicago removes one of her own most recognizable traits—her short, vibrantly hued curls. The baldness of the figure renders it somewhat androgynous and, according to Chicago, makes it an archetypal “everywoman,” a universal figure to whom death will eventually come. Chicago presents an aged body that is far less prevalent than the idealized inventions of (mostly) male artists over the centuries. In lieu of a youthful and supple form, the artist gives us a wiry and wrinkled protagonist who refutes the trappings of stereotypical femininity.

The “everywoman” radiates with colored auras in each scene. In “Anger” the figure is charged with a deep red border that travels along her arms, torso, and neck. In “Depression” the figure emanates a melancholy teal. “Acceptance” is a vibrant and revelatory conclusion: the figure looks skyward and glows in bright yellow. Kübler-Ross built her theory through extensive interviews and research, and Chicago adds a visual dimension to this framework with her startling images and expressive colors.

Although Kübler-Ross understood the fear of death as universal, she conceived of the stages of grief as a process for healing. Chicago’s work process may have echoed that model. As the artist says, “As difficult as it was to confront my own mortality, it brought me to a place of acceptance.”

Opening This Week: Live Dangerously

Live Dangerously reveals the bold and dynamic ways in which female bodies inhabit and activate the natural world. Twelve groundbreaking photographers, including Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Kirsten Justesen, Xaviera Simmons, Janaina Tschäpe, and Rania Matar, use humor, drama, ambiguity, and innovative storytelling to illuminate the landscape as means of self-empowerment and personal expression. On view September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020.

***

Traditionally, representations of female figures in art history have shown women passively linked to the landscape through gendered associations of nature, eroticism, and fertility. In contrast, Live Dangerously presents fierce, dreamy, and witty images of women presiding over the landscape—all through the lens of the female gaze. From the groundbreaking work of Ana Mendieta to the first-ever installation of all 100 large-scale photographs in Janaina Tschäpe’s 100 Little Deaths (1996–2002), the artists illuminate the planet’s surface as a stunning stage for human drama. Learn about a sampling of the works presented in the exhibition:

Xaviera Simmons, One Day and Back Then (Standing), 2007; Chromira c-print, 30 x 40 in.; Collection of Darryl Atwell; © Xaviera Simmons, Courtesy David Castillo Gallery

On Stage

In Live Dangerously, the earth is dynamic stage that challenges us to view ourselves and our environments in new ways. Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974) uses her wide-ranging work to address questions of marginalized bodies in landscapes, particularly regarding womanhood and blackness in the United States. In One Day and Back Then (Standing) (2007), a self-portrait in which she gazes directly out at the viewer, Simmons appears tucked into a thicket of reeds, in a dark trench coat, crowned by a curly Afro and dressed in blackface. The image forces the viewer to confront complicated questions, such as the identity and intentions of the subject, and the meaning of blackface in this context. Simmons further reflects on the current social status of both black and white Americans: “How might our entire history have been different had America fulfilled its emancipatory promises to its freed slaves and their descendants instead of commemorating its defeated Confederate planters?”

In Her Element

Artists in Live Dangerously claim their natural environments. Rather than seeming daunted by these extreme landscapes, figures climb, run, and swim through varied terrain, freely and boldly embracing the sublime elements of nature. In her “Ice Pedestal” series (2000, printed 2015), Danish artist Kirsten Justesen (b. 1943) positions herself atop blocks of ice wearing only rubber boots and gloves, letting the ice blocks melt and then refreezing the puddles. Her photographs record this repetitive process of transition from solid to liquid to solid, capturing the idea of mutability and impermanence of the world.

Rania Matar, Yara, Cairo, Egypt, from the series “SHE,” 2019; Archival pigment print, 44 x 37 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery; © Rania Matar

Mischief-Makers

Female bodies activate the land throughout Live Dangerously. At times, they appear to be in precarious circumstances, and in others, they intentionally rebel and disrupt societal expectations of genteel, compliant women. In her “SHE” series (2016–ongoing), Rania Matar (b. 1964) photographs young women in lush landscapes in the United States and the Middle East to portray their individual beauty through their relationships with their environments. Matar’s model in Yara, Cairo, Egypt (2019) stands partially obscured in the crevices of a banyan tree, her limbs echoing the trunk’s vertical shoots to create an uncanny air of mystery.

The works in Live Dangerously employ humor, performance, ambiguity, and inventive storytelling to reveal the ways in which female bodies inhabit, and animate, their natural surroundings. The photographers in this exhibition shed new light on the Earth’s surfaces and elements as catalysts for self-expression.

Opening This Week: Judy Chicago—The End

The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, the newest body of work by iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago, continues the artist’s practice of tackling taboo subjects. In these works, she offers a bold reflection on mortality and the destruction of entire species. Visually striking and emotionally charged, the exhibition comprises more than 35 paintings on black glass and porcelain and two large-scale bronze reliefs. On view September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020.

Judy Chicago, In the Shadow of Death, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; Kiln-fired glass paint on black glass, 12 x 9 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

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Over the course of her long career, Judy Chicago’s artistic subject matter has included sex, birth, masculinity, the perversion of power, and violence. Now she addresses perhaps the last taboo: death. Our society holds an undeniable discomfort around aging and death, and in The End, Chicago tackles the subjects head on, as both a universal human experience and a personal rumination. In a culture that prizes youth and beauty—particularly for women—Chicago’s stark images of aged bodies are an antidote. She also grapples with the mortality of entire ecosystems that have been irreparably damaged by the action, or inaction, of humans. With The End, Chicago continues her history of merging the personal and political with luminous colors, technical mastery, and uncomfortable subjects.

“In many ways, this series is the culmination of 50 years of studio practice, a practice that has taken me on a journey of discovery through many different topics expressed through a wide range of techniques,” said Chicago. “In a world in which women’s cultural production continues to be undervalued, discounted, or marginalized, I am pleased to premier this work for the first time at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only museum in the world dedicated to ensuring that women’s art is preserved.”

The series is divided into three distinct sections, “Stages of Dying,” “Mortality,” and “Extinction.” In the first, viewers are presented with an older female “everywoman” who viscerally experiences psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. In “Mortality,” Chicago envisions different scenarios that may play out in her own inevitable death. And in “Extinction,” Chicago illustrates the harm that humans have brought to groups of animals and plants that are now threatened with extinction—from elephants killed for their tusks to trees flayed of their bark.

Judy Chicago - Title Panel The End A Meditation on Death and Extinction

Judy Chicago, Title Panel: The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint, pen work, and luster on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Depression 5 of 6

Judy Chicago, Stages of Dying 5/6: Depression, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; China paint on porcelain, 12 x 16 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - How Will I Die #7

Judy Chicago, How Will I Die? #7, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2015; Kiln-fired glass paint on black glass, 9 x 12 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Smothered

Judy Chicago, Smothered, from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2016; Kiln-fired glass paint on black glass, 12 x 18 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

Judy Chicago - Extinction detail polar bear

Judy Chicago, Extinction Relief (detail), from The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, 2018; Patinated bronze, 53 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 14 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco; © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY

While Chicago is best known for The Dinner Party (1974), the renowned mixed-media installation that celebrates the legacies of women throughout history, The End also shares connections with her many other prescient bodies of work. Chicago has built her career on pushing boundaries, and The End is no less audacious than her earlier projects.