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


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.

5 Fast Facts: Louise Dahl-Wolfe

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895–1989), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe's black and white portrait of Carson McCullers, who poses in a white oxford shirt with her hands above her head, the left clasping a cigarette.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Carson McCullers, 1940; Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Helen Cumming Ziegler; © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

1. Name Game

Louise Emma Augusta Dahl was born in San Francisco to Norwegian immigrant parents who believed it was good luck for a child’s initials to spell out a word. Perhaps that superstition had merit, because their daughter became a LEADing fashion photographer in her lifetime!

2. DIY Determination

A self-taught photographer, Dahl-Wolfe initially wanted to be a painter. A meeting with Anne W. Brigman (1869–1950), famed for her evocative photographs of female nudes in natural landscapes, inspired Dahl-Wolfe’s early experiments with a camera. She even cobbled together her first darkroom enlarger using a tin can, an apple crate, and a reflective Ghirardelli chocolate container.

3. Tennessee Triumph

Best known today for her innovative fashion photography, Dahl-Wolfe enjoyed her earliest professional success with documentary imagery. Living in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with her husband in the early 1930s, the artist created compelling images of rural life and poverty during the Great Depression. Mrs. Ramsay, Tennessee, her first published photograph, appeared in Vanity Fair in 1933.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe's photo of young actress Lauren Bacall in Helena Rubinstein's Bathroom.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Lauren Bacall in Helena Rubinstein’s Bathroom, 1943; Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Helen Cumming Ziegler; Photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

4. In Living Color

Dahl-Wolfe’s earliest color images for Harper’s Bazaar appeared in 1937, making her one of the first fashion photographers to embrace the newly available Kodachrome film. She also proved among the most skilled practitioners of the medium. The artist credited her formal training in painting, color theory, and design with honing her eye for color and contrast.

5. Star Gazing

During her 22 years at Harper’s Bazaar, Dahl-Wolfe portrayed many young movie stars, including Vivien Leigh and Bette Davis, as well as emerging writers like and Eudora Welty. A 1943 cover by Dahl-Wolfe is credited with helping launch the Hollywood career of 17-year-old model Betty Joan Perske—a.k.a. Lauren Bacall.

—Deborah Gatson is the director of education and interpretation at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

“Judy Chicago: New Views” Available Now

Cover image of "Judy Chicago: New Views"; the book's title is placed in thin white type over a picture of purple smoke clouds, part of her "Atmospheres" series

As the first major monograph on the feminist artist Judy Chicago in nearly 20 years, Judy Chicago: New Views provides fresh perspectives by leading scholars and curators. Many people know her famed installation The Dinner Party (1974–79), the centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Her other prescient bodies of work—on sexuality, birth, death, violence, our relationship with natural world, and more—are attracting attention as the art world takes a renewed look at this taboo-breaking contemporary artist.

This fully illustrated volume provides fresh perspectives on Chicago’s career and accompanies the exhibition of her new work in Judy Chicago—The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, on view September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020, at NMWA. Highly esteemed contributors offer a new examination of Chicago’s wide-ranging artistic expression and powerful voice. Sarah Thornton’s opening essay provides a rich, yet succinct overview of Chicago’s artistic vision and legacy, and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s fascinating interview with Chicago is one of the most in-depth conversations with the artist to date.

Other essays—by Chad Alligood, Manuela Ammer, Massimiliano Gioni, Philipp Kaiser, Jonathan D. Katz, Martha C. Nussbaum, and William J. Simmons—focus on key bodies of Chicago’s work across her career. They look at her early minimalist works created in Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s, the creation of the feminist art movement, and her experimental work in pyrotechnics—as well as her major projects The Dinner Party, Birth Project, Holocaust Project, and PowerPlay. Renowned philosopher Nussbaum concludes the volume with an essay on The End, calling the major new work “startling, upsetting, and profoundly loving.”

To mark the publication of New Views, Nussbaum and Chicago will be in conversation about the book and exhibition at NMWA on September 22. Fresh Talk: Judy Chicago—New Views provides a chance, in real time, to dive deeper into the work and life of an artist steadfastly committed to expanding the role of the artist and claiming her role in history.

Judy Chicago: New Views is published on the occasion of the artist’s 80th birthday, as well as the announcement of the Judy Chicago online archival portal, created through a collaboration between NMWA, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University, and Penn State University.


Judy Chicago: New Views
Published by: National Museum of Women in the Arts and Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers
Price: $55 U.S.; 240 pages / hardcover / 10 x 11 in.
ISBN: 978-1-78551-182-0

Art Fix Friday: August 30, 2019

Wangechi Mutu stands atop a ladder in her Brooklyn studio, next to a 7-foot tall sculpture, part African queen, part cyborg, which will be installed in one of the exterior niches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wangechi Mutu in her Brooklyn studio, with (from left) her works Flying Root I, 2017; Untitled, 2019; and Flying Root IV, 2017; Photograph by LaToya Ruby Frazier

On September 9, artist Wangechi Mutu will take over the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Four bronze female figures will be installed in the building’s exterior niches facing Fifth Avenue—space that has stood empty for more than 100 years.

The seven-foot-tall sculptures, part African queens, part cyborgs, are inspired by images of caryatids—women who appear, quite literally, in supporting roles in numerous classical art forms: holding up the roof of the Acropolis, or on African stools. Mutu sought to empower these figures. “They’re forever laboring under the weight of whatever these men have created. So I thought, well, release them from that,” the artist said.


Front-Page Femmes

The Guardian looks at how the graphic novel became an outlet for shame, allowing female illustrators to confront how they see their bodies.

Next month Margaret Atwood will release her anticipated follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale; the New York Times rounds up everything to read and watch before getting your hands on The Testament.

Hyperallergic reviews Under Cover of Darkness, an exhibition at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa, which gives voice to enslaved women who were largely written out of history.

Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas speaks to Art21 about how her artistic acts of sabotage inspired real activism.

The New York Times reviews Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown, a show that presents Provincetown “as more of a psychic space, one of negotiation and self-discovery” for the artist.

Helen Frankenthaler in her Provincetown studio; the artist wears all white and crouches before a large canvas on the floor as she looks up at the camera with a slight smile.

Helen Frankenthaler in her Provincetown studio, 1968; Photo courtesy of the Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; J. Paul Getty Trust; via Alexander Liberman Photography Archive; Getty Research Institute

Frieze lists five trailblazing galleries around the world that only show women artists—including NMWA.

Artist Claudia Comte installed permanent underwater sculptures off the coast of Jamaica to help revitalize the area’s coral reef.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf, one of Australia’s most noted Indigenous actors, has died at age 52 from complications of an asthma attack.

The New York Times remembers Clara Schumann, music’s unsung renaissance woman, ahead of her 200th birthday on September 13.

Hyperallergic interviews artist Gwen Shockey about her ongoing Address Project, which documents lesbian nightlife in New York City.

Shows We Want to See

Jenny Holzer: Things Indescribable is on view at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. Hyperallergic reviews the retrospective—the largest survey of her work to date—which has been under-recognized. “Having 40 years of Holzer’s work in one place means it’s possible to trace lines of activity that are subtler and more poetic than the broad strokes she’s most known for.”

Installation view of Jenny Holzer's piece "Ram," which is a long digital block featuring all-caps text positioned next to bones and teeth scattered on the floor.

Jenny Holzer, Ram, 2016; Photo courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © 2019 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / VEGAP; Photo by Collin LaFleche

Mary Frances Whitfield: Why? is on view in Birmingham, Alabama, at the University of Alabama’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. The show presents the painter’s works about racial violence and includes her sobering paintings of lynchings. The Nation profiles the artist and discusses the role of art in our collective national reckoning.

Emily Mae Smith: Avalon is open at Perrotin Gallery in Tokyo. With a nod to distinct painting movements including Symbolism, Surrealism, and Pop art, Smith creates lively compositions that offer sly social and political commentary. Can’t make it to Tokyo? See her paintings on artnet.

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

Art Fix Friday: August 23, 2019

Artsy reports on the female art patrons who influenced art history. NMWA Associate Curator Virginia Treanor, who was interviewed for the piece, says that by developing world-class collections and creating major art museums, “women have shaped the course of art history.”

Edith Halpert at her Downtown Gallery, in a photograph for Life magazine in 1952; She is joined by some of the new artists she was promoting that year: Charles Oscar, Robert Knipschild, Jonah Kinigstein, Wallace Reiss, Carroll Cloar, and Herbert Katzman

Edith Halpert at her Downtown Gallery, in a photograph for Life magazine in 1952; She is joined by some of the new artists she was promoting that year: Charles Oscar, Robert Knipschild, Jonah Kinigstein, Wallace Reiss, Carroll Cloar, and Herbert Katzman; Photo © Estate of Louis Faurer, courtesy of the Jewish Museum

The piece includes profiles of Livia Drusilla, Empress of Rome circa 58 B.C.E., Isabella Stewart Gardner, Gertrude Stein, A’Lelia Walker, and Peggy Cooper Cafritz, among many others.

Front-Page Femmes

Starting September 13, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts will dedicate the Art of the Americas wing to women artists in the installation Women Take the Floor.

artnet interviews Jessica Yu, head of the Google Doodle team, about the collaborative, creative process that brings the famous digital artworks to our screens.

Spanish feminist writer and cartoonist Anastasia Bengoechea was photographed holding up signs to protest sexual stereotyping at the Prado Museum in Madrid—and her images have gone viral.

A cartoon sketch by Malaka Gharib of her father drinking Nescafe at a small table on a balcony full of plants in Egypt; he reads the paper while Gharib herself looks on at him from a window behind him

Malaka Gharib draws to remember—she sketched this image of her father drinking Nescafe in Egypt; Sketching from memory is a way the artist gets out of creative ruts; Image courtesy of Malaka Gharib’s Instagram account

The New York Times interviews Malaka Gharib, graphic-memoirist, about her art ethos, do-it-yourself sensibility, and how to make your way out of a creative rut.

Historians raise concerns over the proposed addition of Sojourner Truth to Central Park’s forthcoming suffragist monument, stating that “it could obscure the substantial differences between white and black suffrage activists.”

Alice Guy-Blaché, history’s first female filmmaker, has been rescued from obscurity thanks to a new Jodie Foster-narrated documentary.

From their archives, Artforum features a 1984 conversation between John Bernard Myers and Lee Krasner.

The New York Times profiles writer Petina Gappah, whose forthcoming novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, will be released in September—twenty-one years in the making.

In Australia, the country’s first gallery dedicated to female artists will open in Melbourne next week; founder Lisa Fehily cites the low representation of women in the Australian art world as her motivation.

The San Jose Museum of Art has been celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage with a “year of visionary women artists” in 2019.

The New York Times reports on the female producers who are migrating from nonprofit theater and the entertainment industry to bring new skills and values to Broadway.

Shows We Want to See

In Shana Hoehn: Hauntings, on view at Women & Their Work in Austin, the artist re-imagines vintage hood ornaments, ship figureheads, carnival portraiture, and more, as sculptures that expose the historically distorted treatment of women’s bodies.

Two haunting sculptures by Shana Hoehn feature in a sparse, darkly lit gallery

Installation view of Shana Hoehn: Hauntings

In Los Angeles, Susan Mogul presents a love letter to her mother in 72 photos at As Is L.A gallery. Less is Never More frames the artists relationship to her mother as a showroom, turning memory into product as she explores objects and the sentimentality we place on them.

At Brandeis University’s Kniznick Gallery, Root Shock presents work by Hannah Shalew, Daniela Rivera, and Corinne Spencer—three artists exploring social, economic, and environmental justice.

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

5 Fast Facts: Joan Mitchell

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Joan Mitchell (1925–1992), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. High Achiever

As a young girl, Mitchell worked tirelessly to win her hard-to-please father’s approval. She was a published poet by age 10, a champion tennis player and diver, and a competitive figure skater. Mitchell was named “Figure Skating Queen of the Midwest” in 1942 and competed in the national championship that year, though she finished a disappointing fourth. After the loss, she vowed to only focus on one thing and do it well: art.

2. Precious Cargo

In 1949 Mitchell married her first husband, Barney Rosset, in Provence, France. The couple decided to make a life in New York and, instead of flying, booked a first-class suite aboard an ocean liner departing from Cannes because they had too much luggage—and too many paintings. Mitchell’s works were taken by rowboat to the ship and then carefully loaded aboard.

Joan Mitchell extended the scope of abstract-expressionist painting by applying it to the subject of nature. Like most of her works, Sale Neige (Dirty Snow) signifies Mitchell’s memories of or feelings for the landscape. The work may be an evocation of childhood memories of her home in Chicago or a reflection upon the feelings of isolation that the winter landscape can intensify.The pale grays, lavender, and cobalt blue in the top half of the canvas blend together to read as a chilly white crust, a sensation reinforced by the painting’s title. The lower half, densely painted with broad strokes of dark blue, purple, green, and black, becomes the landscape under the snow. Cold and snow are frequent subjects within Mitchell’s oeuvre. She remarked: “I think of white as silent absolutely. Snow. Space. Cold. I think of Midwest snow…icy blue shadows.”

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

3. Lady Painter

Mitchell sarcastically adopted the moniker “Lady Painter,” knowing that her work was on par with male Abstract Expressionists, but unrecognized by them and the art world at large. She is quoted as saying, “Not bad for a lady painter,” with a smirk while walking through her 1988 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

4. Hearing Color

In the first full-length biography of the artist, author Patricia Albers revealed that Mitchell had both synesthesia and a photographic memory. But these perceptive talents are not the only things that made Mitchell successful. To think that would, as Albers writes, “disregard her painterly intelligence, her professionalism, her years of training and work.”

5. Women Supporting Women

In 1979, after Mitchell’s relationship with Jean-Paul Riopelle ended, the artist found support in a new friendship with Gisèle Barreau, a French composer. In the years after meeting Barreau, Mitchell’s works are said to be her most radiant. Her Grande Vallée series is based, in part, on a story Barreau told her. During this inspired time, Mitchell also became the first American woman to have an exhibition at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. [With research by Brittany Fiocca, summer 2015 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts].

Art Fix Friday: August 16, 2019

The New York Times interviews artist Maria Qamar, whose bold Pop art speaks to the challenges of being a South Asian millennial.

A Pop Art painting by Maria Qamar featuring two Indian woman with their faces touching, and the comic text bubbles--one says "That's My Didi!" and the other says "From another Bibi!"

Maria Qamar, Didi from Another Bibi, 2019; Photo courtesy of Richard Taittinger Gallery

The artist’s new exhibition Fraaaandship!, at New York City’s Richard Taittinger Gallery, is colorful, politically engaged, and contemplates immigration, misogyny, gender stereotypes, and more. When asked about what she is trying to explore in her works, Qamar mused, “What part of our [South Asian] tradition is tradition and what part…is just patriarchy disguised as tradition? Why can’t we…ditch some of these traditions that are used to police women and convince women to police each other?”

Front-Page Femmes

Ms. magazine interviews former Handmaid’s Tale costume designer Ane Crabtree about her designs and the red dress and winged bonnet that has become an “instantly recognizable symbol of resistance.”

A new mural in Santa Fe calls attention to the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women in the United States.

Jacqueline Audry’s 1951 lesbian classic, Olivia, has been restored and re-released; Audrey directed a total of 13 features throughout her career—most had female protagonists and many were censored.

Meet the woman-led photography collective that is challenging the sexist and colonial portrayals of Latin America.

Anne Snitow, feminist teacher and activist, has died at age 76.

More than 100 miniature dolls, phallic amulets, necklace beads, and a tiny skull among other objects made of bone, bronze, glass, and amber were uncovered at Pompeii.

More than 100 miniature dolls, phallic amulets, necklace beads, and a tiny skull, among other objects made of bone, bronze, glass, and amber, were uncovered at Pompeii; the researchers determined that the amulets were likely used for adornment or protection in the years before Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79; Photo courtesy Cesare Abbate (ANSA)

Archaeologists in Pompeii have discovered a female sorcerer’s trove of amulets, gems, and charms that may have been used for good fortune, fertility, and to protect against bad luck.

Hyperallergic goes inside the years-long effort to bring the Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists exhibition to fruition.

Nancy Reddin Kienholz, best known for elaborate and explosive installations she created with her husband Edward Kienholz, has died at age 75.

After public outcry, a forthcoming Central Park statue of white suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony has been redesigned to include Sojourner Truth. The statue will be unveiled in 2020.

Hyperallergic reviews Lee Krasner: In Living Colour, currently on view at London’s Barbican Centre.

Shows We Want to See

At Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta, two exhibitions suggest that there can be a gendered way of visualizing the natural world. A contemporary series of technicolor Psychscapes by Terri Loewenthal is curated alongside the black-and-white landscapes of 20th-century photographer Ansel Adams, promoting the notion that the male versus female gaze has shaped their approaches, a century apart.

Two landscape photos by Terri Loewenthal,and Ansel Adams are placed side by side; Lowenthal's photo is of a mountain and edited in warm technicolor hues, Adams's photo is in black and white and includes a mountain in the bottom of the frame, but primarily focuses on the vast sky.

Left: Terri Loewenthal, Psychscape 87 (Coffee Pot Rock, AZ), 2018; Right: Ansel Adams, Sierra Nevada, Winter Evening, from the Owens Valley, 1962; Photos courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

At the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England, Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things presents more than fifty of Odundo’s works with a large selection of objects chosen by the artist from across the globe, spanning 3,000 years.

Chaumet in Majesty: Jewels of Sovereigns Since 1780 is on view at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum until August 28. The show examines jewelry’s role in the power games of the past through 250 pieces created by the longstanding, luxury French design house. “The principal focus of the show is women of power and the tiaras they wore as witnesses of their destinies,” said Jean-Marc Mansvelt, chief executive of Chaumet.

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

Modern Makers: Queer Candle Co.

Interview with Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co., a socially conscious brand that seeks to support the LGBTQ community.

Can you tell us about your business and mission?

We’re Ab & Al, a queer couple and queer chandlers based in New York City. We are building our business side by side and making products that we love. As a queer-owned business, it’s important to us that we use part of our profits to amplify the voices of the most oppressed members of our community. That’s why we donate 10% of our monthly earnings to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), an organization working to “guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.”

Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co.

Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co.

What makes your candles—and your business—unique?

Each candle is topped with a visual representation of the scent (generally herbs, but sometimes dehydrated fruits or salt rocks). Our soy wax candles burn longer and cleaner than paraffin options and our attention to detail in sourcing materials means that our fragrances are fresh, non-toxic, and authentic. We find creative ways to make our candles visually appealing and we’re using fresh and natural ingredients to do it. Our botanical approach to candle-making and the platform that we’ve created for promoting queer business and supporting queer-facing nonprofits is unique.

What is your favorite scent combination? What does it evoke?

Al: My favorite scent is Rosemary & Mint. It really fills a room nicely without overpowering and the botanical mix is refreshing and unique. For us, one of the most important parts of creating a scent is making sure that it actually smells like its name and Rosemary & Mint is so authentic! For me, it evokes a walk through an herb garden on a rainy day.

Ab: I am drawn toward earthy scents, with my all-time favorite being Ginger & Saffron. It’s a zesty fragrance that stands out to me as a perfect combination of ground ginger and floral saffron. I feel more calm and creative when we’re burning Ginger & Saffron. Think of a cup of ginger tea in the afternoon. A little pick-me-up that makes a space feel cleaner and promotes focus.

A Basil & Amber scented Queer Candle Co. candle is held up in front of a blurry background of mountain scenery

A Basil & Amber scented Queer Candle Co. candle

Why did you select the Sylvia Rivera Law Project as the recipient of your donations?

The SRLP stood out not only because it’s a grassroots organization working directly in our community, but also because of their focus on amplifying the voices of trans and gender nonconforming people of color. We want to make sure that we are using Queer Candle Co. to support—both with our voices and with our funds—an organization that is promoting the visibility and protection of those who are systematically and cyclically erased/oppressed.

Is there a female artist that inspires you and/or your work?

Musicians really drive our creativity. Our candle-making playlists are always in flux, but currently on heavy rotation are Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, and Cher. These amazing women make us feel empowered to love ourselves, our bodies, and our queerness.

Art Fix Friday: August 9, 2019

Celebrated writer and revolutionary political thinker Toni Morrison has died at age 88. Her best-selling works explored black identity and the experience of black women in America.

A portrait of Toni Morrison wearing a black turtleneck and set against a mustard-yellow background; she smiles slightly at the camera.

Toni Morrison by Deborah Feingold; Courtesy of Corbis/Getty

Morrison became the first black woman to win the Nobel prize in literature in 1993 and was widely regarded as the greatest American novelist. Her death has prompted an outpouring of reflection and gratitude from people all over the world, including fellow women writers. Elizabeth Alexander said, “Morrison gives us a sterling example of how…sometimes great art also ennobles a people.” Artist Kara Walker pays tribute to Morrison with a portrait on the August 19, 2019 cover of the New Yorker.

Front-Page Femmes

The New York Times looks at how shifting cultural expectations have changed the way artists’ archives are handled; the piece profiles Judy Chicago, whose visual archive is held at NMWA.

Marina Abramović writes a personal letter to Serbia ahead of her upcoming September retrospective; the artist last exhibited in her home country 45 years ago.

A new study shows that while male artists still make up the bulk of the art market, women artists are coming out on top with auction resales.

The latest episode of The Art Newspaper podcast focuses on Artemisia Gentileschi and forgotten female Old Masters and features London’s National Gallery curator Letizia Treves, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum director Jordana Pomeroy, and artist Helen Cammock.

A hyperrealist painting that features a deer standing in water; the legs of the deer transforms into coral, succulents, and tropical fish, rooting it into the ocean’s floor.

Lisa Ericson, Anchor, acrylic on panel

Colossal features hyperrealist paintings by Lisa Ericson depicting animals that evolve into islands teeming with coral, succulents, and tropical fish.

Artsy looks at why photography was important to radical lesbian communes of the 1970s.

An iconic photograph of Beyoncé, taken last year by Tyler Mitchell for Vogue, will become part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.  

Continuing its commitment to rewriting the art-historical canon, the Baltimore Museum of Art has announced a year of exhibitions dedicated to female-identifying artists throughout 2020.

Artspace profiles seven women of minimalism, including Anne Truitt, Nasreen Mohamedi, and Agnes Martin.

Artsy goes inside Georgia O’Keeffe and Agnes Martin’s unexpected friendship.

Shows We Want to See

At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C., My Iran: Six Women Photographers presents works that encompass documentary snapshots of post-Islamic Revolution protests, digitally altered family photo albums, and anachronistic portraits that testify to the tension between tradition and modernity experienced by many young Iranians.

Eleven Irianian women sit on a long floral couch in the middle of the desert wearing all black and with their heads covered in hijab; their faces are drawn, several wear sunglasses, and a few are reading from books held in their hands.

Gohar Dashti, detail from the series Iran, Untitled, 2013; Ink-jet print; Courtesy of the artist © Gohar Dashti

Tutta la verità (The Whole Truth), a solo show of work by Jenny Holzer, is on view at the Palazzo della Ragione in Bergamo, Italy. The show surveys different mediums, from light projections of her signature text-based work to bench sculptures. The texts touch on important themes in Holzer’s work—identity, gender, and dialogue—and they also address the ongoing migrant crisis.

Mary Corse: A Survey in Light is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is the first survey of the artist’s career since she emerged in the mid-1960s as one of the few women associated with the West Coast Light and Space movement. Corse’s works seek to physically embody light within a painting, rather than merely representing it.

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

5 Fast Facts: Niki de Saint Phalle

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002), whose work Pregnant Nana (1993) is on view in NMWA’s newly reinstalled collection galleries.

1. Art Therapy

A self-taught artist who had previously studied theater, Saint Phalle turned to painting after being hospitalized for a mental breakdown in 1953. Shortly after being discharged, she decided to abandon acting to pursue art more seriously.

Nikie de Saint Phalle - Pregnant Nana

Niki de Saint Phalle, Pregnant Nana, 1993; Carved and painted marble, 31 in. high; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Gift of Jeffrey H. Loria); Artwork © Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

2. With a Bang

While experimenting with materials, Saint Phalle created “Shooting Paintings.” She embedded hidden paint pouches in large assemblages under plaster. Shooting these works with rifles and pistols—and even cannons—caused explosions of color that completed each piece.

3. The Every(wo)man

In 1965, Saint Phalle started creating “Nanas,” abstract sculptures of women in varying poses, colors, and sizes. While nana means “chick” or “dame” in French, the artist viewed these works as modern archetypal figures of “Every(wo)man.”

4. Larger than Life

Saint Phalle opened her most famous exhibition, Hon—en katedral (She—A Cathedral), in 1966 at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. The interactive installation consisted of massive, reclined construction of a Nana, which visitors could enter through her open legs. Inside, visitors found a milk bar, aquarium, small theater, a kids’ slide, and other hidden surprises.

5. Artist/Activist

While many of her works are playful, Saint Phalle also tackled serious sociopolitical issues. Pieces like AIDS, You Can’t Catch it Holding Hands (1986), Guns (2001), and Daddy (1972) respectively deal with the AIDS crisis, gun violence, and sexual assault/abuse.

—Erin Allen was the winter/spring 2019 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.