Art Fix Friday: August 2, 2019

In partnership with artist and activist Amanda D. King, Tamir Rice’s mother, Samaria Rice, will open a cultural center named after her son, which will feature artistic, cultural, and civic programming for Cleveland youth.

Samaria Rice stands in the future home of the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center in Cleveland

Samaria Rice in the future home of the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center in Cleveland; Photo by Lisa DeJong, courtesy of the Tamir Rice Foundation

Tamir was just 12 years old when he was killed by police in 2014. Samaria has repeatedly turned to art to help amplify her fight against police brutality and racial injustice. As artnet reports, “Rice says her belief in art as a catalyst for social change was solidified by her experience overseeing the transformation of the Cleveland gazebo where Tamir was killed into a gathering place.”

Front-Page Femmes

Tania Bruguera opened a school for multicultural cooking, crafting, and history at the Manchester Art Gallery, part of last month’s Manchester International Festival.

The Washington City Paper profiles photographer Beverly Price, who is supporting the city’s black artists with gatherings in an eclectic abode where Miles Davis, Chaka Khan, Duke Ellington, and Prince have all thrown parties.

The New York Times features Mickalene Thomas’s summer pool party for fellow members of a new collective of queer black women—it included margaritas and zip-lining.

Iranian photographer and film-maker Shirin Neshat will curate an exhibition in New York this fall of Iranian women artists in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.

Lady K Fever illegally “bombing” for a photo shoot in Vancouver, she holds her young daughter in one arm and a spray paint can in the other.

Lady K Fever illegally “bombing” for a photo shoot in Vancouver (with her first daughter), 2001; Today she runs the Bronx Graffiti Gallery, where she incorporates the work and stories of women into the larger narrative, and the graffiti HERSTORY Instagram account; Photo courtesy of Bronx Graffiti Gallery

Artsy profiles the boundary-breaking women of New York’s graffiti scene from the 1970s to today.

ABC News spotlights Maliha Abidi, author and artist behind the book Pakistan for Women, which features her vibrant portraits of notable Pakastani women, including activist Malala Yousafzai.

The Ford Foundation Gallery has opened Radical Love, an exhibition about “love as a social justice strategy”—the concept is inspired by bell hooks’s idea of love as a human right and shared responsibility.

The latest edition of Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, dedicated to genre and Asian cinema, continued its trend of elevating female filmmakers.

Candid remarks by Frieze Sculpture curator Clare Lilley highlight the gender gap in public sculpture and gives a glimpse of broader biases in the field.

ARTnews profiles painter Pat Steir as she prepares for a major exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., opening this October.

Shows We Want to See

Mounira Al-Solh’s The Mother of David and Goliath is on view at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Beirut. The show addresses environmental, political, and feminist concerns and contains a new painting series informed by stories of women detained across the Arab world. Al-Solh also draws from works of women writers in the region and their voices can be heard over speakers reciting their works.

"The Mother of David and Goliath" by Mounira Al Solh, a large-scale canvas, its background washed in warm red and yellow ochre. Two women are visible in the background, one partially obscured. In the foreground is a jar of what look like makdous, a Levantine preserve made of pickled, stuffed baby eggplants. In this case, each indigo oval contains a roughly rendered fetus accented by crimson-violet paint that recalls blood. The painting is eerie and evocative. It is also electrically narrative, although the particulars of the story evade viewers. “It contains many things at the same time,” al-Solh says with a laugh. “It’s hard to talk about because sometimes it’s better to keep it open.”

Mounira Al Solh, The Mother of David and Goliath, 2019; Oil on canvas; Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg

At the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Simone Leigh’s Loophole of Retreat, her exhibition in honor of winning the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize, is on view. In a suite of new sculptures, “Leigh merges the human body with domestic vessels or architectural elements that evoke unacknowledged acts of female labor and care.”

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

Art and Social Messaging in More is More: Multiples

Artists’ multiples combine the temptation and affordability of retail with the creativity of fine art. More is More: Multiples, on view through September 22, presents dinner plates, totes, sunglasses, toys, and more by artists including Cindy Sherman, Mickalene Thomas, Barbara Kruger, Helen Marten, and Jiha Moon.


Many of the artists whose work is on view in More is More: Multiples have challenged stereotypical notions of womanhood since the 1970s, and their messages are still relevant today. Artists like Sophie Calle, Mickalene Thomas, Barbara Kruger, and the Guerrilla Girls have collaborated with design firms to produce objects that carry their social messaging forward. Working for gender and racial equality, these artists extend their ideas onto accessible retail objects, blurring lines between feminist art and consumer culture.

The topics of feminism and consumer culture call to mind the commodification of feminism over recent years. Big corporations may find success with “femvertising,” branding themselves as feminist while simultaneously ripping off female artists and underpaying employees. In an era of hashtags and campaigns, slogans like “The Future is Female” can be hollow signifiers: originating from the lesbian separatist movement, the phrase has become a symbol of superficial feel-good feminism.

Calle multiples

Sophie Calle, The Pig dinner service, 2013; Set of six porcelain plates with platinum text, each 10 5/8 in. diameter; Produced by Bernardaud; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore; Image courtesy of Artware Editions

kruger your gaze

Barbara Kruger, Sunglasses, "Your gaze hits the side of my face", black with red arms; Plastic, 2 x 5 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of Chief Curator, Kathryn Wat; Courtesy of Artware Editions

mickalene tote multiples

Mickalene Thomas, Tote (front), 2009 (based on Mickalene Thomas, Lovely Six Foota, 2007); Printed cloth, 15 x 13 ½ x 3 ½ in.; Produced in partnership with the International Center of Photography; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

thomas multiples

Mickalene Thomas, Pocket mirror (front and back), 2016 (based on Mickalene Thomas, Din Facing Forward and Qusuquzah Standing Sideways, 2012); Brushed bronze with epoxy-coated artwork, 2 5/8 in. diameter; Produced by Third Drawer Down; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of National Museum of Women in the Arts Chief Curator Kathryn Wat; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

GG eraser single 2

Guerrilla Girls, Erase Discrimination, 1999; Ink on rubber, 1 1/8 x 2 1/2 x 1/4 in.; Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Museum Acquisition Fund; Image courtesy of the Akron Art Museum

How do these multiples differ from other retail objects? First, the objects in More is More are created by feminist artists, not corporations. They are authentic and witty, prompting reflection from viewers. In The Pig dinner service (2013), Sophie Calle (b. 1953) tells the story of an uncomfortable encounter with a man who insulted her. The story unfolds in small platinum type across six porcelain plates. “He leaned in to me and sought my lips. I pushed him away. ‘What makes you think I’d want to kiss you?’ I protested. ‘Well, anyway,’ he answered, ‘you eat like a pig.’” The demeaning nature of Calle’s experience stands in stark contrast to the delicate, pristine plates.

Sunglasses (2013) by Barbara Kruger (b. 1945) confront gender inequity with a simple message from her 1981 piece Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face). Printed on the sides of the shades, the phrase reminds us how women are objectified, while the sunglasses act as a shield—protecting the wearer from the “male gaze.” A tote bag (2009) and pocket mirror (2016) designed by Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971) address black beauty standards—by printing photos of black women on everyday objects, she celebrates their beauty and challenges Western beauty standards. The punny Erase Discrimination erasers (1999) by the Guerrilla Girls draw attention to inequality with frankness and humor.

While messages of female empowerment are used by corporations for appearance and profit, the objects in More is More present their messaging in creative, meaningful ways, leaving viewers engaged and challenged. “The problem is—the problem has always been—that feminism is not fun…. It’s complex and hard and it pisses people off,” said Andi Zeisler, founder of the feminist magazine Bitch. The multiples designed by Calle, Thomas, Kruger, and the Guerrilla Girls are witty and fun, but they also demonstrate the complexity and challenges of feminism.

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

Art Fix Friday: July 26, 2019

Happy Birthday, Judy Chicago! On July 20 in her adopted town of Belen, New Mexico, the artist celebrated her 80th birthday with the opening of a new art space, Through the Flower, a multi-colored smoke show designed by the artist herself, and the launch of her own line of red wines.

Judy Chicago sits in a grey chair on NMWA's performance hall stage, smiling and holding a piece of paper as she engages in conversation with Alison Gass (not pictured), her interviewer.

Judy Chicago featured at a NMWA Fresh Talk in 2017; see her again on September 22 for a discussion about her upcoming exhibition at NMWA, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, and the release of a brand new monograph, Judy Chicago: New Views, published by NMWA

Following the exhibition of her newest body of work at NMWA this fall, a retrospective of Chicago’s oeuvre will be held at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Vice interviewed the artist, who has no plans to slow down on her “voyage of discovery.”

Front-Page Femmes

Italian artist Marisa Merz, who was the sole female artist in the influential Arte Povera movement, has died at age 93.

Photographer Ida Wyman has died at age 93; she worked for Life and Business Week capturing ordinary people in their everyday lives.

The Art Newspaper published a buyer’s guide to Louise Bourgeois, whose works became the most expensive by a woman artist when her monumental bronze Spider (1997) sold for $28 million this year.

The New York Times profiles the women who are changing New York’s D.J. scene—many have been part of a grassroots movement based in collaboration and empowerment.

The Guardian profiles the female video game designers who are challenging the conversation around reproductive rights through live-action role-playing games and interactive documentaries.

Hyperallergic interviews Canadian filmmaker Catherine Hébert on her new documentary about Ziva Postec, the editor of the epic Holocaust documentary Shoah, and how her work was downplayed by the film’s director.

A detail shot of Vanessa Barragão’s botanical tapestry which depicts the world via thread and yarn; this particular section includes the top of Africa, a bit of the Middle East, and southern Europe represented in vivid yellows with some flowers and many different stitches.

Detail of Vanessa Barragão’s botanical tapestry; the artist spent 520 hours on the piece, which is completely handcrafted and nearly 20 feet wide

Fiber artist Vanessa Barragão has created a massive textural tapestry of a map of the world; the work is on view at London’s Heathrow Airport and celebrates the airport’s partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

The Drum has released its 2019 “50 Under 30” list, which celebrates the world’s highest achieving women in creative and digital arts under the age of 30.

The Met Costume Institute’s next major show comes from the private collection of prolific and undersung fashion historian Sandy Schreier.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has announced a year of exhibitions and programming around women artists in 2020, to mark the 100th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote.

Shows We Want to See

A black and white portrait photo of a black women wearing a large lion-esque headpiece and looking at the camera, with an intense side gaze.

Zanele Muholi, Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo, 2015; © Zanele Muholi, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town / Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

Women’s Work: Art & Activism in the 21st Century is on view at Pen + Brush in New York City through August 2. The exhibition explores the familiar expression through the works of five artists/activists who present visions that reshape its definition.

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is on view at the Seattle Art Museum through November 3. The photographic series features portraits taken in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa between 2014 and 2017. Each is distinct and poses critical questions about social injustice, human rights, and contested representations of the black body.

Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped is on view at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. It chronicles more than 20 years of her work in ceramics.

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

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Connecting Form & Language

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.


There is a reason Ursula von Rydingsvard gravitated to sculpture more than any other means of expression. “I can dig into things that are tender, that are hard to look at, that are hard to communicate, more in my studio than I can with any other thing, like words,” the artist has said. Over the past 30 years, von Rydingsvard has developed her own powerful visual language to communicate that which is tender, hard, and so often uncommunicable. Her evocative cedar sculptures speak for themselves. But despite acknowledging the limitations of words, von Rydingsvard does love language—and her meditation on the joys and limits of words play out in her work in a number of ways.

Poetic Sensibilities

The subtitle of the exhibition, The Contour of Feeling, comes from the artist’s favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and his epic poem, The Duino Elegies. Poetry is, perhaps, the closest form in language—strange, specific, ethereal, and powerful—to what von Rydingsvard achieves in her artistic practice.

(Not) Lost in Translation

The titles of von Rydingsvard’s works are in the vernacular Polish spoken by peasants, and she leaves them untranslated to preserve their ambiguous, personal meanings. The artist has expressed regret over not learning the Polish language properly, but finds connection to her kin through this naming. “Polish titles enable me to have a kind of secretive communication with the Poles.”

Von Rydingsvard departs from her towering forms with the delicate sculpture Book with no words II (2017–18). The empty, oversized tome comprises thin cedar pages bound with leather and linen. Here the artist may be representing the limits of language and all that is unnamable, encouraging the viewer’s imagination to take flight.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Book with no words II, 2017; Cedar, linen, and leather, 10 1/2 x 63 x 47 in.; © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Carlos Avendaño

A Book with No Words

Von Rydingsvard departs from her towering forms with the delicate sculpture Book with no words II (2017–18). The empty, oversized tome comprises thin cedar pages bound with leather and linen. Here the artist may be representing the limits of language and all that is unnamable, encouraging the viewer’s imagination to take flight. When asked for explanations of her work, von Rydingsvard has said, “Let it float and tell you what the piece needs to tell you, not what the curators are saying and not what the teachers are saying.”

Words Sing, Words Fail

Von Rydingsvard is expressive, poetic, and specific with her words. She has described cedar as “fleshy,” “sexy,” “voluptuous,” and “hemorrhaging.” She refers to her sculptures in the feminine “she” or, occasionally, as “princess.” But as alive as her descriptions can be, the artist still comes back to the difficulty of language-based expression: “I have made so many bowls, but my bowl is never a bowl…Even when I say that word, it’s a huge lie.”

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from In Ursula’s Own Voice: An Interview with Mark Rosenthal in Ursula Von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling (The Fabric Workshop and Museum and Hirmer Publishers, 2018).

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

Art Fix Friday: July 19, 2019

The 2019 Honolulu Biennial achieved a level of diversity that is rare among international art events. Almost half of the 47 featured artists were women and a majority were of indigenous descent.

A Hawaiian woman wearing indigenous dress, necklaces, and a flower crown stands with one hand on her hip and another held out holding a polished wooden stick in a wheat grass field; behind her the sky is golden and also a moody grey filled with storm clouds.

Photo by Pake Salmon, part of the 2019 Honolulu Biennial

Curator Nina Tonga kept diversity at the forefront of her planning and sought to create a new biennial model. Harper’s Bazaar describes the result as “an inclusive, engaging event that spread over more than ten sites throughout Honolulu, including public spaces, and which had more than 90 free programs.”

Front-Page Femmes

Baton Rouge activist and curator Sadie Roberts-Joseph was found dead on July 12; she founded the city’s nonprofit Odell S. Williams Now & Then Museum of African American History in 2001.

Solange Knowles has partnered with art institutions worldwide to host free screenings of her performance art film When I Get Home—a “dreamy film [that] pays homage to the legacy of Black cowboys and Afrofuturism.”

The Atlantic profiles writer-director Lulu Wang and her new film The Farewell, highlighting her struggles to find support for the project, and how she stayed true to her story, culture, and self.

An abstract, surrealist painting by Ithell Colquhoun

A work by Ithell Colquhoun from the Tate’s 5,000-item archive; Photograph by Oli Cowling/© Tate

Tate has announced the acquisition of the vast archive of little-known British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun, whom they hope “will finally get the credit and recognition she deserves.”

Clara Wieck Schumann was regarded as one of the leading keyboard celebrities of the early 19th century—but even on the bicentennial of her birth, she remains overlooked.

artnet*news interviews Ecuador-born graffiti artist Lady Pink who successfully made a space for herself in the male-dominated scene; her work is currently on view in Beyond the Streets.

NPR profiles sculptor Augusta Savage, whose work is on view in a retrospective at the New-York Historical Society through July 28.

Hyperallergic looks at how artist Mari Katayama uses self-portraiture to dismantle expected notions of beauty and sexuality.

The New Yorker tells the story of Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover and pupil—and a master painter herself.

Serpentine Galleries curator Lucia Pietroiusti emerges as a poignant voice in challenging the art world to acknowledge and tackle climate change.

Shows We Want to See

A self portrait by Linda McCartney: she looks into a mirror staring slightly upward and her camera is in the foreground and blurry.

Linda McCartney, Self Portrait, Sussex, 1992; © Paul McCartney

The Linda McCartney Retrospective is on view at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland. This first major retrospective of the late photographer’s work is curated by Paul McCartney and their two daughters, Mary and Stella. It features dozens of photographs and archival material shown to the public for the first time. McCartney was a successful photographer and worked regularly for Rolling Stone, becoming the first woman to land a photograph on the coveted cover slot.

At the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, I Am…Contemporary Women Artists of Africa explores the contributions of women to numerous issues including the environment, identity, politics, race, and more. The show is part of the museum’s Women’s Initiative Fund, an effort to increase its representation of female artists. An assessment seven years ago found that just 11 percent of the attributed works in its collections were by women artists.

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

5 Fast Facts: Judy Chicago

A portrait of Judy Chicago in 2019; the artist is wearing a blue sequined shirt and jeans, purple short hair, and has her hands on her hips, the background is a tree.

Judy Chicago in 2019; Photo by Donald Woodman

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Judy Chicago (b. 1939), who will celebrate her 80th birthday on July 20. Chicago’s newest body of work, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, will debut at NMWA on September 19 and run through January 20, 2020.

 What’s in a Name?

In 1970, Chicago changed her last name to identify herself as an independent woman, rather than one defined by her father (she was born Judy Cohen) or husband (she took the name Gerowitz on marriage, then was widowed at a young age). Her new moniker was originally a nickname she earned for her strong accent.

Ladies First

Chicago developed the Feminist Art Program at California State University at Fresno in 1970—it was the first program of its kind in the United States. After she and Miriam Schapiro (1923–2015) moved the program to the California Institute of the Arts, they led 21 students in developing Womanhouse (1971).

Her Story

Under Chicago’s direction, more than 400 people contributed to The Dinner Party (1974–9). The final installation features a triangular dining table, 39 place settings representing extraordinary historical women, and an additional 999 named on the Heritage Floor.

In this black and white photo, Judy Chicago addresses a gathering of volunteers in the Dinner Party studio, ca. 1978.

Judy Chicago addresses a gathering of volunteers in The Dinner Party studio, ca. 1978; Photograph by Amy Meadow; Judy Chicago Visual Archive, Betty Boyd Dettre Library & Research Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts

Cat Lady

For four and a half years, Chicago researched the history, physiology, and psychology of cats while rendering her own family of felines in watercolor. In Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours, Chicago’s illustrations portray each hour of a day and are interspersed with “Feline Facts.”

In Her Own Words

Interested in more than five facts? Chicago is also the author of several books, including two autobiographies: Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist and Beyond the Flower: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist.

—Ashley Harris is the associate educator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

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.


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.