NO MAN’S LAND: Re-Think the Nude

Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making. Mira Dancy, Isa Genzken, and Mickalene Thomas use images of the female nude in unexpected ways.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.

Mira Dancy, Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014; Neon, 60 x 48 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

What’s On View?

Mira Dancy’s Street Ofelia (neon blue), 2014

Mira Dancy (b. 1979, England) says that while her work “revolves around making paintings” her process often “extends into other forms,” including neon, vinyl, Plexiglas, video, and poetry.

In her work, Dancy is interested in creating images of women that “summon the implicit trauma that comes with subjecthood, the gaps that are forged between an inner and outer being.” Dancy’s nudes serve as explorations of broader ideas through the use of the female body. “The bodies I paint are not realistic,” she says. “I often think of them as wearing ‘nude suits.’ Their flesh is silver, blue, green, red, hot pink. The body is not the subject, but the medium.”

Isa Genzken’s Schauspieler, 2013

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Isa Genzken (b. 1948, Bad Oldesloe, Germany) once said, “I want to animate the viewers, hold a mirror up to them.” This attitude is evident in Schauspieler, from a series of life-size mannequins that “appear indistinguishable from those in department store windows,” but are “disrupted by lines of spray paint on their bodies, tape wrapped around their mouths, and other interferences.”

Schauspieler, meaning “actor,” critiques capitalism and commodification of the female body. The figure’s wig, glasses, and drawn markings—evocative of plastic surgery—point to the futility women face in their efforts to conform to an unobtainable physical ideal.

Through the “role reversal” of channeling art-viewers, Genzken challenges the public to think differently about representations of the female body.

Mickalene Thomas’s Whatever You Want, 2004

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.; Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, New Jersey) reproduces her own photographs as paintings with acrylic, enamel, collage, and rhinestones. Drawing inspiration from sources ranging from 19th-century French painting to 1970s Blaxploitation films, Thomas’s work attempts to “inject black women into the art historical canon.”

Whatever You Want features a black female protagonist in a pose referencing the portrayal of white female nudes in the Western painting tradition. Thomas’s figures typically meet the viewer’s gaze “while lounging in outlandishly patterned interiors and exuding an aggressive sexuality.” Their confrontational gazes contain “awareness: they exist, are present, and they are not going to let you go away easily.” By portraying “real women with their own unique history, beauty, and background,” Thomas broadens the representations of black women in art.

Reserve your spot to meet artist Mira Dancy at NMWA on December 13, 2016 for a special in-gallery conversation. Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Happiest Hours: “Artists in Conversation” Invite You to Eat, Drink, and Connect

How can NMWA offer a distinctive type of artist talk program, one that engages attendees, activates artwork, and highlights the personalities of the guest speakers? The new “Artists in Conversation” program engages small audiences in the galleries during intimate group happy hour events.

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Artists in Conversation participants socialize over happy hour in the galleries; Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

The museum invited artists Rozeal, Analia Saban, Mira Dancy, and Suzanne McClelland for a series of three “Artists in Conversation” programs highlighting their respective works featured in the contemporary exhibition NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. In this new format, participants have time to explore the galleries, look closely at the artists’ works, enjoy food and drink, and engage in conversations with the artists and fellow attendees.

On October 18, 2016, Rozeal captivated participants in a discussion of her work Sacrifice #2: it has to last (after Yoshitoshi’s “Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era). Rozeal explored the influence of American hip-hop culture clichés on Japanese culture, namely ganguro, a sub-culture fascinated with dark tans and thickly applied contrasting makeup.

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal with one of her works in NO MAN’S LAND, Photo: Francisca Rudolph, NMWA

Rozeal portrays her protagonists with natural hairstyles such as dreadlocks, knots, or Afros, whereas her villains appear more sexualized, with intricate weaves and extravagant embellishments. Brown’s sources span the gamut—from 19th century Japanese woodblock print techniques and masters to popular culture. She cited J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as an inspiration for her own use of elaborate details in her work. Influenced by comedians like Bernie Mac and Rob Schneider’s Deuce Bigalow character, Rozeal often incorporates Easter Eggs in the form of hidden, humorous references. She revealed, “I usually end up laughing quite a bit when I make these paintings.”

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Analia Saban shares her work with attendees; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

On November 11, 2016, Analia Saban introduced her works Acrylic in Canvas and Acrylic in Canvas with Ruptures: Grids. “While working on my MFA at the University of California in Los Angeles, I was curious why painting received more attention than sculpture,” explained Saban. By using acrylic and canvas in unexpected ways, she said, “My artwork opens up dialog about the boundaries between these two mediums.” Saban amused attendees with anecdotes about her trial-and-error artistic process. She recounted one night when a sculpture “exploded” and flooded her apartment with acrylic paint.

Join us for the delightful opportunity to talk with not just one—but two—NO MAN’S LAND artists in the same evening. On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, Mira Dancy and Suzanne McClelland will converse with small groups about their respective backgrounds, artistic process, and works. Find out what inspires McClelland’s large abstracted canvases and Dancy’s neon nudes. Reserve your spot today for the upcoming “Artists in Conversation” happy hour at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

—Olivia Lussi is the fall 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.