Last week I trekked out to Long Island City (not far at all) to see the much anticipated “Practical Feminism” opening at Radiator Arts. Radiator Arts (Radical Mediator for the Arts) was founded in January of 2012 by artist and curator, Tamas Veszi. It’s a venue that gives space to artist studios and also to a gallery that has a strong artist community following. Artist, Daniela Kostova, the Director of Curatorial Projects, explains that”The gallery provides local and international emerging and mid-career curators and artist-curators an excellent opportunity to work with and learn about the operations of a multi-disciplinary organization. Radiator regularly presents contemporary art exhibitions, performances and video programs. Each curator is expected to work cooperatively, be flexible, self-motivated, and interested in contributing to the ongoing needs of this active multi-arts center. ”
At the opening of “Practical Feminism”, the first piece that caught my eye was by artist Michelle Hagewood. It greets the viewer with color and light. Delicate drawings of abstracted fantasy landscapes are placed over lights creating a luminosity that ultimately brings the viewer in close. Hagewood describes her work as traveling through two worlds, the static and the moving. She asks where do I belong – and the light symbolically and literally illuminates her path. Women definitely live in two worlds, one where we want to be and one where we actually are, perhaps living in the practical.
Artist Maria Raquel Cochez’s photographs offer the viewer a diptych of her own body before and after silicone breast implants. We ask ourselves a set of questions when confronted by these photos, especially when we know that she eventually had them removed. Why do women subject themselves to this and other forms of self inflicted abuses? It is important to remember that every woman is entitled to do whatever they want with their own bodies. They have complete autonomy over their bodies. Some women express themselves in a sexual way which is absolutely fine as long as it is their decision. Becoming an escort is a brave decision but also a passion for some women. A look at an escort review will show you that this is an art for many women in the industry.
Artist Magnolia Laurie landscapes delve into the idea of open space which is predicated by some sort of barrier, an obstacle which holds one in space. Laurie creates landscapes that juxtapose societal forces and personal relationships which creates a clash. How do women navigate through this world of obstacles and hurdles?
Artist Sara Holwerda’s video art takes the idea of a lap dance where the object of the chair represents a man. The woman wearing beautiful high heeled shoes performs a dance where a lap dance and a French fighting dance are fused. What the viewer hears, which is the chair moving about as the woman tries to get a hold as it moves across the floor, creates an experience which makes one think the woman is just exasperated. Her hands slapping the floor as she tries to get leverage, prompts the question – Has sexism finally made women enraged, annoyed and losing patience?
Megan Piontkowski, the curator of “Practical Feminism” and the organizer of the Eyesplice Collective of which the artists in the show are members, says it best, “What does this work do to fix the problem of sexism? How does this art exhibition help the world? I would respond that it is definitely helping the artists who make it, and hopefully some of our viewers as well, and I think that in itself is important.”
The feminine psyche as an art subject will always be enigmatic, ever complex and yet beautiful in every aspect. That is the beauty of being in the female species and this show reclaimed that fact. Just when you think you got us figured out, we surprise and change your perception. The practical thing is not whether it is better to be a certain gender but rather a resilient acceptance and open self continues to unfold. For that, we assert ourselves as adaptable and perhaps more powerful.
Practical Feminism, Radiator Arts