Identity, especially for female and minority artists, has undeniably emerged as a key impetus for art making over the last few decades. Currently on view at the woman-centric A.I.R. Gallery in DUMBO, Overlap: Life Tapestries juxtaposes the work of eight female artists to explore the concept of intersectionality, the ways that various aspects of identity shape one’s experience. Given the current political climate, the exhibition, skillfully curated by Vida Sabbaghi, serves as a particularly powerful expression of the female voice as colored by a diversity of race, class, age etc. Overlap offers a subtle and uniquely relatable sort of feminism as well as an embrace of diversity.
Perhaps the most attention grabbing, and certainly the most pop culturally indebted, piece in the exhibition, Linda Stein’s Heroic Composition 665 with Wonder Woman Shadow, inhabits an entire corner of the room with a presence appropriate to the superhero that is Wonder Woman. The work, a life size suit of armor emblazoned with comic book stills installed in front of a vinyl reproduction of Wonder Woman, brings the character into an adult, feminist context reiterating the values of strength and ambition that she has instilled in generations of little girls.
Equally powerful is a group of works by Martha Wilson, which examine what it means to age as a woman, when beauty and youth are valued so highly by our society. Feminism and wider ideas of identity come into play in conceptual photographic works like Beauty is in the Eye and New Wrinkles on the Subject, both of which literally portray takes on these clichéd phrases as means by which women keep themselves looking “young.”
The pressure put on women to fit into a pre-approved sort of identity, whether it be professionally, sexually, or in any other area of life informs the show throughout. Shari Weschler Rubeck’s painting As We Leave literally depicts this weight as boulders replace the top of her figure’s body. Bastienne Schmidt’s Typology of Women series similarly responds to society’s desire and pressure to categorize and simplify women into types as a means of identity.
All in all, this powerful grouping of work give an overall impression of both the struggles and joys of being a woman today. In an environment that balances an unprecedented freedom with continuing oppression and uncertainty, Overlap succeeds as a platform to allow women artists to fully own their own unique identities.
Overlap: Life Tapestries curated by Vida Sabbaghi at A.I.R. Gallery
Nov 17th – Dec 18th