Woman as King

I finally made it over to King Woman , the fabulous exhibit at Pen + Brush, featuring work by 25 international established and emerging female artists.  Organized by guest curator Mashonda Tifrere (founder of ArtLeadHER), King Woman features realistic, hyperrealistic and abstract works across a variety of media: painting, video, photography and fibre art.  Here are some of my highlights:

Artemis, Ingrid Baars, 2017, C-print face mounted on dibond, framed

Ingrid Baars’ photo Artemis derives its title from the goddess of Greek mythology; its composition is inspired by Renaissance portraits, which were often in profile. Her image captures Artemis’ duality – the huntress who is also the protector of young girls, virginity and childbirth.  Measuring almost 4’ x 5 ‘, it is captivating.

Indestructible, Stephanie Hirsch, 2016, Hand-sewn beads on shaped canvas

I can’t begin to calculate how many hours it must have taken Stephanie Hirsch to embroider Indestructible, made from beads hand-sewn on canvas.  She uses flowers to invoke our own individual metaphorical garden.  However, Hirsch isn’t giving us some vapid, floral, feel-good image – look again, and you’ll see the serpent slithering in between the petals and leaves, reminding us of life’s lurking perils.

Double Bind, Lacey McKinney, Oil, graphite and metal leaf on polyester film

Lacy McKinney’s Double Bind caught my eye because of the striking way the faces combine, overlap, and come apart – there’s a very strong sense of movement and struggle in this painting.

toni parks, SALT series, Lola Flash, 2011, photograph

Lola Flash uses a 4 x 5 large format camera to create the portraits in her SALT series of iconic older women who are photographed in their homes.  Her goal is make older women more visible, and to challenge the way we see them.  The portrait above is of the photographer Toni Parks, who is also the daughter of photographer Gordon Parks.

detail, I Am a Dreamer, Azi Amiri, Acrylic, ink, transfered image, watercolor on paper

Azi Amiri aims to reexamine the form and function of the headscarves (hijab) in I Am a Dreamer.   She created this work (49 pieces) by asking friends in Iran to send her their headshots wearing hijab and a note containing a fact about them.  By focusing solely on the hijab as a decorative accessory, and combining those images with text that is alternatively assertive, wistful and funny, Amiri forces us to confront our own views of women who wear headscarves. 

Subway Windows, Swoon, Silkscreen and acrylic gouache on found object

As a subway rider, I was especially drawn to this work by SWOON (the artist Caledonia Curry) who’s known for her urban-based work examining the relationship between people and the built environment. I also like how she repurposed an old window.

Hold Back My Power Elizabeth Waggett, 2017, 24 Karat gold, ink charcoal and graphite on cotton

I was struck by Elizabeth Waggett’s depiction of a lobster – not simply because of it’s size.  At approximately 10’ x 5’, hanging from the gallery’s ceiling, it is a powerful image indeed.  By rendering it in black with just a band of gold on its claws, the artist is forcing you to confront the value and status of this sea creature, which is often the most expensive item on a menu.

Tango Tease, Lynnie Z, 2017, acrylic on wood panel

I was immediately seduced by the bold, lush colors and composition of Lynnie Z’s Tango Tease, whose images combine to create a tropical femme fatal. 

I also recommend that you pick up the catalogue, which at $10, is an absolute steal!

King Woman is on through December 9th, but don’t wait until then to see this wonderful show.  Pen + Brush is at 29 East 22nd Street, and is open from 12:00 – 6:00pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

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