By TERRENCE SANDERS SMITH July 2019
I AM A WOMAN curated by Noah Becker, Terrence Sanders-Smith and Dr. Milagros Bello.
Opening reception Wednesday July 31st from 6-9pm @ Lichtundfire 175 Rivington Street NYC.
Panel discussion with moderator Dr. Milagros Bello and artists on Thursday August 1st at 7pm. RSVP email@example.com for seating. Exhibition runs July 31st – August 30th.
Concept: Participating visual artist Lorien Suarez-Kanerva and I discussed the possibility of hosting an exhibition in New York City that would possess sustenance, and strong sense of purpose and meaning. An exhibit that was not only necessary, but timely. I AM A WOMAN was the title of our passion, intent and curatorial focus. I invited Noah Becker and Suarez-Kanerva invited Dr. Milagros Bello to sign on as co-curators. Three curators and an artist working within the parameters of the exhibition curatorial statement. Each curator invited two artists to participate in the I AM A WOMAN group exhibition.
Dr. Milagros Bello (curator): I AM A WOMAN is an affirmative statement and a polarizing point of depart to reconstitute social conditions and ideological concepts of women, whether considering past or present times. It triggers thoughts on womanhood, femininity, discrimination, minority, patriarchy, gender; all critical aspects of our “macho-men” oriented culture, that are perfectly aligned with the stereotyped discourse of women nowadays. But the key point here is not about all these aspects that concern capital-culture. The key concept here is asking who these women behind this scene are, and how they have performed in their own individual ways as artists; how they are opening a space beyond the clichés; all of them, with sharp declarations, tones, expressions, and accents. Whether through socially or subjectively intertwined narratives (Leigh Bongiorno, Iara Celeste Diaz, Jennifer Mien Mien Lin) or non-objective vocabulary (Rosario Bond, Lorien Suarez-Kanerva) they build a specific locus in which they locate their power. A characterized site that establishes a presence and a profile. That is the most appropriated way of defining women, if that is the case.
Terrence Sanders-Smith (curator): I will not be dismissed, invisible and or without a voice! I AM A WOMAN affirmation resonates with me. The known and unknown daily sacrifices, suffering, and torment women have had to endure in their professional and personal lives is reprehensible? With the current chorus of politicians, misogynists and religious fanatics threatening a woman's right to choose, a right to make decisions over her body and or career, the time is now. "(His)tory is written by the Victors." Winston Churchill. Arguably the last four years we have witnessed sickening blatant attempts to belittle, undermine and damage the very fabric our respective societies, our humanity. The powers that be want us to adapt and adhere to a corrupt, unethical and inhumane system for the have and have nots, old and young, black and white, male and female. I AM A WOMAN.
Noah Becker (curator): In art, we can move away from the literal and find poetic or non-linear modes of expression. As opposed to making a show a reactionary show, steeped in current politics, I wanted to present something different with my co-curators. The artists in this show are from my perspective on par with any of the great artists of history. I was excited to present a show without male artists more than I thought of it as an “all female exhibition”. Male artists are a different animal and excluding that energy was important in the context of accomplishing this show. What that male art energy is in comparison to female artists is an abstract, tangible and ongoing conversation. I contacted artists that I knew would supply me with the intensity I require to have my needs met. Jennifer Lin’s photographs have the imprint of her ethnicity and place on earth as a woman but also open us to beauty and color in the way she presents her works. Lara Celeste Diaz is another example of an artist who crafts her paintings to the edges of extreme beauty. So, a mixture of playfulness, beauty and politics is at play in this show. It’s important to remember that the act of making art and being an artist is a political act in itself. I’m proud to assist in this process of showing art to the world during this strange era we live in.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: I AM A WOMAN… What does that affirmation me to you as a human being and as an artist?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I think about the unique contribution that women offer the world! We are different from men! Men and women have different sensibilities and play different roles in society. Women make life (we get pregnant) and men generally start wars (they curb the population). I am not making a value judgment, it is only an observation! Another thing that comes to mind is the struggle for equality that women throughout the ages have fought, and continue to fight for. The violence against, and the suppression of women is real! It is odd that for a majority of women, this reality only becomes apparent later on, once they come of a certain age. When I was growing up, I had this idea that I am invincible. My parents made me think that the playing field was equal. The reality however, is a much different story. Once I reached my mid-twenties, I became aware that it was far from equal. This is especially obvious in the art world, where almost 80% of works hanging in galleries and museums are by white males! Men have more opportunities and are treated better than women. As I got older, I began to understand why feminism is important, why it is crucial to fight for equality, and how we, as females, owe much to our feminist forebears.
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: This declaration speaks to my essence, but also a collective essence for all women. It bears the ancestral weight of what a being a woman means in this world. We are living in very dangerous times for women. This is a rallying cry.
Rosario Bond: The affirmation I am a woman has many connections to my role in society. As a woman, I carry the weight of parenthood and the responsibilities and duties that comes with that role sometimes as a blessing, sometimes as a burden with not option to delegate. As an artist, I have to deal with a sane selfishness to keep my balance and attend both roles avoiding every minute of guilt and taking all my feelings to express it in my pieces. My art centers in the ambiguity of this perception.
Leigh Bongiorno: Part of me wants to say; “I am a woman hear me roar”, but then the other part of me says that my gender shouldn’t matter… but it does. As women, we do have more obstacles to deal with and yet we’re still fighting. I don’t want my gender to define me. I want to be known as a great artist, not a great female artist. Yet I do want to be an inspiration to young women to pursue their dreams because we need more role models and representation.
Janae Sumter: I AM A WOMAN-WOMAN means I am me- a creator, empowerer, magical soul, healer, nurturer, peace-builder, powerhouse, and a beacon of feminine energy that opens space to create in our trueness. I, a channel for powerful matriarchal energy of beings who’ve supported me in many facets of my life- as an artist and being. They are my affirmation and I am theirs that carry the wisdom of my ancestors, elders, siblings, and adored connections. As an artist-healer, I am a woman... is an affirmation of understanding the power of showing up, caring, addressing and manifesting through understanding our inner-strength. I am a woman is an ode to the magnificent women of all walks of life that affirms each other through the lens of support, womanhood, and standing up for our representation in this world, as well as our beings. I am a woman is an affirmation to me that honors preservation, intuition, compassion, practicality and an undeniable confidence that flows like the waves in the ocean.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: My art-making began as a young girl at school, making daily pictures for my homework assignments. Later in high school, I started to paint flowers in acrylic on large canvases. The theme of flowers can be considered feminine, and I was drawn to them as a subject matter, but later, the artwork transitioned towards abstraction and geometric nature-based patterns. My growing creative preoccupation moved me further afield from what would be considered a feminine world and towards the more universal and gender-neutral language of form and color. The emphasis on circular and curved shapes is still seen by many as a woman’s art shape preference over masculine rectilinear work. Honestly, I employ both sets of forms for different compositional purposes, and I would leave it to the viewer to decide if my work speaks to them in a particular gender-related manner.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Is there, in your respective communities a sense of purpose to represent culture as a female artist and not as an artist? Example being solely recognized for your contribution as a female artist and not as an artist?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I am an artist. My gender is female. I associate as a female artist, and it is relevant to do so, only when the subject of gender discrimination is broached. What opportunities are available to female artists vs. male artists for example. How does my gender affect my trajectory in the art world? What injustices do female artists suffer as a result of gender bias? How am I treated differently, because I am a female artist?
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: The answer to this question is NO. I’m not part of a community that just reduces me to being just a “female artist”. Although my community celebrates my femininity, it’s not the defining characteristic of my work. My art is a mirror, a lens, a visual catalyst to feel, to relate to this ecstatic tragic experience we call life. Sex, and gender are a merely a part of a whole messy, beautiful candelabra of meaning and signifiers, and not the only ones that matter. There is ethnicity, race, individual experience, class…the list is endless. I’ve consciously chosen to surround myself with an artistic community that doesn’t compromise my creativity in such a reductive binary way. It’s boring. I create art than from the perspective that I am born with., which is that I am a woman and an artist. For me, these two parts are inseparable. I can attempt to see the world as a man, but, why would I? Good art engages with its viewers regardless of the sex of its maker. There are many pieces I’ve created over the past decade that if my viewers weren’t told might assume was created by a man. Now, let me pose this question, does knowing I am a woman change the way people view my art? I think THAT'S the more important question this raises.
Rosario Bond: I have not experienced this difference in my community. I understand that the statistics of the past few decades confirm that the artworld is not one of gender parity but I feel confident that the world is changing for the better. I am grateful to be part of this change which have serves me as an inspiration.
Leigh Bongiorno: There is a sense of purpose as a female artist. There weren’t many female artists to look up to in the history books and girls and women need to know that they have a chance. Yet I don’t want my gender to solely define me. Men aren’t asked if they want to be recognized as male artists or just as artists.
Janae Sumter: Wonderful question. Over the last few years, I’ve enacted within many communities that’s molded a sense of empowerment, cultural likeness and celebration within my purpose. As I resided in many places, I found that understanding a sense of purpose was also finding that within ourselves. As a queer femme artist, I’ve created in many spaces; some being instutionalized, binary, biased and others being communitive, brave and nurturing based on who was in that community. People make community, so we are the ones who create that cultural sense of purpose through what we contribute. Within my being and organizer who holds many spaces for emerging communities centered healing spaces, I found my contribution derived from a sense of love and care, for the individual in their wholeness that intentionally centers Healing Justice.
The moment I began to understand my visual-creative language, later began to attract the very communities where I am able to daily and freely contribute in the ways that are in constant flow of my energy and how that aligns with others. I’ve been in spaces where the culture representation was predominantly male/masculine centered, especially within the art world, but what I find beautiful is that, just by being your true self, in your power, without abusing it- the politics shift. You begin to understand your gifts as an artist and a human being.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: No, I can’t say that my work is recognized only within the context of being from a woman artist. Where I think my artwork grounds itself, within the meaning of I AM A WOMAN is in the fact that as a woman, I have been a creator who has lived through the experiences most women are familiar with including motherhood, creating a home for my family, and as a single mother following a divorce. It is in this sense, that my Hispanic heritage also plays a role, since I do place importance on my home and especially an active participation in a multi-generational extended family life.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Name one female artist past or present that you would say most inspired you?
Iara Celeste Diaz: Remedios Varo (and the female surrealists of that era).
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: One? Why only one? The art historical canon has already been systemically exclusionary for women artists to even be legitimized based on the patriarchal institution that has been in place for the last five centuries to only coronate male artists, so for this reason I will name a few. Past: Anais Nin, Diane Arbus, Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath, Georgia O’Keefe, Louise Bourgeoise. Living: Nan Goldin, Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson, Yayoi Kusama, Tracey Emin, Laurel Nakadate, and Joan Didion.
Rosario Bond: In my early works, I was influenced by Helen Frankenthaler.
Leigh Bongiorno: Although I look up to any female artist and it’s so hard to name one, I gotta say Amy Sherald.
Janae Sumter: Wow. I must say that is truly difficult, I am inspired by many women artists, through many ancestral-elder-queer feminine energies. The intergenerational lineage of breathtaking artists and conjurers in this world poured a piece of their soul into mine, through many timelines. From Betye Saar, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, Jacci Gresham, Eartha Kitt, Anita Baker, Faith Ringgold to the Micklaene Thomas, Lorna Simpson, Renee Stout, Solange and Tamara Madden- they are the women who poured their wisdom into me in some form. Not to mention the bandstand dancers, New Orleans shakers, powerful Earth Mothers, youth, community activists & healers; no one soul is the same and they’ve all made an impact in my life.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: Georgia O’Keefe and Sonia Delaunay have been women artists whose artwork has spoken a visual language that resonated with me and inspired me.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Please further elaborate the main reason this artist had a significant influence on you and your work?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I have always been fascinated with surrealism. I love the fantastical imagery, the colors, the narrative! I love the complexity of the compositions that these women created; they were far better artists than their husbands and male counterparts. Female surrealists' compositions are more pregnant with imagination and symbolism compared to those of their male counterparts like Dali, De Chirico or Max Ernst for example. The female surrealists were also more technically savvy with their use of colors and other visual devices --their paintings are more exciting and stimulating to look at! This is what I aim for with my pieces! Well thought out compositions vibrate with energy! In painting, there are a number of permutations one could come up with, using colors, shapes, and other elements, in order to make a piece stimulating. This same principle exists in color theory for example! Colors change and vibrate with different frequencies every time they are juxtaposed with other colors. This happens to shapes too! And this is true with all other elements in a painting. A painting is like a symphony or a witch's brew! If you put several elements together, and if you are knowledgeable with colors and other visual devices, and if you are lucky enough, you can truly make a piece that is just perfect, and scintillating to the senses--- a composition that tickles the brain! I like paintings that have these qualities!
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: These artistic lions fought, struggled, and created feverishly when their art was scoffed at as a “hobby” to allow an artist like me to even have a voice, without them, I would not be here.
Rosario Bond: Her large-scale paintings, her use and choice of colors, the use of stains, and her overall painterly style. As an artist in the 21st century do you feel there is misogyny, discrimination and or sexism in the artworld? Yes, it is a reality. Works by female artists comprise a small share of major permanent collections in the US and Europe, while at auction, art by women sell for a significant discount compared with men.
Leigh Bongiorno: Last year at Art Basel I was lucky enough to meet Amy Sherald. She talked about how many competitions and shows she was denied from. Now she’s in all the major museums and collections around the world. She told me, “Don’t take it personally and keep going”. That was exactly what I needed to hear and I think a lot of other artists should hear that too.
Janae Sumter: I am forever influenced by these Divine creators. They are light, love, compassion, strength and beings who honor choice. Choice in the ways they decide to nurture, guide, support, and heal. When creating, I honor those beings I look to at all times, they are my teachers and students. Choosing one would be me saying that only one person allowed me to view the world in-particular manner. I am constantly inspired by the women in my life and those I meet daily. Each of them left a piece of themselves with me and vice versa. To me, that is building, that is support and sharing our magic with each other. I always find myself gaining a deeper understanding of myself and those around me through the ways I can support them. The essence of these Divine Feminine matriarchal storytellers are artists in their own right. Their truth is what consistently propels me forward when I forget the ways I choose to channel my power for empowerment, community and integration. I often smile when encountering the beautiful elder who carry much inner wisdom, discernment, abundance and compassion of our grandmothers’ spirit- regardless of age, race, ethnicity, and identity.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: Georgia O’Keefe’s work, especially at the start of my art making journey, with her bold floral shapes was a visually compelling stimulation that inspired me towards a creative exploration of botanical forms that eventually led to geometric abstraction drawn from the universal growth patterns found in nature. Once I delved into Geometric Abstraction, the work by Sonia Delaunay allowed me to dive further within this genre. She also explored textile surface design and similarly created art that ventured out of its traditional context and into the objects of everyday life.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: As an artist in the 21st century do you feel there is misogyny, discrimination and or sexism in the artworld?
Iara Celeste Diaz: Definitely! Almost 80% of works hanging in galleries and museums are by white males! I am a female and minority. That's a double whammy! I could spend my time worrying about these things or I could erase them from my mind, ignore the noise, and keep making art that I like! I have been thinking about the difference between painting for oneself vs. painting for the art market. There's nothing like locking oneself in a room for days and immersing in painting, and then marveling at your success, if you get close to your ideal. Painting for the art world is weird! It's similar to being in show business. The artist must take on a persona, like an actor, or a star! Have a gimmick, in order to sell and be noticed! All this, on top of implicit biases that one has to deal with! Painting alone can suck all of your energy! Who has time to worry about staging gimmicks and tackling biases?!? The art world is weird and corrupt! I have a curator friend and he always likes to say, 'Fuck the Art World!'
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: Ask any woman, artist or otherwise this question and it’s a unanimous fuck yes. I’ve been offered shows if I slept with someone, so yes, yes and yes. I’ve been harassed, discriminated (not just because of my gender but my ethnicity) my work is “too feminine, too Asian, too white, too this, too that) #metoo? Remember that?
Leigh Bongiorno: Yes, today seventy-five percent of MFA students are women. Yet only two women are on the list for the top “100 most expensive artists of all time”. Only about a quarter of the solo shows go to women. And our work sells on average for about twenty percent less in all art fields across the board. The bottom line is women make less in the art world for the same reason they make less in practically every other field - we live in a society ruled by men.
Janae Sumter: Absolutely. Reflecting to the past, women were not allowed to attend prestigious art schools as their male artist colleagues. The artworld is very much male-dominated and filled with censorship, stereotypes, and politics. Women have been discriminated against for centuries and institutions have failed to support women artists that is equabitle. I will say, today, the representation of women artists is shifting and trailblazing. As we, universally move towards a more matriarchal stance, women-woman artists and curators are pushing and striving harder in ways that are supportive and impactful towards each other. This doesn’t take away from the constant misogyny and discrimination experienced daily, but opportunities are widening for women the more impact and truth is expressed. The Lorna Simpsons, Kara Walkers, Lorriane O’Gs, Simone Leighs, Delita Martin and others are offering alternative narratives, that’s covered in reality and powerful representations that influences my generation and beyond who are continuing the legacy.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: Yes, it is no secret that there are more men than women represented by galleries and museums in the world. A quick search of statistics in the Arts led me to a recent February 2019 article by ArtNews citing that 87% of exhibitions at the Nation's top Museums have featured male artists work. Other statistics abound citing numbers as low as 25-35% for the percentages of women represented by galleries in the US and UK. As we all know, it is the result, historically speaking of very, very recent changes in the definition of women’s lives, especially women entering the workforce and voting rights, that have allowed women access to the art world, today. I count myself amongst the fortunate few women, who live in this day and age, that are enjoying greater access to more prospects to reach a more all-encompassing career potential in my lifetime. As an artist of my generation, in comparison to my mother’s or my grandmother’s, I have unparalleled opportunities available now and as never before for women over any other time in history. This exhibition of I AM A WOMAN accomplishes a number of important objectives towards the opening of a more promising inclusion of women in all aspects of the art world. It’s a show that showcases women’s artwork, within the context of a male and female art panel of curators and writers whose work it is to make evaluations in the field of art, today. I remain hopeful that the field of art, and for that matter, all other professions, through our ongoing efforts as women working in the arts, will only become ever more open and promising for women. The artwork speaks for itself, and the artworks created by women are breaking down barriers and of course, are accompanied by a growing movement culturally to sensitize our society towards the ills of gender discrimination.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Do you consider your work important and or relevant? If yes or no, why?
Iara Celeste Diaz: My work is important and relevant to me! My aim when creating an artwork is to make it personal; it has to come from me, what I feel, what I think, what is relevant to me. Otherwise, it's no fun! But this goes without saying. If an artist is successful at capturing what he or she feels in a composition, then other humans will also find it relevant and important.
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: I wouldn’t be an artist if I didn’t think I had something important to say. Being an artist isn’t quite a known as a cushy career path. Why? I create from my soul, my tragedies…I speak for people who are voiceless. My conceptual photography dives into the courage it takes to be a woman in this world.
Rosario Bond: Hopefully it is. I enjoy doing my work and I hope to pass a positive message to the viewer.
Leigh Bongiorno: Yes, for too long art has fallen victim to the male gaze. The beautiful female has been the subject of art for centuries and even still today. Through my art I want to show diversity, to raise awareness and empower. I want to reflect the times because I believe that’s what art should do. My subjects have been left out of the art world for too long and deserve to see themselves represented and accepted in their own right.
Janae Sumter: Absolutely. The work that is created honors space to center the importance of healing and exploration through bringing awareness to cycles of systemic oppression and history recurrence. The very proverbial and physical space brings cultural trauma and collective identity to the foreground of public memory that celebrates personal journeys and ending these cycles. This often manifests through ancestral healing, self-awareness, conversations, accountability, shared knowledge, equitability and community empowerment. Through this nature, an atmosphere for mindful change and connections to learning, building is created while holding space for addressing power, ego, fear, trauma and gender injustice.
For me, as a person who lives in a mental, spiritual and emotional process of community, nothing is ever separate. The work that is created involves my heart, energy, time, love and visual research for unlocking patterns, especially through material connections, shared spaces and collaborations. As a creator of many artistic outlets, I use material and commutative installations, poetry, dance performance, energy healing, personal spiritual practices, organizing, as well as taking background roles that rejuvenates the ways we reconsider healing, awareness and community within our daily lives. It is community centered with commutative voice in understanding purpose through ancestral connections. My work is important, because like every artist- there is a message that needs to be shared and I am fabric stitching to the quilt of art, science, knowledge, creation, empowering and awareness.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: I do consider my work meaningful. I desire to communicate an underlying sense of hopefulness for humanity that is derived from our participation in nature as living beings. I am fascinated with organic forms and patterns in life and the environment, and I want to make the beauty of these patterns known. I aim to bring people closer to nature and at the same time to a greater appreciation of what it means to be alive and a part of this underlying pattern of growth, development, and evolution that is all around us and that we are a part of this broader context of existence.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Why does your visual voice deserve to be heard over the multitudes of artists that have come before you or your contemporaries?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I paint because I want to and need to. I learned how to paint, I sort of welcomed painting into my life, out of desperation! I was alone and in a bad place in London in 2009. When I decided to come home to NYC and resume life here, I was back to zero, down, depressed, and poor! I was living in Spanish Harlem in an old and dingy apartment owned by a 90-year old woman and her middle-aged son who was a heroin addict. They were nice people, but my situation was dire. I lived in a 13ft x 7ft room, all I could do was paint since I didn't have much of anything. It was a Spartan lifestyle, simple. It was one of the darkest period of my life too. During that time, painting saved me again! My favorite paintings were made in that room. The one I'm showing now, Sofia, was created in that tiny room. I was happy and amazed when I finished it because it was the first complex painting that I have ever done so far. I was still learning to paint then. I was just amazed that I was able to make something like it. That joy and pride lasted inside me for months and carried me through! Without painting, I would've probably died or become a drug addict! Painting is a necessity. I will continue to paint whether or not my visual voice is heard. Art is miraculous and it can save you when you're down and out.
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: I take issue with the way this question is framed. I think this question presumes an assumption of competitiveness and a drive for dominance over others and I don’t think about art in this way. I don’t think my voice deserves to be heard “over” the artists that have come before me or my contemporaries. I don’t perceive the world like this. I am offering an invitation to engage in the visual world I’ve created. In fact, with respect to artists that I came before me, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, without them. By creating my work, I am paying homage and carrying on the tradition. Like what T.S. Eliot emphasized in “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, great artists acknowledge what came before them. By thoroughly honoring and absorbing the art that came before can my work truly bloom into fruition.
Rosario Bond: Generally, through my work I try to convey my interest in the cultural predicaments that constrict or define women, such as the power of beauty, fashion and sex. They are all elements that either elevate or belittle women and create a demanding and competitive atmosphere.
Leigh Bongiorno: The current art market does a horrible job reflecting diversity in its artists and its artists subject matter. Many artists are making artwork simply to make a quick buck. These artists take sex, drugs, and pop culture and mix it together into something decorative. My voice deserves to be heard because it is the voice of the forgotten living in the real world today. My voice is diverse, supportive, and empowering. It asks for social change. It reflects on past traditions of history painting while incorporating modern subject matter. We are living history right here and now and I want my art to be a part of it.
Janae Sumter: My visual voices honor a truth that can be found and understood in anyone. The work brings history into light, culturally and ancestrally that celebrates communicative. My visual voice involves collaboration, support, common goals and messages that seeks a stronger internal and external impact My visual voice isn’t just my own- it only opens space to discover, question, analysis and support the individual healing in each other. Those who’ve come before paved a way for many of us, as women artists to be here and is deserving. I view my contemporaries as oneness that vital role in this artworld that deserves to be heard/expressed.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: My sense of deserving to be heard comes from the fact that I am a human being. I can speak and create, and this allows me to contribute my vision and understanding of what I hope will be the betterment of our world. I think we are all creative and entitled to be alive and discover our genius and bring our respective contributions to our homes, families, schools, communities, the world at large, and our natural environment.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: What do you want the viewer, the person that attends the exhibition to walk away with, in respects to humanity, meaning and or feeling?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I would like people to feel exhilarated by the paintings. If we are able to make viewers feel that, maybe they'd be inclined to also take up painting, or drawing. Not necessarily to make a living or profession out of it but to just paint or draw. Art is a form of expression and it feels liberating anytime we are able to express ourselves, whether it be with music, writing, drawing, or painting! Recent scientific research found that people who engage in art practice tend to have healthier brains, and are usually more mentally sound than those who are less exposed to it. Children who have art classes in their curriculums, for example, do better in other subjects like science and math. People who are exposed to art or actively engaged in art practice (this is better than just being exposed to art) become more empathetic human beings. Everyone should practice art. It is a necessity just like exercise, food, or sex.
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: If what I’ve made moved someone on a deep emotional level when they are looking at my work, then I’m happy. And by something It could be feelings of solidarity, outrage, joy, arousal, whatever. The personal subjectivity of my viewers is the magic of it all.
Rosario Bond: I would be happy if they understand that I am in favor of pleasure, fantasy, and fun but at the same time take both (men and women) on a reflective state. That despite the fact that I feel concerned with the women’s situation of being bombarded every day by advertising and propaganda which try to dictate what the perfect feminine prototype should be, I am able to recognize that we are being brain washed.
Leigh Bongiorno: I want the viewer to walk away feeling empowered and I want them to be more understanding of others. I hope they see the beauty in everyone and that they take any steps they can to fight for equality for all people.
Jane Sumter: The work was birthed from my personal experiences of trauma, oppression, -isms, generational patterns, spirituality, healing and much more. I wanted to share my visual story that in hopes another individual would resonate on some level and meeting the viewer where they are. If that space opened, the work forms from there because it expresses similar emotions that others feel, as well as understand. Giving others space to feel any resonated emotions, that important for me. My work is created to allow the viewer and/or participant to feel, question and experience something different with awareness of something different or similar. When viewing the work, allowing them to see themselves in the work and that is where my work stands, in a space of compassion and perspective that hopefully finds common ground and togetherness through their personal journey.
I am no expert. The process of self-mastery is felt and experienced differently, person by person. I only want the viewer to walk away learning, experiencing and resonating with whatever emotion is surfacing. I am only here to share my story, current process, thoughts and experiences while in hopes that it resonates and assist you on your personal journey.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: I want people to walk away inspired and awakened towards a hopeful appreciation of our existence amidst the beauty, power and creative dynamism inherent in the geometric patterns found in nature. We are a part of this natural pattern of evolution and linked within its growth and life-giving energy.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: Are there any main positive or negative issues you have encountered being a female artist in the 21st Century?
Iara Celeste Diaz: I try not to see myself as a female artist and make distinctions in that way. I am an artist. There is sexism and racism in the art world, but these are givens. Injustices and inequalities exist in any field! One could acknowledge these things, and as a result, feel paralyzed or burdened. One could also compartmentalize, feign ignorance, and act as if the playing field is level. The latter works best for me, especially when I need focus, in order to make paintings that I like. This does not mean that I choose to ignore the injustices inflicted on women! It is important to be aware and acknowledge that there is inequality, and to try to swerve things towards the egalitarian ideal. If we don't fight for change, women will continue to suffer. There are female artists who are busy being angry. I don't blame them! Although they have the right to feel that way, it is counterproductive. It is better to identify as an agent of change, rather than a victim. This can happen when one is Zen and grounded. Fighting for change is hard and I don't think any artist could make good art and be an angry activist at the same time. Making art could take up a lot of ones’ energy, and energy is finite, so we have to choose our battles wisely! I will always stand up for women's rights, I am a feminist, but my priority is creating art and finding a good balance between painting and my personal life. Hopefully in my art practice, I'll find a way to effect change in some way, however small, and make things better.
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: Well, we are lucky. I can make art with nudes without going to jail. I can make political art without disappearing into a gulag. That’s a privilege, this freedom we have. We are free in this way and that is beautiful.
Rosario Bond: I have been lucky because my experiences have mainly been positive.
Leigh Bongiorno: Yes, in high school I was sexually harassed and borderline stalked by an art teacher, outside of the school system, to the point where I had to get a lawyer involved. In College, I was told by a gallery that I could get paid more if I slept with them. And more recently when I’ve approached some male gallerists I’ve gotten asked to discuss it over drinks in their hotel room. I now have a male approach the galleries initially on my behalf.
Janae Sumter: Yes. I’ve encountered many issues, in many spaces, but I am always in gratitude for them. They bring me deeper into myself, which ultimately connects me with universal love and allows me to show compassion for others.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: I am aware that the statistics I mentioned about gallery representation for women are reflective of what is a very competitive and tough art market today. My experience of seeking representation, collectors and gallery and museum shows, has, like that of the rest of my female artist colleagues, been reflective of those statistics and has been accompanied by the mindsets and cultural patterns that form a part of that reality.
Curators (Terrence Sanders-Smith, Noah Becker, & Dr. Milagros Bello: How has being a female artist and or woman influenced your art, process and practice, if any?
Iara Celeste Diaz: Being a female artist is great, but it could also be frustrating! A plus: women are usually the more expressive of the sexes. We are less scared to express our feelings. We are less hinged--one reason why we live longer than men. Being unhinged is great for a painter. You're freer, therefore your output, crazier, more adventurous. A minus: sexism in the art world sucks! We still have a long way to go, to rectify the imbalances!
Jennifer Mien Mien Lin: Intuition and actual rigorous study of art history and literature are the driving forces behind my practice, I am inspired by great literature, poetry male artists, female artists, a smell, the ocean, a spider web. To ask any artist their process is asking an alchemist to reveal her secrets. It’s flow. It’s in the act of when I create, when I forget myself, my ego. I live for this. That is true freedom. My inner world.
Rosario Bond: The approach to my work, process and practice are definitely influenced by the fact that I am a woman. I depict glamour, trends, and what is “en vogue” in the female universe, I create parodies in my work, and scenes of satire and humor, exaggerating feminine impulses and exalting feminine stereotypes and situations in an extreme way. In my Series “Diary of a Shopaholic” for example, I try to deconstruct “The American Dream” of woman beauty and the perfect life with the roles that define and guide her. I experiment with diverse materials and techniques and mix different media and paint with recycled feminine objects such as cosmetics, perfumes, jewelry, clothing, and shoes to emulate consumerism and the culture of accumulation that puts demands on the contemporary woman. My recent body of work consist of various series of large stretched paintings in primed and unprimed canvases. I try to stimulate the viewer with inconsistencies working with exploring the subconscious, the feminine psyche and pure expression through my imagination, color, spontaneity and self-awareness I work quickly, as if someone was going to take my canvas away from me but I observe and edit, add or change completely what I started. Generally, I work with acrylics, flashe paints, collage, markers, spray paints etc.
Leigh Bongiorno: I think it has. I purposely don’t want to paint another beautiful woman. That story has been told like a broken record playing on repeat for centuries. I want to see more diversity in the art world so I try to incorporate that into my art. And if I am going to paint a woman she’s going to be strong and empowered because that’s the women I see.
Janae Sumter: Being a Black queer woman and unpacking my ancestral has influenced my everyday experience that pours itself over into my practice. They are the same, simultaneously. My practice and personal woman/queerhood integrates with my overall process being present and are hardly binary. The ways in which my work presents itself in practice often begins with the process questions, experiential research, and confirmations through daily experiences.
Lorien Suárez-Kanerva: As a woman, I feel comfortable working from my home, where I have my studio. I do not feel a need to abandon the home while simultaneously working to promote my art career in the world outside it. I also hold a paramount appreciation for the value of the extended family, without whose support, my professional pursuits would have been seriously restricted. As a mother, sister and daughter and artist, I can communicate my own belief in the value and importance women hold as multidimensional contributors and participants in our world. My artwork in a similar sense has found a secondary niche within the surface design and textile art market following the Bauhaus model of creating art for a function that allows it to be present in people’s, but especially women’s, day to day lives as scarves, linens, and tableware. In this sense, my work is now available and accessible to a far greater number of women as objects that bring art to their lives. WM