Women are now present in more spaces than ever before—in physical space, representation, and public perception. As diversity increases in the art and architectural worlds, we support and celebrate the work of women in these fields, and question if this presence is enough. On April 29, 2019, a panel discussion “Women in Spaces: Past/Present,” organized by FXCollaborative and A Women’s Thing, brought together women from different but related fields—two-dimensional and three-dimensional, creators and promoters—to explore the rise and future of women in spaces both visual and conceptual.
Yassana Croizat-Glazer: Why is it important to place women at the heart of what we do? What are some of the ways you have sought in your professional lives to increase women’s visibility?
Morgan Everhart: It’s important to understand who you are, what makes you the way you are, and what matters to you. Some of the best parts of our character come from qualities that are currently identified as female. There are also many significant struggles that come from being women in our contemporary society. We impact our communities by sharing and developing our strengths and opportunities.
Eileen Jeng Lynch: When gender inequality still exists, it is important to highlight the accomplishments and initiatives of those who identify as women. Through my curatorial projects, I have sought to be inclusive and increase the visibility of women. The “Give Voice” Postcard Project provides a platform for all of us of all ages—whether we identify as female, male, or non-binary—to voice our concerns to Congress about issues that matter most. My recent and upcoming exhibitions at The Yard: City Hall Park feature women artists, as do the two exhibitions currently on view at Wave Hill.
Croizat-Glazer: In one form or another, each of us is preoccupied in our professions with creating visual statements. Because of color’s power to elicit emotion and the fact that it so often operates on a semiotic level in our culture (e.g. red = stop), it can play a huge role in the messages we seek to convey. Could you please talk about the function of color in your work, and how you may deal with the issue of color and gender bias?
Everhart: When painting, you begin with color and end with an image. Most painters, including myself, build their work by color. Color structure determines the expansion or compression of each artwork. There are historically gendered connotations to the form and content each artist explores, such as color, but we aim to intervene on these perceptions.
In our exhibition at FXCollaborative, I showed a triptych of paintings that started with a curved gesture of white and orange paint. I thought that the curve of orange and white in each painting could be interpreted as a landscape or the curve of a figure. When I pushed this idea differently in each of the three paintings, I started to dissect how landscape, florals, and the body are visually depicted. Somewhere between those three subjects, the judgment of the viewer and their understanding of nature and sexuality is questioned.
The question of sexuality often relates to visual representation, which relies more on the subjectivity of the viewer than the content of what is seen. Consequently, a principal drive in art today addresses the sexual in representation—exposing the historically fixed nature of sexuality by breaking apart our visual field. In our exhibition at FXCollaborative, we selected a group of artists who candidly share their perception of self and their surroundings through blending imagined, personal, and appropriated spaces.
Croizat-Glazer: We live in a world where we frequently move in physical spaces that have traditionally underscored and strengthened social inequality—such as medical facilities, mothers’ rooms, bathrooms, and workplaces. What are some of the ways that you have sought to make such spaces more inclusive? Given its divisive potential, what role does art have in these environments?
Angie Lee: In my role as a design director, I provide strategic vision and creative oversight for interior environments across a wide range of scales and project types. I believe there is powerful inspiration in the stories that have silently defined us in the past, so I seek untapped sources for storytelling to expand the range of transformative design thinking. It’s important to recognize, understand, and advocate for the individuality and diversity of needs and desires. As an interior designer and architect, I craft environments that celebrate the multiplicities of human experiences.
Others at FXCollaborative have further explored this as it specifically relates to bathrooms, examining common assumptions about access, inclusion, and the gendering of space. The white paper “Bathrooms for Humans” is an effort to restore dignity to the mundane but necessary tasks of everyday living by bringing bathrooms out of the stranglehold of politics, and back into the realm of public interest and design. Restructuring existing practices and building new paradigms lets us embrace new terrain for the power of good design to take hold and positively catalyze the next generation. Art can fuel and amplify the range of emotions we as designers may not capture within our purview. Color, texture, and content should live in both the art and the design of spaces and loosen the boundaries that too often serve as limitations reinforcing the status quo. I look to art often as an equalizer that sets the table for the unconventional and messy details that we must address to uncover innovation in design.
Croizat-Glazer: What does the word “vulnerability” mean to you? What place does it have in your work?
Everhart: Making art is the most honest thing I can do. If you don’t wholeheartedly believe in what you’re making, people can see and feel that. You must learn more about who you are from what you make so you can establish genuine meaning.
Croizat-Glazer: With vulnerability, the key is getting the dosage right. Show too much and you’re burdening others—show too little and you’ll never really gain anyone’s trust. When you sell art for a living, which is all about creating bonds, people deserve to see a snippet of your soul before they commit to you. One of the ways I most enjoy establishing connections is through YCG Fine Art’s Artist in Residence Program, which allows me to showcase regularly on my website the work and career of different artists, most recently the New York-based painter, Jane Banks.
Croizat-Glazer: Who is your audience, and to what degree do they steer your creative process?
Anne-Brigitte Sirois: It’s all about art making. What I mean by this is first and foremost, in anything I do, no matter what the field or the objective, I believe it is always best to follow the process of art-making. As I see it, the path leading to any undertaking is to layer each brush stroke one at a time and feel how it affects the whole until the “painting” is done. And so, in this way, I have to please myself. And if I remain true to myself and to the art process, I will have found myself and my peers. Being true to oneself speaks of art, and if we listen we all can hear it. It’s a labyrinth with endless pathways, most of them far from galleries and museums. No path is better than any other as long as you always consider the whole.
When Kathryn Markel invited me to curate an exhibition at her Chelsea gallery last December, I ended up doing a show mingling schools of thought in abstract painting as a means to present snapshots into the evolution of abstract painting from the Jackson Pollock heydays till today. The exhibition titled “Four Degrees of Abstraction” featured four contemporary artists that stood at opposing corners of the genre: Cora Cohen, Suzanne Olivier, Xiaofu Wang and Morgan Everhart. Of the group, only the paintings by Cora Cohen fall in line with the rigorous ideals of modern abstraction first established by art critic Clement Greenberg. By contrast, Suzanne Olivier’s superbly abstracted paintings, liberally suggest figurative interpretations with unaffected references to mountains and skies naturally falling outside of that field.
In Xiaofu Wang’s paintings, sharp edges and hot pinks are recurring themes that can conceivably be interpreted as an activist’s narrative—albeit abstracted. Whether the viewer actually interprets these themes as vehicles for social change may be a matter of interpretation. However, what is not up to interpretation is the artist’s awareness of such a dialogue and therefore willful intent. The works are intently post-modern.
Similarly, in Morgan Everhart’s paintings, the intent of the artist is clear. Here, in full celebration of the forbidden act, bold and bright flowers are literally painted over modernist architectural backdrops. Dare I say this could be interpreted as a feminist work? It remains to be seen whether Wang’s hot pinks or Everhart’s joyful flowers exist as catalysts for change on the stage of gender-related progress. But undeniably, women are increasingly asserting themselves as well as their gender in the visual culture at large and are infusing the field with a welcome breath of freshness. Today is a long way from Clement Greenberg’s modernism.
Croizat-Glazer: What does it mean to be a woman entrepreneur in today’s world, and what do you feel can be done to pave a better way for women who chose to be in that position tomorrow?
Everhart: In order to be a successful entrepreneur in today’s society, you need to understand your expectations and protect them with courage. Never let other people decide who you are or tell you what you can or cannot do. Share and develop your goals by being inspired by others rather than jealous. If you celebrate and share success with others, you can create a positive culture for a larger community.
A Women’s Thing would like to thank FXCollaborative for sharing their space and promoting the work of the exhibiting artists and panelists. Please follow FXCollaborative at @fxcollaborative or visit the website for more information on upcoming exhibitions and events.
LIST OF ALL PANELISTS:
Morgan Everhart, Artist and Curator, @morgan_everhart
Yassana Croizat-Glazer, Founder of YCG Fine Art, @croizatglazer
Anne-Brigitte Sirois, Founder of Art State, @annebrigittesirois
Angie Lee, Partner & Design Director of Interiors at FXCollaborative, @angieyleedesign
Eileen Jeng Lynch, Curator of Visual Arts at Wave Hill and Founder of Neumeraki, @eileenj8