Hysteria is a dirty word, and those who use it may not be aware of its context as a means of subjugating women to prejudice for.. millennia. As long ago as Ancient Greece, philosopher Hippocrates applied a related Greek term to women as a means of classifying them as incapable of rational thought. Vogue notes, “The womb, thought Plato (and Hippocrates), was believed to lurch up and down the body, upsetting a woman’s delicate constitution. This illness was called hysterike pnix, or “the suffocation of the womb,” and was believed to cause erratic and unreliable behavior.” The exhibition “Female Trouble” opens January 10, 2020 at Western Exhibitions, co-produced by the women-led Elijah Wheat Showroom, features artists Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Lilli Carré, Qinza Najm, Kathryn Refi and Frances Waite in dialogue with the legacy of misogyny pervading modern and contemporary culture, directly challenging this long-held belief through a conceptual, interdisciplinary lens.
The topic of women’s bodies is addressed with particular fervor in “Female Trouble.” Works by the artists depict the implied body, or the power of the presence (or absence) of the female body in their works. The pervasive power balance delineating gender is at play in these works, on view at Western Exhibitions through Feb 22, 2020.
Frances Waite approaches the body as it relates to the larger environment, inhabiting both the corporeal and the Anthropocene in equal measure. The artist presents drawings that inhabit both reality and the hyper-real, envisioning humans as mammals inhabiting their larger realm. Kathryn Refi inhabits the realm between information and interpretation, where data meets translation into results. Her work, while abstract, presents images that create an abstracted visual of our everyday lives.
Amanda Joy Calobrisi explores erotica and female empowerment- a means of embracing women’s genitals as a means of impressing power forward onto the viewers’ psyche. Lille Carré similarly implies women’s’ bodies in her interdisciplinary practice. Her clay works especially embrace both the abstract and the implications of gender simultaneously.
Artist Qinza Najm approaches the misogynist roots of hysteria with a lens as a woman with roots in a culture historical marginalized over centuries of colonialism. She notes of her approach to the body as primary mode of interpretation in her interdisciplinary works, “I often use motifs of bodies stretched, deconstructed, distorted, and pushed beyond their limits. A manipulated body is a reflection of how power is exerted upon our being.” Perhaps there is no more appropriate encapsulation of the necessity of claiming female bodily autonomy and agency in an era in which women’s rights to claim their body as they wish are constantly being eroded by privileged men in positions of power.
“Female Trouble” remains on view from its opening Friday, January 10, 6-8 pm until February 22, 2020. More information is available on the gallery’s is website: https://westernexhibitions.com/exhibition/female-trouble/