November 8th, 2016, the night that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, is a painful date for many to recall. It was surreal, triggering, saddening and everything in between for many women and minorities who felt personally attacked by his campaign rhetoric. One thing, however, that many people including our LADYGUNN team felt, was that art and artistic expression was going to be crucial to healing and making it through the next four years. Enter: Indira Cesarine, a visual artist and curator of UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN. After the election results came in, Indira wanted to find a way to give herself and the artists around her a voice that specifically addressed the issues that felt most vulnerable to them.
On November 10th, just two days after the results came in, she opened up a submission process where artists could submit work based on the theme. Within one month she had 1800 works of art submitted by over 400 artists. After narrowing the work down to 80, the collection opened at the Untitled Gallery in New York City, to praise from around the world. In light of the recent Women’s Marches, where millions of people around the world flooded the streets to protest the administration, pieces in the show like Rose McGowan’s, “WOMANSWOMB” and Tracy Brown’s, “Dear Patriarch” are more relevant than ever before. Below Indira discusses what went into creating this iconic exhibit and see some the incredible work from the show.
LADYGUNN: How did UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN come to be?
INDIRA CESARINE: The day the election results were announced I felt compelled to start working on UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN. Like many others, I was totally shocked by the results. I was horrified that our country had elected a future president who openly discriminates against so many others. His sexist, racist, xenophobic politics are appalling by any standards. We had elected a man with numerous sexual assault allegations against him, who is determined to roll back women’s rights, and thinks that “grabbing pussy” is his prerogative. I felt it was a crucial time for artists to have the opportunity to express themselves with works of art responding the situation, that are empowering to themselves and others. The works in UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN raise awareness of how women in America are feeling right now regarding the situation. I reached out to the ERA Coalition to see if they wanted to partner with us shortly after announcing the show, and we are looking forward to raising funds via the exhibit for their Fund for Women’s Equality.
LADYGUNN: What went into putting the exhibit together?
IC: This is actually the first exhibit we have done at The Untitled Space that was open to submissions. Normally we curate all the exhibits by requesting individual artists to participate. I felt it was important for the UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN exhibit to reflect how women are feeling right now and to have artists from all over the country with diverse backgrounds represented in the show. On November 10th we posted the exhibit on online as well as to social media. We only had one month for artists to submit work. We got a phenomenal response from our outreach, with over 1800 works of art submitted by over 400 different contemporary female artists. I was very impressed by the quality of works submitted overall and the passionate artist statements we received. It was incredibly difficult to narrow down the works for show as so many of the pieces were powerful. In the end, we selected 80 works of art, each by a different artist, which was really the maximum due to space limitations at the gallery. I think the works speak for themselves. Each artist brings a unique point of view to the subject and equally it is very powerful as a collective of artwork.
LADYGUNN: What is the inspiration behind your work?
IC: I attended several protests following the November 8th results and was inspired by the passion that brought the crowds together. I decided to channel my own anger and frustration with our political system into a new series of art elaborating on the history of protest to enact change and progression. My oil on canvas featured in the exhibit “PROTEST” was inspired by some of the recent protests that took place in New York City, as well as images from historical feminist protests in history, including protests for the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, to protests for equal rights, abortion rights, and against rape culture in recent times. I took a lot of photos and videos at the protests and also did quite a bit of research, as I wanted the work to reflect the passion and the intensity of protesters. I decided to paint exclusively in black and white, to further emphasize the expressions and emotions of the women depicted. I have always been drawn to black and white images, and as an evolution, in my work from photography to painting I felt that maintaining a monochromatic palette would elaborate also on the historical references for the painting.
Aside from the “PROTEST” painting in the exhibit, which is the first of an entire series on the subject, I have a photo and video series that I have been working on as well as a neon sculpture titled “fuck off,” inspired by the Trumpocalypse. I think political art can be very powerful, and I feel that as an art activist, I am motivated to continue creating art that can have a social impact.
LADYGUNN: The show has received incredible support and feedback. Did you expect this?
IC: I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started working on the exhibit. I certainly hoped that in some way it would be cathartic for artists to have a platform to express themselves regarding how they felt about the political situation and the misogyny we witnessed throughout the presidential campaign. It has been very reassuring to see the support the exhibit has received and equally all the powerful artwork that the artists have created. The election has lit the fires of creativity more than ever. I think in times when we are challenged as a culture, artists become more creative and more productive. We are already seeing an impact of feminist art, and I don’t think that is going to slow down, in fact, I think in face of this type of opposition, more female artists are going raise to the surface. I think with all of these issues finally coming to the surface, we are going to see massive progression with feminist art as a genre having more and more impact in the art world, in the media and in the public eye.
LADYGUNN: Can you talk a little bit about some of the artists showing? What works really moved you?
IC: We received artwork from artists all over the country, and they each brought a different message to the exhibit. I was extremely impressed with the diversity in the artwork, and the artist statements. We had such a varied response of works – from anger to fear, sadness, and humor. Some of the artwork is very serious, with a dark ominous undertone, while other artists created very powerful satirical works that equally have an enormous amount of strength in the message behind the humor. We have artwork from emerging seventeen-year-old artists, to very established artists who have exhibited in major museums.
LADYGUNN: Will there be more exhibitions like this?
IC: When I launched The Untitled Space gallery, one of my initiatives was to emphasize contemporary female artists and feminist art as a genre. Over the past few years, we have done many exhibits addressing feminist themes. I definitely think the results of the election have pushed our curatorial into an even more political direction. It is important for Trump’s sexist, racist behavior to not become normalized. Culturally speaking art can be a catalyst for change, and can be an act of protest itself. Art can have a massive social impact, and I think it’s important to encourage artists to create works that empower others, that inspire, that challenge the status quo. I think it is important to raise awareness of the issues, to keep the dialogue going and equally to create a platform where this type of feminist and political art can be presented to the public. We plan to continue with future exhibits that push the boundaries of feminist art.
Below is an excerpt of some of the works featured in the show:
Cara Deangelis- “DONALD TRUMP WITH A CROWN OF ROADKILL”
“DONALD TRUMP WITH A CROWN OF ROADKILL” was painted after the Access Hollywood tapes came out, followed by a dozen women’s testimonies that confirmed what he said on the tape was true. During those weeks it seemed absolutely impossible that he would ever become elected President. He was elected President despite all his ineptitudes and immorality. I am committed to using my work as a means for social awareness and positive change, in addition to peaceful protest. Our work can make a difference. I believe this exhibit will make a difference, and I would like to be part of that.”
Linda Friedman Schmidt, “Weeding”
“There is a need to reweave our nation’s social fabric as it is being torn. My artwork introduces the possibility for this transformation and repair. Discarded clothing is my paint, a metaphor for worn, tired, used, and abused humanity I rescue and transform in my process. I dismantle the fabric of the world and piece it together differently. I assemble, bring together, and combine disparate pieces of people to create an integrated, unified, harmonious new whole. I combine the energy of many into something of beauty, vitality, and hope.” My commentary on racism, “Weeding”, uses the garden as metaphor for the world… Pointing the finger at people who do not fit familiar patterns of one’s own race, religion, gender, culture, morality, or politics and labeling them weeds hides their humanity and justifies their uprooting and destruction. We must cultivate empathy for one another or “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Daniela Raytchev, “Liberty”
“As a devoted observer of the human condition, my artistic ethos is to capture visual interpretations of the psychological and physical effects of conflicts within so the viewer can relate and reflect on the emotions that arise.
‘Liberty’ is a reaction to current political situation that has recently magnified issues of sexism, racism and discrimination not only in the US but in our society as a whole. ‘Liberty’ sculpture objectifies, depersonalizes and dehumanizes women. Based on the Statue of Liberty, it replaces her face and her personality with her vagina as if that part of the body was the most important, as if that identifies her as opposed to her face or her personality. Showing our face helps our integration with the world and is the means of communicating. Hiding it and replacing it with female genitals highlights the fact that a woman’s sexuality is given more significance in the public eye than her identity.
The artwork is a metaphor for bringing the power back to women, crowning the part of our body that defines our gender, with a symbol inspiring contemplation, debate and a protest, of ideals such as democracy, liberty, peace, human rights and opportunity. It reminds us of the ideals that the Statue of Liberty stood for in the past, that women and men collectively still need to fight for, especially now in the times of the current political and social instability that causes anxiety and fear mongering in masses.”
Jennifer Dwyer, “Current Mood”
“Our current political and social climate is arguably the most divisive, chaotic, and turbulent period that anyone of my generation or younger has ever experienced in this country. With the recent election, it’s impossible to turn on the news, open a social media app or even listen to podcast without hearing strong discourse. Having always been interested in women’s bodies- this election, once again, made it apparent how women’s stories of sexual subjugation and violence are socially minimized and repressed as taboo. “Current Mood” was created in response to our President Elect bragging about his ability to grab women’s genitalia in an Access Hollywood tape recorded in 2005. He responded to this video by calling it “locker room banter”. It’s important not to let our president elect’s hate speech become normalized.”
Kristen Williams, “F$@KTrump”
“Painting allows me to say those things and convey ideas and concepts that I would not normally speak out loud. I can be bold and unapologetic in my paintings… I’m angry at America for electing a reality TV star, racist, misongynist, to be our new commander in chief, I’m angry at the government for running pipelines through sacred land and contaminating water all for the sake of a dollar or oil or whatever. I’m angry that women in this country still make less money than men, not to mention women of color, make even less. I am angry for so many reasons and the list could go on and on. My way of dealing with this anger is not to pick up a gun, not to fight physically, but to pick up my paintbrush and to put my feelings on canvas.” –
January 18th – 29th, 10am-6pm
THE UNTITLED SPACE GALLERY
45 Lispenard Street Unit 1W NYC 10013
story / Alyssa Hardy
photos / The Untitled Space Gallery