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Miami Art Week 2017: Women Artists Address The Female Body

Eight statement-making works about empowerment and reclamation

As the Guerrilla Girls made clear through their large-scale, statistics-driven mural at FAIR., women artists are still wildly underrepresented in the art world’s institutions. And while the aforementioned fair (and others in Miami and around the globe) have begun to champion women painters, sculptors, filmmakers and more, there’s still substantial progress required for equality. Through all the art events, festivals, fairs and pop-ups we trekked through during Miami Art Week, the following eight selections were just the tip of the iceberg regarding women-made works. And yet, these captivated with an indelible force. Some speak with quiet power, while others literally pop with color. These are examples of women defining, protecting, reclaiming and supporting the female form. From sculptures to performance art, each speaks with the voice of its creator uninterrupted.

Suzy Kellems Dominik’s “I Can Feel”

Sometimes, in order to move the conversation forward, an artist must offer explosive color and clear messaging. That’s exactly what Suzy Kellems Dominik has done with “I Can Feel,” a 12-foot neon sculpture installed at the Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel. Yes, the message is direct but truly paying attention to the piece as it cycles through its climax means addressing all that comes with a female orgasm. “The great thing about showing in Miami at the Nautilus is the people people who gravitate here for Miami Art Week and Art Basel,” Dominik explains to CH. “Collectors and art enthusiasts from around the world, with open curiosity and a high-art intellect attend. It is this diverse art community which presents an enormous opportunity for ‘I Can Feel’.”

It’s also worth mentioning that the vagina in the center of Dominik’s work is 5’3″—the same height as the artist.

Firelei Báez’s “for Marie-Louise Coidavid, exiled, keeper of order, Anacaona” and “can you not see that we are implicated in its evolution”

In a wallpapered sub-booth within Kavi Gupta Gallery‘s installation at Art Basel, these two works by Firelei Báez simmered. Both oil on canvas pieces from 2017, each explored the female form, one through a fiery—almost cosmic—figure and the other simply through cloth. The NYC-based, Dominican Republic-born artist manages to launch a series of questions with these pieces, asking the viewer to declare their own answers.

Lena Marquise’s “Vagina Chapel” V-Plate Installation with Caspar Petéus

The latest series where artist Lena Marquise “explores the connection between the body, art, and the commodification of both,” “V- Plate” (Art as Commodity) appeared at this year’s Satellite Art Show. Marquise made waves in 2014 with her conceptual performance piece, “Body As Commodity,” where visitors to the Select Art Fair could charge their phones through a connection to the naked artist’s “post-human vagina” (and which went viral thanks to an appearance by Usher). This year, Marquise turned what she’s learned since into sculpture—which she exhibited in a collaborative space, known as the “Vagina Chapel” with her partner Caspar Petéus.

Tara Subkoff’s “Synaptic Fatigue/Dear in the Headlights”

One of the most powerful performances pieces to grace Miami this year, Tara Subkoff‘s “Synaptic Fatigue/Dear in the Headlights”, for The Hole Gallery yearned to trigger emotionalism in the audience at all costs. Taking place on an upper-floor deck of The Miami Beach EDITION, the experience involved 17 actresses and performers in the same form-fitting outfits, locked in an emotional state—be that sadness, anger, pain, joy, confusion, rage or laughter—and included Selma Blair and Caroline Vreeland weeping controllably, in direct lamp-light on the otherwise dark and delicately moon-lit space. All the while, opera singer Rebecca Ringle serenaded everyone in attendance with four songs over the course of the hour-long show. The sheer force of each performance would go on to illicit such strong emotion from the audience. Subkoff developed the piece to address how inequality and disgraceful actions are inflicted upon women.

Theresa Chromati’s “Reclining Woman (Wig Connection)”

At the beachside Untitled Art Fair, no booth grabbed quite as much of our attention as the one belonging to New Image Art, Los Angeles. Here, multiple mixed media on paper pieces by Theresa Chromati demonstrated her powerful voice. The Brooklyn-based artist’s female topics are given intense bodily embellishments—clearly evident in “Reclining Woman (Wig Connection).” Chromati’s beautiful use of color and structure blends both intimacy and exposition. (It’s worth noting that the space also featured captivating explorations of women by artist Monica Kim Garza.)

Judy Chicago’s “Submerged/Emerged”

Iconic artist Judy Chicago‘s work could be seen at the Jessica Silverman Gallery installation at Art Basel. The sprayed acrylic on cast paper piece, “Submerged/Emerged,” reflected the same directness as noted in Suzy Kellems Dominik’s piece above. Here, however, the piece conjures dozens of other correlations and messaging. Once again, the nuance is worth exploring—as is the artist’s motivation for including such nuance.

Michele Pred’s “Parade Against Patriarchy”

When considering Michele Pred‘s “artist curated procession,” we’ve chosen to receive the protest (or parade) as a work of art itself. “Parade Against Patriarchy” assembled for artists to voice the necessity for equal rights for women. Pred herself protested with a feminist riot shield reading “Pussy Grabs Back.” The event was as celebratory as it was serious. Most importantly, it was intersectional—with a diverse crowd of protestors accounted for and working toward equality.

Ivy Haldeman’s “Back Hold” and “Finger Shin”

At one of the strongest showings of NADA, wherein the fair returned to Ice Palace Studios, we saw the work of Ivy Haldeman at the booth of Downs & Ross. Two acrylic on canvas works from 2017 did a superb job of turning the feminine form and identity on its head. Haldeman created two female figures that almost appear to be hotdogs in buns. The great success here is the reversal of gender roles for an image that’s commonly perceived of as a phallic symbol. Not only clever, the artist’s palette offered both images a buoyancy.

Tara Subkoff image courtesy of BFA, Lena Marquise image courtesy of the artist, Theresa Chromati image courtesy of the New Image Arts, Michele Pred image courtesy of Ventiko, all other images by David Graver