Reflections on Public/Private, Exquisite Uterus Project and solo show by Julia Ris
January 18-February 21, 2013
Woman Made Gallery 2013 exhibition season began with three simultaneous and equally stimulating shows.
“Public/Private” a group exhibition with 32 works by 29 artists, explored a unique juxtaposition between private experiences, thoughts, and emotions, and the public world. Each piece is a personal testament to how the public and private spheres of our lives are now endlessly intertwined via television, advances in technology, and social media.
In a society filled with texting, news feeds, and tweets, it’s becoming more and more difficult to
have a conversation face to face. Social media and technology as a whole have, unfortunately, turned us into impersonal creatures. In some ways, these things have allowed us to possess a voice without a face. In turn, it’s gotten harder to share things with others on a personal level without the crutch of a phone, laptop or tablet.
Felicia Diaz’s Monotony: Self Portrait is a unique response to this phenomenon. She writes, “My work deals directly with the struggle of individuals to present themselves to the public world in a way that is both honest and fulfilling. In society, I feel that the process of how to act in various social settings has become more confusing and convoluted than ever before, because of things like social media and the growth of technology.” In her work, Diaz wants the viewer to sense the disconnect and struggle to see who the person being depicted really is behind all the layers. http://feliciadiaz.com/
In an artistic interpretation that is similar to Diaz’s but with less emphasis on social media and its effect on the individual, Patricia Bellan-Gillen states, “Front and center in the living room of our homes for decades and now often in every room and beyond, the television screen stands like an animated idol in our lives: a contemporary totem to our “Ojo de Dios”. The ubiquitous television has brought the public into our private lives and the private into our public sphere.” To learn more about Patricia Bellan-Gillen and her work, visit http://patriciabellangillen.com/
In their performance “Best/Worst” Meredith Weber and Anna Trier invite the public to display their day-to-day emotions through the distribution of balloons. They explain, “In an age where our thoughts, moods and whims are constantly being broadcast via social media, “Best/Worst” seeks to visualize these exclamations. During the opening reception, both Meredith and Anna distributed the balloons outside of WMG, allowing pedestrians to select their balloon “Best or Worst, Fucking Day Ever”. Afterward, they installed the additional balloons inside the gallery and continued to distribute them to gallery visitors.
This performance serves as both a parody of the daily public airing of private feelings and experiences that so many of us participate in when we use social media, as well as an exercise in regaining our autonomy in choosing what we do decide to make public. The balloons can be used as sarcastic or literal interpretations of our internal lives, displayed proudly for anyone to see. For more on Meredith and Anna visit http://www.meredithandanna.us/
Public/Private exhibiting artists included Patricia Bellan-Gillen, Corinna Button, Elena Dahl, Felicia Diaz, Hannah Fehrman, Aidan Fitzpatrick, Anja Foerschner, Ghislaine Fremaux, Lizeth Gamboa, Alexandra Goode, Magdalene Gorecki-Eisenberg, Leah Gose and Ashlae Shepler, Kathy Halper, Eric Rachel Hudak, Robin James, Aunia Kahn, A. Keitz, Careen Joplin Langstieh, Sioban Snyder, Meredith Weber and Anna Trier, Jennifer Weigel, Jean Davey Winter, and Sarah B. Woods.
“Exquisite Uterus Project” - In conjunction with “Public/Private”, the lower level of Woman Made Gallery hosted over 150 interpretations of uteri, made by both artists and non-artists.
The exhibition has its origins in reaction to what is being called the most current ‘War on Women’, from which fiber artist and educator Alison Gates and Helen Klebesadel decided to offer feminists the opportunity to participate in this collaborative art project. The goal was to channel some of the rage experienced in response to the attacks on women’s reproductive health in this increasingly political environment.
The “public/private” theme connects with this exhibition as well, in that the female reproductive system is a very personal topic, yet it is continuously exploited by the politicians who are turning it into a public dispute.
Curators Gates and Klebesadel write,”We have a vision for a world where every woman is free to decide whether and when to have children; where every woman has access to the best reproductive healthcare available; where every woman can exercise her choices without coercion or discrimination. It turned out others share that vision too, and within the limits of the project these creatives have expressed their perspective on the issues in fiber, paint, bead, and sequins. The response has been awe inspiring.”
The third and final exhibition at Woman Made Gallery was a refreshing break from the interrogative nature of Public/Private and The Exquisite Uterus Project. Chicago Artist Julia Ris exhibited encaustic work in her solo show entitled, “Working the Angles: The Julia Set”.
Ris’s painting “Scaffold” won first prize back in May 2011 in WMG’s “Abstractions” exhibition juried by Sandra Perlow, and she was awarded this solo show. Ris’s work has been exhibited at other galleries in the Chicago area as well.
Ris’s work is beautifully crafted with a myriad of bold colors and shapes, some structured and geometric, others purely organic. The combination created a visually stimulating and lively space with an energetic urban feel in the gallery. Not to mention it smelled wonderful!
Ris comments, “More and more over the years I find myself drawn to the complexity and surprise of what lies beneath the surface. I build the layers. I’m compelled to scratch through to expose what is alluded to or hidden. Though I love oils, the immediacy of the encaustic medium has a huge appeal and allows me to layer, scratch through and build up surfaces. Wielding a blowtorch adds to the thrill.”
More on Julia Ris can be found at www.juliaris.com and www.fusedchicago.org/interviews/featured-artist-julia-ris/
Although we are sad to see these exhibitions go, we are looking forward to welcoming the 16th International Open and concurrent solo shows, on display from March 1st through April 25th.
- Nichole Wallace, Gallery Intern