Looking Back - 2/1/2016

Today's guest blogger is Rebecca Troy.

New Mexico Museum of Art's exhibition, Looking Forward, Looking Back featured the art of three female artists, Ligia Bouton, Micol Hebron, and Angela Ellsworth. To celebrate the work of the aforementioned artists, and in an initiative to involve the public beyond the scheduled exhibitions, Rebecca Aubin, the museum's Head of Education and Visitor Experience and Merry Scully, Head of Curatorial Affairs and curator of the exhibition, arranged on a wintery morning of the 9th of January, for the artists to visit Santa Fe. The patrons of the museum and the general public would have the opportunity to hear the artists speak and ask questions of these three influential artists. The conversations about art would take place in the historic St. Francis Auditorium located in the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Micol Hebron
Gallery Tally, Ken Nurenburg, Columbus Museum of Art, History
(percentage in the holdings
as listed on their collections website), 2013 – ongoing
Crowdsourced, digitally produced poster, Courtesy of the artists

Micol Hebron, a professor and activist, talked passionately about her feminist posters, which inform the public of the obvious polarization of the female artist. Her graphic depiction of data demonstrates the female artist's overdue need for recognition using a medium similar to the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist conscious group adopted in the 1980s who clearly influenced Micol Hebron. Hebron, also known as "the soccer mom to the art world," urged the audience to support "the women we know, and the women we don't know," and, in closing challenged the audience to constantly ask--incite--questions, because bringing into the light what is not discussed is a method for radically changing the status quo. Hebron runs the hugely successful Feminist Friday, and The Situation Room, a public art space located in LA where Micol Hebron lives and works.

Angela Ellsworth, Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offense, 9 bonnets, pearl corsage pins, fabric, steel, and white oak plank; dimensions variable, 2009-2010
Installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Australia
Photo credit : Paul Green

Angela Ellsworth's work, Seers and Bonnets: A Continuing Offense 2009-10 is a vivid re-expression of the female role within the Mormon faith. Ellsworth's critique features nine suspended bonnets, and a hand crafted cart. Each bonnet featured represents one of Lorenzo Snow's nine spouses, and utilizes the opposing forces of fabric and steel--Snow being one of the prophet's of the Mormon faith, and Ellsworth's great grandfather--to demonstrate the stark understanding of women who are confined to domesticity under Mormonism. Ellsworth's short film, Kicking Up Dust, breathes new life into the understanding of womanhood, or, sister-wives, by exploring the need to embrace one's own true sexuality, and by demonstrating the unity of women across the boundaries of color.

Ligia Bouton, Understudy for Animal Farm, 2012-2014, 26 hand-made pig heads, hand painted wooden cart with mirror and racks, 6 custom sand bags, 82 x 128 x 19 in.

Ligia Bouton's Understudy For Animal Farm pays homage to George Orwell's famed novel by engaging her audience through the use of a simple pillowcase, and therefore, creating "a domestic space of absolute power." Bounton uses the traditionally feminine realm of sewing, to transform an everyday household item into animal masks, which when worn renders the wearer unable to see. Bouton's interactive art creates a magnetic pull between desire and control. Desire is felt by the potential wearer as they are given the option of choosing from many masks, however, being made vulnerable in a public space, having to navigate without sight, and Bouton's power to choose from one of the many potential backdrops made available by her, brings the control back to the artist, and the art itself. Over 500 people have been photographed as part of Understudy For Animal Farm.

Merry Scully's expert navigation in the group talk that followed each artist's self introduction demonstrated to the audience how inextricably linked each artist is. Not only did Micol Hebron, Angela Ellsworth and Ligia Bouton create art through the process of transcendence--their choice to comment on and re-imagine their pasts--but, each artist is in the profession of teaching, of, influencing the next generation of artists.

As the event drew to a close the audience members were encouraged to ask questions. The main topic of discussion was the need for more women artists to reach the status of their male contemporaries, and--as understood through the lens of the female artist--for women to achieve this feat they must continue to gain the support they deserve, from major galleries across the world. The New Mexico Museum of Art is one such institution, dedicated to, and, continuing to promote women in the world of art. Looking Forward, Looking Back ended its run January 17th.

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