Challenging Body Oppression Through Art

After Our Bodies Meet: From Resistance to Potentiality traces feminism and body image throughout history influencing present day queer feminist artists.


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Heather Cassils & Chitra Ganesh

The 12th annual All Out Arts Fresh Fruit Festival presents ‘After Our Bodies Meet: From Resistance to Potentiality.’ Showcasing at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in N.Y City; the exhibit runs from June 5th- July 27th. It explores queer feminist artists’ responses to dominant notions about the body from 1970’s to present day. The exhibit also provides a cross-cultural examination of how artists represent the body to challenge past and present forms of oppression and to envision a queer future.

The curator, Alexis Heller, uses the legacy of early feminist art to understand the works of contemporary queer artists. The pioneers of gender-conscious art are used as frameworks for contemporary artists. Queer bodies represented through art have highlighted the evolution of feminist thought in many ways; including some that question the gender binary on which feminism was first conceived.

The exhibition highlights various forms of art that bring awareness to lesbian and transgender bodies. Previously, works from Tee Corinne and Cathy Cade sought to empower the growing lesbian feminist community through documenting and emphasizing the female body’s capacity for love, agency, and pleasure different from the heterosexual imagination.

Today, Zanele Muholi, a South African artist and “visual activist,” also highlights the need to preserve marginalized histories. For Muholi, the focus is on the underrepresented populations of black lesbian and transgender individuals who experience targeted violence daily.  Her ongoing series, Faces and Phases, uses black-and-white photographic portraits of the black queer community in South Africa and abroad. While for Isilumo siyaluma (2006-2011), Muholi presents a series of kaleidoscopic digital collages of menstrual blood stains to represent and memorialize the murder and rape of black lesbians in South Africa.

Heather Cassils, presents, Becoming An Image (2012), which documents the brutalization of queer bodies. Mixed martial arts blows are enlarged onto a 1,500 lb. block of clay, which is situated in complete darkness and only seen through photographic flashes. Quick glances at the images demonstrate the continuous process of change and becoming that occur; similar to what Cassils has had to experience as a transgender man.

An ongoing media project CLITERACY, by Sophia Wallace, exposes the dichotomy of society’s obsession with and ignorance of female sexuality. A monumental wall of texts is used to challenge the phallocentric biases in science, law, philosophy, politics, and the art world. Through highlighting the clitoris and female pleasure, Wallace aims to counteract the history of misinformation regarding women’s bodies.

Indian comic books, Hindu mythology, and American science fiction, is the inspiration to Chitra Ganesh’s digital collages which provide alternate narratives of female sexuality and power. Stereotypes and histories are ripped apart through the representation of surrealistic and hybridized female forms, which collide with beauty and abjection, to create a radical vision of corporeality and desire. They also serve to commemorate marginalized and excluded figures from art, history, and literature.

This exhibit demonstrates how feminist artists have allowed critiques from the past to influence imaginations of new queer possibilities through altering the potential political activism into art. An Opening Reception will take place on June 5th from 6 to 8 PM, as well as various events throughout the exhibition that explore these important issues and themes.

The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first and only dedicated gay and lesbian art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve rich and creative histories of the gay and lesbian art community, and foster the artists who create it. The Museum has a permanent collection of over 22,000 objects, 6-8 major exhibitions annually, artist talks, film screenings, readings, THE ARCHIVE - a quarterly art newsletter, a membership program, and a research library.

More info: LeslieLohman.org.

For a full schedule of events: freshfruitfestival.com

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