A short Metro-North ride away from Manhattan resides a poignant exploration of gender and womanhood, nestled in a gallery in Westchester. In ArtsWestchester’s “SHE: Deconstructing Female Identity” exhibition, high-quality artwork by well-established artists explore what it means to be a woman in contemporary America.
The eleven exhibiting artists unabashedly and unapologetically speak to the reality of what it is like to be a woman in today’s society. “Womanhood” is a definition that is difficult to articulate, and differs based on who is defining it: society, politicians, the workplace, magazines, culture.
Marcy B. Freedman looks to fashion, a language by which we all speak, and one by which we (intentionally or otherwise) define ourselves and others. Laurel Garcia Colvin presents a play on the classic toile aesthetic by overlaying and superimposing influential female figures into her prints – from Amy Schumer and the Virginia Wolf to Guerrilla Girls and Frieda Kahlo. Nancy Davidson’s playful inflated sculptures occupy the center of the gallery, while exploring the iconic “Blonde Bombshell” sex symbol prototype. Valerie Piraino, born in Sub-Saharan Africa, references the exploitation and fetishization of black bodies. Debbie Han questions the concept of ideal beauty, observing that different cultures’ perceptions of conventional and exotic beauty vary drastically. By combining these perceptions, Han creates an amalgamation of beauty ideals from across the globe and throughout history. The full list of artists includes: Nicole Awai, Nancy Davidson, Laurel Garcia Colvin, Marcy B. Freedman, Debbie Han, Rebecca Mushtare, Mari Ogihara, Valerie Piraino, Kathy Ruttenberg, Barbara Segal and Tricia Wright.
Each explores a valid and robust perspective of womanhood, proving that a gender, or a person, is as nuanced as any other elusive concept that can’t be nailed down to a single meaning. She and “SHE” are the whole of their sums. So, when it comes down to defining “womanhood,” why does it have to mean only one thing? Why can’t a woman be just about anything and everything she wishes? If that’s the definition we teach future generations, “she” will be okay after all.
FINAL WEEK: “SHE” closes this Saturday, June 25, with an artist talk and closing reception. The event is part of ArtsWestchester’s Arts & Craft Beer Fest (which, yes, means that you can taste complimentary beer by local New York breweries while admiring the artwork).
ArtsWestchester is located at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601.
Gallery hours through June 25: Tues-Fri 12-5pm, Sat 12-6pm.
Top photo // “Terms of Beauty VII” by Debbie Han