Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of "Feminine" Artmaking
Speeding Up, Slowing Down:
The Practice of "Feminine" Artmaking
September 12 – October 10, 2021
Opening: Sunday, September 12, 4-6 PM
Artists' Panel: Sunday, September 26, 1-2 PM
Curated by Sarah Sloan
Artists: Austin Coudriet, Sarah Rain Hammond, Yurie Hayashi,
Qendresa Mani, Z. Cong-Tam Nguyen
Within art history, the term “genius” has often been used to describe men creating artwork within the “fine arts” realm of painting and sculpture. Contrastingly, women creating work that is just as remarkable within the mediums of textiles, ceramics, and other decorative arts have been called no more than hobbyists and their artwork designated, pejoratively, as “craft.” While history may have proven that genius and the feminine—such as depicting the female nude—are not mutually exclusive, it has proven that actual artists who identify as women and the concept of “genius” have been. In an attempt to disrupt this line of history and thought, the exhibition Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of "Feminine" Artmaking brings together five emerging artists of all gender identities—Austin Coudriet, Sarah Rain Hammond, Yurie Hayashi, Qendresa Mani, and Z. Cong-Tam Nguyen—to analyze their artmaking practice through the lens of historical connotations of the “feminine” and how they are translated into a contemporary context.
Marked by an inner desire to create, the stereotypes of artists as being “inchoate, intuitive,” and “emotionally romantic,” as described by artist June Wayne, have been linked with similar qualities labeled as feminine. While being called an artist is not inherently gendered, art institutions, only in the second half of the last decade, have begun collecting and exhibiting work that is not produced simply by white men. Even so, if the question has shifted from “who can be an artist,” it still remains more presently “who can make what type of art?”. While fine art has historically been perceived as the male-dominated realm of the plastic arts, the term craft is more aligned with an utilitarian approach. As can be imagined, craft, for its domestic qualities, is often associated with women artists.
While the natural progression of such arguments leads to discussions on gender inequity, Speeding Up, Slowing Down does not only focus on this issue but also the ways in which femininity—and masculinity for that matter—shows itself in contemporary artistic practice despite constructed hierarchies of medium and gender. The use of the feminine is not meant to label and/or limit the included artists’ practice as feminine, but more so an exercise in identifying historically imposed characteristics as they show themselves today; hence, the word feminine being written in quotation marks in the title. Including artists who identify as male, female, and non-binary, the feminine is not explored solely through the practices of artists identifying as women.
Rather, this group exhibition works to disprove notions of medium hierarchy, including but not limited to the idea that craft/the feminine is lesser than the fine arts/masculine. Artists working in mediums not historically associated with their gender identity or displaying qualities of what has been thought of as feminine (or masculine) are examined in various ways. In fact, it is concluded that categorizations and associations with “feminine” art are socially constructed and even at times arbitrary. Further, for the purposes of this exhibition, the feminine/masculine binary is simply being used as poles of opposition rather than an end-all, be-all conclusion of what gender is. Gender is a spectrum, and these poles are simply lenses of analysis.
In his ceramic artworks, Austin Coudriet (he/him) plays with our perception of form and function, allowing the viewer to question each piece’s nature—are they designed for everyday use or as artistic objects meant to be viewed? It is this ambiguity between functionality and fine art that is at the crux of this exhibition. While the field of ceramics has been associated with the feminine, Coudriet’s inclusion as a male artist serves as a contradiction to this conception. Not outwardly concerned with subjects of gender, Coudriet’s objects use the languages of design and art to produce a combination of confusion and humor, calling upon nostalgic elements to produce a personal narrative. In Cloud Bowl No. 1 (2020), bulbous protrusions make up the bottom of a shallow bowl, referencing memories from the artist's childhood looking at the sky. Contrastingly, the Industrial Ware (2020) series features a rounded cups cradled by rigid scaffold-like frames. It is both these amorphous clouds and stiff linear components that convey soft and hard.
Sarah Rain Hammond’s (she/her) digital illustrations are just as compelling, sourced partially from feelings of the moment. She renders a first sketch and then digitally illustrates them in the program Procreate over the span of a day. This sort of speed in production could take on connotations of masculinity, yet each illustration connotes a range of femininity through many elements such as, simply, color choice and style. Hammond also portrays a talent for developing endless narratives, telling thousands of stories through her detailed scenes. It is as if she is rewriting personal histories and projecting possible futures. Dealing with two concepts of death, Around the Corner (2020) and I Hope My Dreams Come True Before I Go (2021), these pieces anchor the rest of her displayed work through their overall themes of loneliness, dreams, and self-preservation.
In Yurie Hayashi’s (she/her)Temptation of Society (2020-2021), the largest work in the exhibition, a discordant world of both personal memories and social commentary mingle, bringing to life a scene of precise chaos. These juxtaposed descriptors are used here in reference to Hayashi’s process of working from scaled-down, paper maquettes. Referring to these as “emotional dumpsites,” they are used to envision a larger painting. Where many artists first sketch to plan for a sculpture, Hayashi’s process is the other way around, going from a maquette with actual depth to a flat painting using trompe l’oeil, or trick of the eye. This reversal of process is perhaps an attempt at reconciling with the overload of the digital age. Though these models could be artworks themselves, catharsis is granted from meticulously replicating their colors and shapes on canvas. Hayashi’s use of illusionistic painting enables a sense of overwhelming, as if being engulfed by a stream of consciousness in an anthropocentric world.
Moving on to more gestural work, the pairing of Qendresa Mani’s (she/her) paintings Harmony of Rush – Feelings (2015-2019) and Harmony of Rush – Wind (2015-2019) incorporate the natural elements grass and wind as connected to emotion and memory, much like Hammond and Hayashi’s pieces. Again, Mani’s work takes the form of large paintings, once gendered as predominately masculine. Where Harmony of Rush – Feelings focuses on a child-like recollection of running through freshly cut grass on a sunny day, Harmony of Rush – Wind lyrically invokes the rich color of night as if mimicking the force of nature, wind, reminiscent of the sublime. In each, the use of line as figurative focal points is exhilarating amidst vibrant color and texture. As Mani often stops working and then begins again later, processing her emotions, these two paintings were created over the span of four years.
In a series of altars, Z. Cong-Tam Nguyen (they/he) creates holy sites made within the realms of textile and assemblage. Nguyen’s use of textiles and weaving, similar to Coudriet, complicates questions of craft. Their artworks are not meant for utilitarian use, yet are made from objects—chairs, bedsheets, t-shirts—that were originally designed for specific purposes. Made up of a chair upholstered with an embroidered palm tree and flanked by a handmade basket and calla lily, Throne (2020-2021) has now become a piece to be viewed rather than used. On either side of Throne, textile works Prayer 1 (2020) and Prayer 2 (2020) incorporate mythology, images, and symbols of Nguyen’s Vietnamese and Laotian heritage—often embedding references to the tourism in these places by using saturated pictures of waterfalls, palm trees, and keychain souvenirs. In this series, a strong sense of melancholy, longing, and desire pervades, as if looking into an ocean of emotions. Using a type of heat transference, Nguyen sketched the mythical sea creatures, taking stylizations associated with queerness, in Prayer 1 and Prayer 2 onto heat transfer paper, and then shifted these drawings onto the fabrics used from his life, coloring them afterward. Additionally, Nguyen’s weaving, Finnick Odair’s Trident (2021), references the Hunger Games character Finnick Odair as an entry point into the artist’s exploration of the control of water/ocean in pop culture and mythology. As a second-generation American, Nguyen works to understand his family’s forced migration, across oceans, to the United States.
Though the practices of each artist in this exhibition do not solely take on issues of gender, analyzing each through the historical gender coding of medium and style pushes forward the idea that feminine artmaking is not simply a set of traits applied by artists identifying as women.
Sunday, September 26, 2021 1-2 PM
As part of the public programming for Speeding Up, Slowing Down, Kunstraum LLC will host a panel with the exhibition artists moderated by curator Sarah Sloan. The panel is an opportunity to have the exhibition artists personally gathered in one place to address and speak to their practice and themes; and the ones highlighted in the curatorial narrative. This event will be held virtually via Zoom. Please RSVP by emailing the curator Sarah Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review by Woman Around Town
This program was made possible by the New York City Artist Corps.
Address: Kunstraum LLC, 20 Grand Ave, Space 509, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Hours: Thu - Sat 12-6 PM by appointment only – please contact 24 hours in advance.
Contact: Sarah Sloan, 601.988.5599, email@example.com
Image credit: Yurie Hayashi, Temptation of Society, 2020-2021