Trestle Projects is pleased to announce the upcoming group exhibition Contain Her curated by Katherine Murdock. This show is a celebration of the way women “take on” and break away from a sexist society through loving strength of visual communication. The works address repression experienced or observed by these women artists. According to Bell Hooks (writer, feminist theorist and cultural critic), both “females and males have been socialized from birth on to accept sexist thought and action.”
Anonda Bell and Lavett Ballard directly speak about division through their work. Anonda Bell explains that the way we use language alters the way we experience the world and separates specific groups of people. Many words commonly used to describe or identify women reflect negative biases, sexism and misogyny. Her bold and confrontational installation of framed hand-written words causes the viewer to reflect on their personal relationship with these impactful words. Lavett Ballard illustrates a reimagined history with collaged imagery of women from the African diaspora. Using fences as her “canvas,” Ballard views them as a symbol to keep people in and keep people out—similar to the way racial and gender identities can create division. By working directly on a fence she is highlighting the division and linking two divided worlds through this barrier.
Elena Caravela, Samanta Batra Mehta and Amanda Yoakum all use symbolism in their work to speak about appearance or family and culture. Elena Caravela’s self-portrait uses symbolism that is personal to her. Lush foliage and tall grasses appear to envelope her into the landscape. She explains, with each passing year, she feels closer to Mother Nature. Caravela finds power and strength in that. Her intertwined fingers reference her close bond with her family. Her braid represents a younger version of herself. Like many young women, as a girl, she received pressure from family to keep her hair in a particular way and as she matured she found her own way. Family can be joy, responsibility and burden. Samanta Batra Mehta references henna, an Indian tradition used during ceremony and celebration to decorate women’s bodies. Like many cultures there is a focus on enhancing women’s appearance. She explores the way culture is transmitted to offspring through her Imprint Series. Using Sharpie markers, she draws patterns inspired by henna onto dozens of surgical gloves. Gloves can physically offer protection or can be peeled off. Similar to the way tradition and ritual can socially provide comfort when needed. Amanda Yoakum creates paintings on sneakers.Throughout history, women’s fashion has attempted to constrain and alter their bodies. Footwear has evolved from designs made to enhance a woman's appearance, such as foot binding and high heels, to designs that are comfortable and improve mobility. The nude female figures painted on Yoakum’s work have heads of endangered or vulnerable animal species. Amanda’s work compares women’s bodies to caged animals but by painting them on sneakers she satirically suggests that we are moving away from these conditions.
Sheena Sood and Winifred McNeill have a rebellious undercurrent to their work. Weavings are often associated with domesticity and women. Using this ancient craft as a starting point, Sheena Sood intertwines conventional and unconventional materials such as yarn, plexiglass and synthetic hair. Her choice of materials and vibrant rainbow color palette suggests that there are ways we both embrace and rebel against tradition. Confronting the male gaze in the art world by reversing roles with male artists, Winifred McNeill’s delicately rendered graphite drawings of nude male torsos are located inside plaster-lined plumbing pipes. The act of peering through the pipe fitting to view her sketches is physically and visually intimate. In many of the works she appropriated photographs taken from homosexual pornography. A male art historian criticized her work for this, saying that this was not her subject matter to draw. This is perhaps the perfect metaphor for this exhibition to reexamine the ways we are censored or repressed and break free from these confines.