Season III: Expression of Contemporary Feminist Artists and Their Processes

Season III: Expression of Contemporary Feminist Artists and Their Processes

Curating Artists: Maxine Henryson & Jane Swavely
Time: Mondays at 9 PM-10 PM GMT from March 1-May 2, 2021


Lucy R. Lippard argued in 1980 that feminist art was “neither a style nor a movement but instead a value system, a revolutionary strategy, a way of life.” This series of lectures by eleven women and non-binary artists from the A.I.R. Gallery collective encompasses four general areas of contemporary feminist artistic practice: memory and imagination, social practice and narrative, material qualities and experimentation and our bodies. Artists working with memory and the imagination tap their unconscious for spontaneous responses to a situation or medium. They work freely from an unpreconceived space where the process is given priority. Interiority plays a part in the artist’s response to place, space, the environment or everyday experience. Those doing social practice and creating narratives are interacting with others with a specific intent of either revealing a social construct or telling an imagined or real story through performance, installation or documentary processes. The artists exploring material qualities and experimentation concentrate on the actual materials and what they can reveal while simultaneously questioning the formal qualities of specific mediums. Often these artists use humor and play or the opposite, they ask a series of conceptual questions. Many of the artists question the role of the female and non-binary body in art history and contemporary social media. 

Session 3-1:  Maxine Henryson & Jane Swavely: Traces (the imaginary presence of the absent artist)  (3/1/2021)

In this lecture Maxine Henryson and Jane Swavely will discuss the ghost of the artist’s presence in subjective photography and abstract painting. Evidence of their bodily movement in their work:  the use of the blur as a space and memory-making gesture in Henryson’s and the brush stroke in Swavely’s. Using their work as a starting point they will elaborate on the context of their individual works within contemporary feminist photography and painting. There is and remains a presence of the artist not just in the mark, but in the choices made drawing upon years of work and observation. There is a history of the painter’s experience not only with materials, but in the world and a life lived.  Swavely’s paintings and Henryson’s photography often point to something without actually referring to it, leaving the viewer the opportunity to insert themselves.

Suggested Readings

Maxine Henryson:

Dr. Kathleen Wentrack, “Mary Beth Edelson: Ritual Performances,” The Feminist Institute Digital Exhibit Project, Google Arts & Culture

Imperfections: The work of Julia Margaret Cameron, Google Arts & Culture

April Johnston, “Through the Looking Glass: On Julia Margaret Cameron and Exquisite Imperfection”
Rena Silverman, “Helen Levitt’s Street Photos Blend the Poetic With the Political”

Gernsheim, Helmut. “Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life

Kuspit, Donald (1983). “Mary Beth Edelson: An Introduction”. Mary Beth Edelson — New Work: An Ancient Thirst and A Future Vision. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Gallery. OCLC 12207189. 

Jane Swavely:
Jutta Koether, F, Sternberg Press, 2014

Shirley Kaneda, The Feminine in Abstract Painting,

Isabelle Graw: The Value of Liveliness: Painting as an Index of Agency in the New Economy (Harvard lecture, Painting Beyond Itself, 2013)

Session 3-2:  Maxine Henryson & Jane Swavely: Soma and Jinx (3/8/2021)

There will be two lectures in session 2 with  both artists presenting personal projects Maxine Henryson Soma ( Sanskrit for spiritual healing from nature)  and Jane Swavely Jinx (an unknowing collusion of ideas).

In this lecture Maxine Henryson will discuss the process of creating luminous painterly photographs about place and the everyday. Exhibitions and artist books are spaces that offer an opportunity to sequence and edit disparate elements to construct an experience that challenges our perceptions of how we see the world and  feminist photographic image- making is a strategy that can potentially transform the patriarchy to a feminist culture. The underlying theme is  interconnectivity, interdependence and how we are all part of  one entity.

Jane Swavely will  discuss making luminous paintings, drawings, and  books that turn out to have abstract yet seemingly universal themes be it landscape references or color and light.  Jinx, a slang term for the phenomenon of two things being said at the same time or as Swavely sees it, a zeitgeist in thinking and trends that can happen unknowingly or through our virtual interconnectivity

Suggested Readings 

Maxine Henryson:
Jordan G. Teicher, Museum of the Future: Portable and Personal

Dayanita Singh Instagram account @dayanitasingh

Jhumpa Lahiri, “In Other Words”, The Metamorphosis, p 161-173

She Needed No Camera To Make the First Book of Photographs


Cy Twombly, “Cy Twombly Photographs: Lyrical Variations”, catalogue for an exhibition at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, essay by Kiyoko Maeda

Germano Celant, introduction to Luigi Ghirri’s 2008 Aperture monograph, Luigi Ghirri:It’s Beautiful Here, Isn’t It…,

Jane Swavely:
F, Jutta Koether, Nick Mauss(Translator), Michael Sanchez (Translator), F, Sternberg Press, 2014

Emily Hunt, Dark Green, The Song Cave, 2015.  Original,  p 10,  Symbols, p11,  Its Good to be in your Paintings, p35

Etal Adnan, The Sun on the Tongue, PAJ publications, 2018.  ed: Bonnie Marranca and Klaudia Ruschkowski,   The Unfolding of an Artist’s Book, p54-61

Session 3-3: Lauren Simkin Berke: The Book as Primary Form (3/15/2021)

In this lecture, Lauren Simkin Berke will discuss their personal practice of making books and zines, as well as placing that work within the context of contemporary sequential art in book form that focuses on both real and imagined memories. Memories are the stories we hold from personal experience that create the myth of ourselves, our families, and our communities; this will be a look at how artists bridge and explore the lines between experiential, emotional, and generational memory.

Suggested Reading

John Burger, “Once in a Story,” And Other Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (New York, Vintage International, 1991): 8-21. 

Armand Mevis, “Every Book Starts with an Idea: Notes for Designers,” The Form of the Book Book (Occasional Papers, 2015): 85-91.

Esther K. Smith, “Introduction” and “Chapter One: Instant Books,” How to Make Books (Potter Craft, 2007).

Session 3-4: Susan Stainman: Interactive Art and Collective Change (3/22/2021)

In this talk, Susan Stainman will discuss her artistic practice of interactive sculpture within a framework of interpersonal connection and social change. Her fabric-based participatory sculptures create movement from the individual to the collective, exploring how we create connections and community. Drawing a line from artists who have paved the way such as Suzanne Lacy, Lygia Clark and Adrian Piper to her own work, Stainman will explore the ways artists have used their practice to inhabit a new world, Stainman will explore the ways artists have used their practice to inhabit a new world.     

Suggested Readings

Claire Bishop. “The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents.” Artificial Hells. Verso Books. 2012. p. 11-40.

Previous version published in Artforum, Feb. 2006 

Suzanne Lacy. “Cultural Pilgrimages and Metaphoric Journeys.” Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. Bay Press.1995. p. 19-47.

Additional resources:

Claire Bishop ed. Participation: Whitchapel: Documents of Contemporary Art. MIT Press. 2006.

Grant Kester. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004.

Liam Gillick. “For a Functional Utopia”

Nato Thompson, ed. Living As Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991 to 2011. New York: Creative Time, 2012.

(and many more)

Session 3-5: Rosina Lardieri: Displacement/Anything Helps (3/29/2021)

“But where simulation or iconoclasm function more or less to counter or obviate the problematics of inside/outside, it is perhaps more to the point to question the validity of the binarism itself. For what is really at issue is the fundamentally unanswerable question of how reality is in fact to be known and in this respect, the truth claims of photography always disputed are increasingly rejected.”

“Inside/Outside” Abagail Solomonn Godeau, Photography after Photography

In this lecture Rosina Lardieri will discuss her ongoing project “Anything Helps” which is a completely unscientific investigation into homelessness in her immediate neighborhood. Based on connectivity and interpersonal relationships formed on the streets the project uses signs purchased from the unhoused, photographs, interactional videos and her own handwritten signs, to create a narrative of acknowledgement while exploring themes of displacement, the vulnerability of bodies in public space, the traces left behind and the transformation of public into private space. 

Lardieri will explore the way feminist artists have questioned the nature and politics of representation and used art spaces to reveal and inform about social issues. 

Suggested Readings

“The Notion of Family” by Latoya Ruby Frasier

“Things as They Are, Dorothea Lange, Words and Pictures” Valeria Luiselli

Things as They Are | by Valeria Luiselli

Martha Rosler Tackles the Problem of Representation

Mathew Desmond, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” Crown Books, 201Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “Photography After Photography”, essay, Inside/Out (1995)

Session 3-6: Aphrodite Navab: Wonder Women Unveiled (4/5/2021)

In this talk, Iranian Greek American artist, Aphrodite Navab will share her art research and practice by investigating ways of re-presenting and critiquing self and culture through camera-based art, using a comparative analysis of three culturally hybrid Iranian women artists: Shirin Neshat (b. 1957), Ghazel (b. 1966), and Aphrodite Désirée Navab (b. 1971). As a result of her study, Navab demonstrates how an Orientalist tool (the camera) has been transformed into a means for self-representation and cultural critique. The Iranian Islamic revolution (1978-79) overthrew twenty-five centuries of monarchy; Iranian feminists, however, were challenging five thousand years of patriarchy. In her published doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, Navab argues that these artists use the camera to reclaim their life narratives in autobiographical productions, challenging both the Orientalist hegemony and the Iranian censorship of the telling of their own life stories through their own bodies—where Wonder Women are unveiled.

Suggested Readings

Navab, Aphrodite Désirée (2011). De-Orientalizing Iran: The Art of Sevruguin, Neshat, Navab and Ghazel. A Comparative Analysis of the Autobiographical Art of Four Diasporic Iranians. Berlin: Lambert Academic Publishing, pp 104-192.

Farzaneh Milani, “Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East)”

Trinh T. Minh-Ha, “Woman, Native, Other, Writing, Postcoloniality and Feminism”

Persis M Karim, “Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been, New Writing by women of the Iranian Diaspora”

Session 3-7: Tomoko Abe + Erica Stoller: Material Qualities + Experimentation (4/12/2021)

In this session, Tomoko Abe and Erica Stoller will each discuss how the quality of materials and the process of experimentation are essential parts of their art making.

Tomoko Abe will talk about the relationship between man made objects and organic materials, how they seem to repel each other and yet, at the same time, can be integrated to work as one. Abe uses different materials, from glass, ceramics to paper, often appealing to their transparency to combine them seamlessly. Intrigued by the energy and spirit that exist under the surface of what is visible, is another reason Abe is drawn to translucent materials. Her work evolves through experimental processes of various materials, and each of these becomes the work itself. 

Erica Stoller,  “In my recent work I have been paying close  attention to the common, yet often overlooked, landscape: not blue sky, hills and valleys, but utility poles, communication cables, and power lines. My referential, three-dimensional pieces are built of common industrial materials, often rescued and re-used, that are familiar to plumbers or electricians, but not to artists or those who view their work.  With bright colors and linear shapes, the pieces are held together with string and wire, suspended from hooks or from wall to wall. In an unfamiliar context, the familiar materials may be difficult to recognize and then may encourage a closer examination of one’s surroundings. 

Suggested Reading

Tomoko Abe:
Junichiro Tanizaki, In praise of shadows, Leete’s Island Books,1933

Anni Albers, Material as Metaphor, 1982

Catherine De Zegher, Eds., Eva Hesse Drawing, The drawing center and Yale university press, 2005-2006, pp. 50-117, ‘Drawing as Binding/Bandage/Bondage or Eva Hesse Caught in the Triangle of Process/Content/Materiality’. 

Erica Stoller:
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a book that I never stop reading. There is no objective truth. One’s reality is what you bring to it or make of it. Also, the element of translation comes to mind. Is the original more “real” than the work in another language? William Weaver, the translator, gets as much credit and is as much to blame as Calvino.

Session 3-8: Joan Snitzer: Seeking Beauty in Chance  (4/19/2021)

In this session, Joan Snitzer will discuss painting related to a western tradition of gift culture dating back to the 17th century in the Netherlands. Beginning with Tulip Mania” as an early quest for beauty and ownership to our current commodity driven art market, artists often make and receive gifts in a space overlapping with creativity and spirituality.   How can chance can provide for the artist’s need to separate their works from just things to a process that documents a “lifetime.”  Joan will provide images of her own work as well as examples of artworks created by others.

Suggested Reading

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage Books, 1979, Chapter 1. PP 3-24

Isabelle Graw, Painting beyond itself: the medium in the post-medium condition, Sternberg Press, 2016, PP 79-103, The Value of Liveliness: Painting as an Index of Agency in the New Economy 

Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, Vintage Books, 1987, Housewives and Hussies: Homeliness and Worldliness, PP 375-430

Session 3-9:  Ada Potter: Re-imagining Ephemerality (4/26/2021)

In this lecture artist, Ada Potter will describe her fluid conceptualization of materials and mediums as it relates to her work, which oscillates between photography, sculpture, and installation. Her work often restages products such as screens and webcams; making these forms tangible by printing them on organza, mylar, and acetate. Her objects seek to perform a multiplicity of material realities that underline the anxieties technology can incite. This talk will also focus on human efforts to create permanence in the face of uncertainty and inevitable change. 

Suggested Reading

Hito Steyeri, The Wretched of the Screen

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory

Session 3-10: Daria Dorosh: From the Female Body as Possession to Beauty as Power (5/3/2021)

A discourse on the advancement of the female body from desired possession to active agent in human culture.

Daria Dorosh is one of twenty women artists who co-founded A.I.R. Gallery and who has continued her membership over almost a half century. In this presentation the artist will show a selection from her 22 one-person exhibitions since 1972 to discuss how a feminist consciousness manifests itself in the form, medium, and content of her work. She will discuss how her art communities, her work in education and fashion, as well as participation in research and collaboration have impacted her as an artist and led her to a personal definition of feminist cultural legacy. Her analog beginnings as a painter and sculptor were followed by a public art period in which she initiated art projects for the city environment. The emergence of the desktop computer challenged art-making for her generation and continues to have a profound influence on her work and thinking. Her talk concludes with a demonstration and challenge to herself and others in which she says “Virtual platforms such as Zoom are the new public arena. Some of the questions for me are: how do we take ownership of a public space that overlaps with the casual, yet intimate space of our body and the place where we live? Might feminist artists occupy the virtual meeting room as a new performative space, a “third skin” and an opportunity for their artistic expression?”

Suggested Reading

Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power,

Daria Dorosh, “Take back your body,” 2017 23rd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM), Dublin, 2017, pp. 1-6, doi: 10.1109/VSMM.2017.8346250.

D. Dorosh, “Patterning: the informatics of art and fashion” PhD thesis 2007

Daria Dorosh, “Fashion Massing”

Mary Condren, “The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland” 

Maureen Concannon, “The Sacred Whore: Sheela, Goddess of the Celts”