On May 16th, The Untitled Space gallery presented a panel discussion for the SHE INSPIRES group exhibition. The exhibit, curated by gallery director and artist Indira Cesarine, features the work of 60 contemporary artists with works honoring inspirational women. A She Should Run ambassador as well as ten artists from the exhibit shared insights behind their works in the exhibit and the women that inspired them. Hosted by gallery director and artist Indira Cesarine, additional speakers included Annika Connor, Daryl Daniels, Dena Paige-Fischer, Fischer Cherry, Haile Binns, Jamie Martinez, Leslie Sheryll, Linda Friedman Schmidt, and Tara Lewis.
The talk opened with remarks from Rachel Hodes, a She Should Run ambassador for New York City and current candidate for the democratic committee in Hoboken.
“I feel so fortunate to be here in The Untitled Space, which is a feminist art gallery, and to see the show, SHE INSPIRES, which is showing a clear commitment to highlighting inspiring women, their voices and their experiences at a time when I think it is so critically needed…For me after the presidential election I was incredibly distraught and I was looking for ways to do something about it to get involved to figure out how I could help kind of change the trajectory of where our country was going…When I was looking to try to figure out what I was going to do, where I was going to go, how I was going to do this, I found She Should Run. As Indira said, it is a non-partisan organization which means it is open to any and all women who are looking to run for elected office…Right now women represent less than 20% of the seats in the US congress, less than a quarter of statewide elected executive offices are held by women, and only 20 of the 100 largest cities in America have mayors who are women…It’s hard and it takes a lot of strength to run for public office. Susan J. Carroll. who is a professor of political science at Rutgers University, says that research has found that women who run for office are less likely than their male counterparts to be self starters and that women more often than men seek office only after receiving encouragement from others…Since Election Day this past November, She Should Run has had over 15,000 new women join the community to explore what’s possible in elected office. I am hopeful that this is an indicator that the leadership pipeline will soon be flooded with passionate, committed women looking to make a difference.”
Artist Annika Connor received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied painting and philosophy. Connor has worked professionally as a painter in New York, London, and Stockholm and participated in numerous national and international exhibitions. Her work, “Hope & Praise,” explores feminine identity and often uses symbolism to engage the viewer.
“I met [Barbara Morgan] on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles at a hotel bar and I had heard about her life then. She was originally a second grade teacher from Idaho and the way that she tells it is that when she was growing up, she really only had teaching or nursing as an option for her career. She became a teacher but always had a love of science. During the Reagan administration, there was the ‘Send a Teacher to Space’ program. So, with her second grade class, Barbara sat down with the students and wrote her essay to apply to the program. She was accepted, but she was the second one accepted. As some of you might remember, the first teacher died in the Challenger explosion. That night was obviously terrible for Barbara and for many many many people. She was asked on the air if she would still be willing to go and she said without hesitation, yes. She was asked later why and she said, ‘In the face of danger we must show courage and bravery to our children.’ She stuck with it and was eventually trained in Russian, trained to do robotic arm operations for the international space station and was trained to be an emergency EMT. She went years and years later because the program was delayed, obviously due to the nightmare of the challenger and they had a lot to deal with. It was many many years later, but she went up and she worked on building the space station. Then, she returned to Earth and went back to teach her class in Idaho and to eventually lecture around the country as well. I loved how she quite literally believed in infinite possibility and stuck with the pursuit of it and had faith in herself and in science and in the heavens and everything and pushed herself outside of her world-LITERALLY-then came back to give it back.” – Annika Connor
Daryl Daniels was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her interests in African theology, sacred geometry, and American History have been the primary influences of her art. Daniels discusses race, beauty and identity with the use of pen and paint in her piece, “Returned Soul” which is inspired by Alicia Keys . She received her BFA in Painting at Ohio University and her MFA in Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts. She is a member of the National Association of Women’s Artists Group and her work has been shown widely in Ohio and New York.
“Most of my work has a lot to do with self love and self acceptance, especially among women of color. I think that is a huge epidemic as far as self hate goes. I am inspired by Alicia Keys now because she is really embracing her natural self and really embracing her natural beauty and she’s talking about self-love among women everywhere. I chose to create this piece with nothing but pen…When you’re drawing with pen you tend to see this copper reflection when it hits light and to me, that says a lot about the light within us and the fractals within us…A lot of the detail is done mostly in the hair. This is actually one of an ongoing series of drawings of portraits of women in pop culture who are also talking about self love within themselves as well…I can’t erase anything of the piece, so if I mess up, I have to draw it over and over again. I also think that it talks about the content when it comes to self-love because we are constantly redefining ourselves.” – Daryl Daniels
Dena Paige-Fischer was born and raised in New York City, the daughter of two artists. She received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009. She fuses natural and industrial materials, and draws inspiration from returning to nature, the sci-fi genre, and indigenous art. Author, famed scientist, and historic autistic woman, Temple Grandin, inspired the building of anti-anxiety sculptural masks by artist Paige-Fischer. After reading Grandin’s book “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior,” Paige-Fisher grew fascinated with her massive body of work and its connections to both the animal and the human body.
“Temple Grandin is a teacher at Colorado State University and she helps kind of build the bridge between our communications with animals and has done a lot of work for the livestock world. She basically built this machine for herself when she was in college because being autistic, she didn’t like to be touched which is a common problem for autistic people. She was visiting her aunt’s farm and saw the cattle in this pressure shoot which comes down on the sides of their body and creates a relief and feeling of being held without any actual physical contact. I was really inspired by that because she built herself one to solve her own problem…Growing up in New York, you have this overwhelming sense of being overstimulated all the time and there’s no break from it. Especially being a woman you get called out on the street and there’s really never a place to hide or remove yourself. I started making these masks and moved on to other wearable art, which is a device that I created to calm myself. It hits all the pressure points on your face and it creates like an overall calming feeling and also creates space for yourself when you wear it because you feel like you’re removed from the world in a way and it’s a moment to meditate…When you removed yourself from it, every piece of trash on the street and every part of nature in the park becomes material for use and especially when I was starting out and had no money for materials, I would just collect things and kind of piece them together and wrap them together. I didn’t have money to buy equipment to weld or anything so there’s a lot of wrapping wire. The process is really therapeutic and kind of allows me to tap into my own self and create space. I think that as a woman living in New York, you really need that removal to be able to come back to your own inner power and be the strongest person you can be.” – Dena Paige-Fischer
Fischer Cherry is a multi-disciplinary artist that lives and works in Tribeca. She received a MFA from the Brooks Institute of Photography and a BA from Northwestern. Her work has been featured in many exhibitions and also has been acquired for the permanent collection of the Guild Hall Museum. Cherry’s work, “Object,” is inspired by women who have endured objectification in the workplace. The subject of “Object” had a breast reduction in her early 20’s as she was afraid that her breasts would hinder her corporate career. She is an example of the sacrifices many women have to make in order to be accepted in male dominated industries. Her visible scarring due to her surgery emphasizes the scars women have metaphorically endured in order to gain acceptance as equals in the workforce.
“I know women have plastic surgery to alter their appearance all the time, but this woman I met, she is a woman who made her own way in the world. She didn’t have family support after college. Her job was in corporate America and she really felt like she couldn’t get ahead until she desexualized her body…I thought that was so fascinating that she felt that pressure in a world where what should really be important is your skill set or your intellect…When I first started photographing her-I photographed her every three years-she was like in her late 30s and because she had finally gotten to the point in her career that she wanted to get to, she finally felt more comfortable with her sexuality and taking ownership of it…That was inspiring me because sometimes you feel like, what do I have to look forward to in life?…I think every year, a woman is more self-assured and more confident. To me, that is really beautiful.” – Fischer Cherry
Artist Haile Binns is deeply influenced by her ancestral roots, water and nature. She grew up in Rockland County, New York and spent her summers on her grandparents’ farm in Jamaica. She refers to her works as sculptural paintings – a reference to the meditative process by which she adds layers to build texture on her canvases. “Obeah” is inspired by Queen Nanny, who was a leader of the Maroons at the beginning of the 18th century. She was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.
“When I found out about the show I wanted to go back to my roots and I wanted to do someone of Jamaican heritage. My family actually has Maroons in them…The Maroons were constantly fighting against the British; They would lead slave revolutions and they would go to different plantations and free different slaves. They didn’t have any guns and they weren’t trained on welfare or war, but with just their will, they were able to survive about 80 years, they are still there today…So, my painting is basically a visual representation of Queen Nanny’s spiritual practice which is called ‘Obeah’ – it is a form of voodoo. What I do when I paint, I mix different types of concrete, I mix dirt, I do flowers, anything to get the energy that I wanted to come through in that painting. Queen Nanny was a herbologist-she mixed different herbs into spells. I really wanted to convey that in my work and do the same process that she would do with her witchcraft and spells.” – Halie Binns
Colombian artist Jamie Martinez immigrated to Florida at the age of twelve from South America. He attended Miami International University of Art and Design then moved to New York to continue his fine art education at FIT and to follow his dream in the visual arts. He is also the publisher of Arte Fuse, which is a contemporary art blog. His artwork has been widely exhibited including at the The Queens Museum. He is one of the ten male artist featured in the exhibition with his work, “Nefertiti.” Queen Nefertiti ruled over Egypt with her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, during one of the wealthiest times in Egypt. Her bust sculpture is one of the best well preserved statues and was found in a sculptor’s studio-unlike most other artifacts that are usually found in a temple or burial ground.
“I chose Nefertiti first of all because of the feminine beauty and power she has. We are talking about one of the most powerful women in history…All my paintings are done with triangles. The reason for that is to deconstruct the image and construct it. Triangles are the most powerful and mysterious geometric form-it is not something you see naturally in the world…When you get into quantum physics you see a lot of triangles, mainly in particle interaction. Especially with this image, it is broken down into small triangles…The other thing I love about using triangles in my work is showing the construction of things. If you construct anything in virtual reality or in 3D printing, it has to be done in polygons, mesh, or triangles…So, my main thing is that by using triangles you can build anything…When we look at virtual reality, it all comes down to triangles…” – Jamie Martinez
Leslie Sheryll earned a BFA in photography from Kansas City Art Institute. For the last 4 years, Sheryll has been exploring male and female relationships in a phallocentric society. She works with 19th century tintypes of women, which she appropriates and alters digitally. “Bora, Pick Your Poison” and “Carrie Seeing” is inspired by women’s suffragists. The women who lived during that 19th century inspire Sheryll because of their fight for the rights of women.
“I use the tintypes as my exploration into female identity…What I do is I name each of my women and I name them from a list of names from the era in which they lived. I do this because I feel like women often feel nameless and I wanted these women to have a strong identity because these were strong women that we can learn from now…Women were really discontent with their lives. It was believed that men and women lived in separate spheres. A man’s sphere was public and a women’s sphere was private…She could study religion or embroidery and botany is one of the things that she was able to study but the study could not be scientific…In my images, I use botany as a sexual metaphor. I also use the shape of the sphere in many of my images and the trompe l’oeil frame to represent that she is bound…The women are bound to the rules of society and they can’t go beyond it or they couldn’t go beyond it until a certain point when women became really discontent and that when the women’s suffrage movement started, which took about 70 years, but these women really persisted and they came together and they unified and they accomplished what they set out to do. I believe right now that is so important because we’re looking at a lot of our rights possibly being taken away, so we can learn from these women and protect our future.” – Leslie Sheryll
Linda Friedman-Schmidt is a self-taught artist known for her emotional narrative portraits and figurative artworks created from discarded clothing. She was born stateless in a German displaced persons camp, the first child of Holocaust survivors. Filtered through a postwar immigrant childhood, her art fuses personal history with current social, cultural, political, and feminist issues and is often exhibited with contemporary fine art. Her work is about transformation-achieving peace by piecing together a new world. Museums that have exhibited her work include the American Folk Art Museum, Morris Museum, Jersey City Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Monmouth Museum, among many others. “A Corsage for Every Girl” is inspired by the kind, welcoming, artsy mother of Linda’s childhood best friend, a warm and loving parental figure. Unhampered by societal norms and expectations for women in the 1950s, Sadie was not only a mom, but also a businesswoman, an artist and a feminist with a mission to enhance the self-esteem of young girls. Sadie honored girls with handmade corsages presented in glitter-covered boxes embossed with their names.
“I was thinking about how to connect the work to She Should Run and I realized that to run for public office, a woman has to have confidence in herself and confidence begins in childhood and I was a child uncomfortable in my own skin. My artwork is me throwing away the second skin, clothing-it’s close to the body and it’s considered the second skin. The woman that inspired the work is a woman that worked on instilling confidence in young girls. I met her when I was nine years old. This woman, she understood that young girls are impressionable and need a boost to their self confidence. She honored them with handmade corsages which sounds like such a corny, silly thing, but when you’re a young kid wearing one of those on your birthday-they were birthday corsages-it made you feel like you mattered and were you important…The reason it’s a Muslim girl in the picture is because I was an immigrant and a child of refugees and I see myself in the other-that’s today’s immigrant girl. They suffer from bigotry, discrimination, kids make fun of them and that leads to a lack of confidence and they need uplifting. That’s what those corsages did for us when I was in school and that’s the story I transformed the skin I was in into artwork. I cut up the old clothes, the second skin, and make art. Art is therapy and the process definitely is for me.” – Linda Friedman-Schmidt
Tara Lewis is an artist who primarily creates oil paintings. Her work is prompted by mass media images, youth culture and evolving definitions of beauty and identity. She pursued her graduate degree at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. She produces large scale paintings that focus on identity, teen culture, pop trends and social issues, often referring to past decades and pre-internet sources. One of her primary influences is her great-great grandfather, Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, who also infused typefaces and cultural portraiture into his celebrated compositions. Her work, “High School,” emphasizes and celebrates young women and their enormous potential to be change makers.
“My work focuses on youth culture and pop culture. I typically find young women to model for paintings. Recently, I included t-shirts on the models that have a text and image interplay which adds an open ended conversation invitation to the viewer. I was excited that this piece was in the show because if you think about all the women that are depicted in the works, they were all at one time thirteen years old or fifteen years old. I think it’s really important visit that idea that those are formative years and adolescence is so vulnerable and developing in really exciting ways as well. Hopefully, that can shed some positive light on young women becoming pivotal and making a difference and the power that they have emerging.” – Tara Lewis
Indira Cesarine is the curator for the exhibition and owner of the gallery. She has her BA in Art History, French, and Women’s Studies from Columbia University. Cesarine is a multimedia artist that works with photography, video, painting, printmaking and sculpture. She included three of her pieces in the SHE INSPIRES exhibition. “Arrested for Equality, Ode to the Suffragettes” gives appreciation to the suffragettes through her depiction of two of them being arrested. Her next piece, “My Name is Victoria Woodhull,” is a portrait of the pioneer feminist who was the first women to run for president in 1872. The exhibit also features her sculpture “Act Now,” which spells out a portion of a quote by legendary french feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.
“This has been a long and exciting process to put this show together. My initial thoughts about the exhibit is that post-election with everything that happened, I was rather disenchanted and I felt over shadowed by a lot of negativity in the air. I felt that the election really made women feel like the carpet was pulled from underneath them. How do we bring back our positivity and hope? How can we empower each other? How can we get that confidence back? A lot of us felt like it was a stab in the heart – what happened during the election. I always circle back to the importance of being inspired and inspiring others and inspiring myself with my work. I was working on a whole series of artwork that focused on inspiration by different women. I came up with the idea to invite other artists to do this show with me and to turn it into an exhibit revolving around the theme of inspirational women.” – Indira Cesarine
“Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president in 1872, almost 50 years before women won suffrage. She was on the official ticket in the election on the Equal Rights Party. She was one of the first women on Wall Street with a brokerage firm and one of the first women to open her own newspaper. She is not recognized for being the first on so many fronts and it is like, wait a second, Victoria ran for president one hundred and fifty years ago and nobody remembers who she is. She is not given any emphasis whatsoever in our history books…I was a huge history academic and I recently discovered her story…She was a pioneer on so many levels and I think her story emphasizes the main reason I wanted to do this exhibit, which is that women’s history, for the large part, has been marginalized. We all look around at each other and think we all know who Frida Kahlo is or I know who Queen Elizabeth is, and what about Cleopatra? And you think oh yeah, those are women in history that we all know as household names, but how come there are so many that should be household names, that should be recognized, that should be in our history books, that are not, like Victoria? Why is her story not told? The sad fact is that women’s history is marginalized in this whole separate thing called women’s studies, which is an elective, and people don’t bother to ever take it. Unless you went to a feminist school, you most likely never took women’s studies and even in those courses, they do not teach you about most of these women…It is so crucial that more women run for office, but also that phenomenal women are actually included in the history books. There are countless stories of the amount of women who invented incredible things that were not credited in history. Instead, it was their husband or a man they worked with that got credit for their work. All of those stories are starting to come out, slowly but surely…so many women have contributed to our culture throughout time that were never recognized for their work. I think it is important to shed importance on all of those issues with artwork because I think today, artwork is cultural currency. It really creates impact and it makes people talk and people share the artwork online and you wouldn’t be here otherwise.” – Indira Cesarine
“Another work I have in the exhibit is the black and white painting with the police arresting the two women. A lot of people are like, ‘How is that inspirational – women getting arrested?’ Actually, this painting is called “Arrested For Equality: An Ode to The Suffragettes” and it is about suffragettes who were arrested in their fight for suffrage and its not a story very commonly told… thousands of women were arrested in the fight to get the vote, many were brutally manhandled by police. They were treated like terrorists, and many were imprisoned in very very bad conditions. The painting is also an ode to the influence of the English suffragettes on the movement in the United States, as the movement in the US didn’t really gain massive traction until the English Suffragettes taught the American suffragists more dramatic protest tactics.”
“[‘Act Now’] is taken from a quote by Simone de Beauvoir, who many of you may have heard of. She was a feminist, French philosopher and she wrote the book, The Second Sex. In any case, ‘Act Now’, is from her quote: ‘Don’t gamble on the future, Act Now without delay.’ I just think that is just a strong statement. Do not sit around and wait for anybody to make changes that you think need to happen. It is up to us to act now. If you are unhappy with your job, your relationship, or with a political environment, don’t sit around and think it is going to change on its own. You need to act now to make that happen, so that is why I put together this exhibit.” – Indira Cesarine
Head over to the SHE INSPIRES Exhibit, on view now through May 26th at The Untitled Space to get a look at these works in person as well as many others inspired by women throughout history.
The Untitled Space
45 Lispenard Street Unit 1W
NY NY 10013
Open 10am – 6pm daily.
Agent X, Alex Nuñez, Alexis Duque, Ann Lewis, Anna Cone, Annika Connor, Anya Rubin, Anyes Galleani, Boo Lynn Walsh, Cabell Molina, Cassandra Klos, Cecilia Collantes, Cristin Millett, Danielle Siegelbaum, Daryl Daniels, Dena Paige-Fischer, Desire Rebecca Moheb Zandi, Diana Casanova, Elisa Garcia de la Huerta, Farrin Chwalkowski, Fischer Cherry, Haile Binns, Indira Cesarine, J’Nell Jordan, Jacqueline Secor, Jamie Martinez, Jasmine Anokye, Jennifer Dwyer, Jeremy Penn, Jess De Wahls, Joanna Wlaszyn, Joseph Cavalieri, Julia Vanifatieva, Kat Toronto, Katya Zvereva, Kelsey Bennett, KiSub Lee, Kim Rae Taylor, Laura Murray, Lauren Rinaldi, Leslie Sheryll, Lili Lopez, Linda Friedman Schmidt, Loretta Lomanto, Lynn Bianchi, Manju Shandler, Marcelo Daldoce, Maria Petrovskaya, Michael Hubbard, Molly Crabapple, Nichole Washington, Nils Karsten, Rebecca Leveille, Reza Rafiei Rad, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Sam Cannon, Shihori Yamammoto, Sylvia Maier, Tara Lewis, Zen Sevastyanova