Fine art

'LOVE and #metoo' throws down

Biting social commentary takes the spotlight at Studio 107B art exhibit

By Dena Miller
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 2/13/19

Admission for all is free, but gallery owner Maye Torres says the mature content is best suited for adult audiences.

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Fine art

'LOVE and #metoo' throws down

Biting social commentary takes the spotlight at Studio 107B art exhibit

Posted

Ovid's poem "Metamorphoses" allegorizes the familiar myth of the Roman goddess Diana. In it, Ovid recounts how the huntress was bathing in a hidden grotto when Actaeon stumbled upon the scene and unwittingly saw her. Once aware of Actaeon's presence, Diana cursed him with water from the grotto and turned him into a stag, which his own hunting dogs promptly attacked and tore apart.

"The myth is the perfect metaphor for the #Metoo movement," said artist Michael Bergt. "In essence, Diana was saying, 'I control who I am, and when and how you see me; you have no say in it.' My illustrations of Diana, with all of her resources at the ready to combat such an intrusion, are a statement on the current dance between male identities and female self-actualization."

Bergt is one of over three dozen artists selected to participate in Studio 107B's latest exhibition, "LOVE and #metoo," which opens with a reception Saturday (Feb. 16) from 4-7 p.m. Admission for all is free, but gallery owner Maye Torres says the mature content is best suited for adult audiences.

"Many of the images that will be displayed are disturbing, but the disruption is meant to open a dialogue and challenge people to delve into what is a problematic part of our society," said Torres.

The show is a sweeping compilation of viewpoints, expressed in a myriad of media, to tackle what has become one of the most compelling movements of our time. From traditional oil and acrylic paintings, to archival ink drawings, mixed media, fabric arts and the spoken word, "LOVE and #metoo" tackles the subject from all sides.

Torres is herself no stranger to the controversial, the gritty, or the boundaries imposed by sexual politics. Having been mentored early in her career by a network of notable New Mexican male artists, she was nevertheless subjected to the constraints upon commercially viable female artists operating under the traditional glass ceiling. It's an issue she has explored several times in her year-old gallery.

"I think there's much more awareness, in our current climate, about how women are seen and what women have been battling. It's something that was not particularly examined at the time, but now people are looking at it much more honestly and that's great to see."

And while the resonance of the female voice is increasingly reverberating, so is the sense that #Metoo reaches beyond the polarity of male and female issues into the realm of human issues: love, loss, identity, survival and, finally, hope.

Mimi Chen Ting, whose acrylic on canvas titled "Beyond the Gate of Heavenly Peace" is a standout in the exhibit, said, "I don't think we own this movement as women; I think it's a universal issue for us all. Ultimately, I think we all hope we are more than we think we are."

"My piece was inspired by the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the horror of which took me years to assimilate." She paused, and continued. "It was important to me for it to be included in this show, standing as it does to say we must outlast the pain and move forward in a better way."

Izumi Yokoyama agrees. "I believe that personal problems reflect universal issues. And the real solution starts when the story is shared and listened to by others with empathy," she said.

Yokoyama, who is one of the core artists at the gallery, noted the cultural gap between her home country, Japan, and that of the United States. "There is no real #Metoo movement in Japan. Once a Japanese woman speaks out the truth about sex and power harassment, she gets the blame from society that she should feel ashamed."

"Here in Taos, I was fortunate to meet friends who taught, cared for and helped me to understand and have a new understanding of the issues of self-love, forgiveness and caring with empathy. I have a long way to be able to do what I really want to do for the other side of the world. Creating and sharing my art about the issues is just a one step to the goal," she said.

Her "Let It Go" giclée -- an empty chair tangled within a seemingly impenetrable cage of strings--needs no further introduction. Nor does Bergt's "Gordian Knot," which, he notes, "is a metaphor for an intractable problem that can only be solved by finding a loophole or thinking creatively … to shift the binds and find release."

Many of the featured artists have spent a good deal of their careers focusing upon those very "intractable problem[s]" which are tied to the subjects of their art. Renowned New Mexican scholar and photographer Miguel Gandert, whose works capture the lives of prostitutes and transvestites eking a living along our border with Mexico, said it's an issue with which he regularly grapples.

"There is obviously a political issue with the male gaze upon nude women," he said, "but what I'm out to portray are working people using only what's available to them to get by, and making them real to the rest of us. And what I've found is that the politics of art can be more powerful than the actual works."

As the father of a teenage daughter, he admits to a good degree of soul-searching. "What is it that my art is saying? It's been a hard body of work to complete but the stories are authentic, as can been seen in my subjects' faces. They're New Mexicans. Though their images never hang on a museum wall, they should be recognized."

Claire Briggs, who crochets "grandma quilt squares" laden with expletives and terse, blunt, textlike statements, will be contributing several of her "#coping" project wall hangings to the show. She said of her work, "The attitudes behind the expressions range from the absurd to serious in order to show the range of and intensity of the issues we cope with. How do we cope with loss, personal tragedy and the shame of secrets? What are some expressions or phrases that we hear in our head when the stress, pain or fear overwhelms us? What do people tell themselves when they need support, strength, clarity or encouragement? These are the questions that inspire me to crochet words into wall hangings."

"The theme for the show is a challenging one, and it will be interesting to see everyone's interpretations," said artist Allegra Sleep via email.

As the project gained ground and evolved into deeper realizations of truth and peace, humor and hope surfaced throughout the work, she continued, noting with optimism that we can reclaim our identities and move forward with grace.

"LOVE and #metoo" is an important and challenging exhibition, but its common voices lift up the possibility of change and forgiveness, and gives us faith we can look to the future with clearer eyes and lighter hearts. And, yes, on Valentine's Day there is still room for romance.

In addition to the aforementioned artists, others participating in this exhibit include Carlos Barela, Francisco Benitez, Deborah Rael Buckley, Jeff Cochran, Bill Davis, Bill Gersh, Alexandra Grajed, Randall La Gro, Lyla June Johnston, Kent Allen Jones, Anderson Kee, Joel Larson, Josi Lenwell, Gabriella Leger-Lovato, Cruz Lopez, Ana Magruder, Pat McCabe, Christa Marquez, Roger Martínez, Toby Morfin, Isabel O'Hare, Sharon Dry Flower Reyna, Anita Rodríguez, Nathan Rozmuski, Anais Rumfelt, Rose B. Simpson, Robbie Steinbach, John Suazo, Isiah Trujillo, Jake Valentine and Linda Jasper Vogel.

"LOVE and #metoo" will be available for viewing through March 31. Studio 107B is located on historic Taos Plaza, at 107B North Plaza. For more information, call (575) 779-7832 or email studio107bgallery@gmail.com.

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