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Public Art Celebrates the Female Gaze Amidst Male-Dominated Architecture

Public Art Celebrates the Female Gaze Amidst Male-Dominated Architecture

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Installation shot. “Through the Eyes of Her.” Courtesy of NYC Culture Club.

A public art exhibition nestled in between architectural giants, north of the Oculus and east of the Perelman Performing Arts Center on Greenwich Street, celebrates female artistic practice, the female gaze, and welcomes viewers to see the world through “her eyes.” Curated by the artist Chellis Baird the exhibition features work by sixteen artists, mostly painters, Nola Ayoola, Tirtzah Bassel, Layo Bright, Hedwig Brouckaert, Hope Buzzelli, Anna Camner, Michele Oka Doner, Dana James, Tamara Kostianovsky, Jessica Frances Gregoire Lancaster, Anastasia Lopoukhine, Amethyst Monet, Michaela Roman, Rachel Rubenstein, Naomi Safran-Hon and Vadis Turner, Co-organized by NYC Culture Club and Port Authority NY & NJ the engaging open-art exhibit commemorates Women’s History Month.

Anastasia Lopoukhine
Anastasia Lopoukhine. “Reflection on Reflection,” 2023. Pen and ink on paper. 12 x 18 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Public art comes in many different forms. “Through the Eyes of Her” presents reproductions of works framed and displayed on modular interlocking metal grid panels on wheels, similar to a wall. At once it references the ‘white box’ format, the white walls of a gallery, however, in this case, each work hangs on its panel and the panels are irregular. Some face each other, creating moments of intimacy with the work, while others face outward, readily welcoming the glances of by-passers. Anastasia Lopoukhine’s drawing Reflection on Reflection (2023) is installed on the short end of the set-up, facing outward The viewer sees the back of a woman, a modern-day Medusa according to the artist, and her reflection in a mirror. Its background creates a trompe l’oeil effect, incorporating a grid structure that resembles the metal stand. “A happy coincidence,” the artist said to Cultbytes, she continues “the drawing was not done specifically for the show, but its musing upon the danger and importance of the female gaze in today’s society seemed to go very well with the show’s title.

Lopoukhine worked on the piece while in Venice in November, when the entire city was flooded meditating on the reflections in the water “that provide an unusual perspective on the town and its inhabitants,” she says. The grid in her drawing represents the city. In Greek mythology, Medusa was cursed to turn anyone who looked her in the eye to stone; like Medusa, it seems that humans are cursed unintentionally wreaking havoc on the environment. Fittingly Lopoukhine’s work speaks to our bodily engagement with the built environment, and how it is affected by nature.

Dana James and Hedwig Brouckaert in “Through the Eyes of Her.” Courtesy of NYC Culture Club.

“I wanted to include work that spoke to the highly trafficked space populated by transient tourists and New Yorkers commuting to work,” says the exhibition curator Baird. A direct reference to walking is Michela Roman’s sculpture of a foot. And, as a link to another transit hub, Baird included a close-up of the floor on an installation of Michele Oka Doner for the Miami Port. Other works reference the natural landscape, a bird by Tamara Kostianovsky, and Hope Buzzelli’s underwater landscape. The reproduction format allows for unusual curatorial decisions, such as displaying detail shots, Kostiansky’s image is a detail shot of a collage made from discarded textiles that the artist has mounted on wood. Kostiansky shows with SLAG RX Gallery who also exhibit Baird’s work. Dana James, represented by Hollis Taggart, work Dancing in Pantone (2023) presents an energetic abstract interplay of colors—hues of red and a neon orange.

Baird, who is an artist in her own right, says: “As an artist, I emphasize the importance of challenging personal viewpoints and embracing collaboration beyond individual artistic endeavors.” Her sculptural fiber works are paintings deconstructed; the ‘canvas’ is tightly bound, pushing through its stretchers, protruding off the wall. Or, as Annabel Keenan wrote, reviewing Baird’s recent solo show at the National Arts Club, they “defy classification.” Baird has curated several exhibitions and collaborated on duo shows with artists like Jim D’Amato, among others. Her curatorial practice has helped develop her eye while building community, on curating she comments: “Curating for me, presents a unique opportunity to engage with art from a different angle and foster community.”

Centering the viewer, Swedish artist Anna Camner’s work, The Beholder (2024), a darting eye in blue hues, like Lopoukhine’s work, toys with the idea of the gaze. She is also an artist-curator and co-founder of the exhibiting artist collective Black Iris whose members are mostly based in her hometown Stockholm. NYC Culture Club, co-founded by the brothers Parker and Clayton Calvert, a painter and photographer, who serve as co-organizers of the exhibition support artists and curators collaborating and exhibiting at their space on the ground level of the Oculus. Artistic collaboration and female fortitude abounds in Baird’s show.

Further cementing the importance of the exhibition Deputy Commissioner Alton Murray paid it a visit on behalf of the Mayor’s Office in its final week. Art is a pillar of New York’s ethos and it is a nice reminder when public officials show up to show their support and appreciation.

NYC Culture Club
Installation shot. “Through the Eyes of Her.” Courtesy of NYC Culture Club.

More than two decades after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the 16–acre World Trade Center campus has continuously evolved with large-scale architectural projects ranging from Snöhettas 9/11 memorial to Santiago-Calatrava’s Oculus, a civic space, which houses a transportation hub and shopping center to the four World Trade Center towers. Over the years there has been an influx of capital to support architecture projects that create beauty not to forget, but to honor and overcome. The importance of the site and its rebuild—One World Trade Center or The Freedom Tower, a 104-floor skyscraper, is at 1,776 feet the tallest in the Western Hemisphere—is certainly impressive. However, behind the new glass and metal facades and the complex structures they hide the inequity between men and women in the architectural profession is nagging.

Out of 152,775 architects currently working in the United States, a 2023 study says that 23.3% are women, and 76.7% are men. Some firms are better than others, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) responsible for 2 World Trade Center, is famous for hiring many women and having a female CEO and partner, Sheela Maini Søgaard. With thousands having seen the exhibition during March, the sixteen artists in “Through The Eyes of Her” serve as a prescient reminder that the female perspectives are wide-ranging and that all communities, professional and social, benefit from the inclusion of women.

Through the Eyes of Her is viewable 24/7 through March 31st on 2 Greenwich Street, 10006, New York, NY. 

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