The Windgate Art and Design Gallery at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is the first gallery in the state to host the 2016 installment of the Arkansas Women to Watch exhibition, opening today. The exhibit, titled "Organic Matters," features work from four female artists living in Arkansas whose pieces use natural imagery to explore gender and sexuality or abjection in some way.
Courtney Taylor of the Arts & Science Center in Pine Bluff and the guest curator for the exhibit, says the show provides the opportunity to break down barriers related to gender and sexuality and confront the continued inequality in arts professions.
Arkansas Women to Watch 2016:
WHEN — Through Feb. 26; opening reception 5-7 p.m. today
WHERE — Windgate Art & Design Gallery, UAFS in Fort Smith
COST — Free
INFO — 788-7542 or nmwa.org/women-2-watch.
"It's really important in Arkansas and the South for women to have a greater voice [in art] and for women to be leading that conversation," she says. "Art is about having people come together to start conversations about things you might not otherwise talk about. All these pieces have this sort of sinister creepiness to them -- a disturbing element. You can't just have any straightforward enjoyment, it's really complicated."
One such complicated piece is Dawn Holder's forest installation titled, "Once Upon a Time in the Forest of I'm Not Sweet Enough." Created from porcelain and other traditional ceramics materials, the forest also includes chocolate bark on the trees, cotton candy-topped cattails, puddles of melted hard candy and sugar-coated flowers.
"It's very sweet and very alluring -- almost kind of sickly sweet," Holder says. "It's a commentary on gender and the very strong cultural association of the sweetness expected of women, especially in the South. I thought if you could make that into a place, it would be this very sticky forest. It has these fantastical elements, but it's also a little overwhelming, all the sticky sweetness."
Holder says she actually ships a cotton candy machine with instructions to each gallery where the installation will show because of the temporary nature of the pieces involved. The candy and sugar will fill the exhibit space with its sticky scent, but as the exhibit time progresses, the cotton candy will sometimes melt right in front of visitors' eyes. The combination of the sugary materials with the metaphor of a forest and its different "psychological dimensions" make Holder's piece visually alluring but complex and perhaps a little sinister -- which was Taylor's goal for all of the pieces in the exhibition.
"Even though a lot of maybe younger women think we're in a post-gender world where we don't need feminism, I think it's really wonderful there's this initiative of highlighting female artists and celebrating them, because in the art world, it is still very male-dominated," Holder says. "I love that the show travels to a lot of colleges around the state -- to all these students -- so they will see women artists are taking on interesting topics in their work and it's being celebrated. That's a really important message [for them to see]. Just don't stop and you'll make it."
NAN What's Up on 02/12/2016
Print Headline: Almost Sticky Sweet