Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

Then She Did: I Didn’t Know an Art Exhibition With Female Artists was a What the Fuck Moment Anymore

Janette Beckman, “Roxanne Shante” and “Tommy Genesis”

Currently on view at the sprawling Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City is Then She Did, a group exhibition curated by Melissa McCaig-Welles and myself, (Lori Zimmer) which runs through April 7. The exhibition features 23 artists, with works ranging from delicate collage to massive paintings that reach toward the 20 foot ceilings. There is nothing particularly controversial on view; no violence, no likenesses of 45, no political satire. There are some images of nude bodies, but in my experience I’ve rarely heard anyone complain about boobs. Yet for some reason this show, and our subsequent booth at SCOPE featuring one of the artists from this show- Joanne Leah, is the first show that I’ve received such negative backlash against. Why? Because all of the artists are women? I didn’t really want to believe that was the case in 2018 New York City, but it’s looking that way.

Allison Sommers, “Altarpiece III”

Yes, we have received praise for the exhibition, which I half-expected in what I thought was our progressive and cultural bubble that is the New York art world. But what has shocked me more than boobs shock a conservative is the outright hatred and upset over these images. Having followed the art world for a long time, I truly understand images and paintings that shocked- Ofili’s The Holy Virgin, Serrano’s Piss Christ , etc. I may not agree with the backlash, but I get a semblance of WHY the upset, (actually until now I hadn’t thought about how both have religious connotations, which I know is always a sore thumb to religious zealots). But what I considered to be a great show but not “edgy,” has truly sent me into a world of confusion.

Swoon, “Yaya”

Firstly, as I have shared on social media, were the odd questions asked about Then She Did , “Do you think female artists getting shows is a trend?” “ Will the gender-specific trend continue after Trump is out of office?” “Why did you have a show with just all women in it?” The imbalance of the art world has echoed in my ears every day since our little show opened. Then came in the hate, one such gem as follows

Vahge, “Hatchling”

What a fucking joke… woman destroying themselves from within… homeless families rebuilding their broken lives…. maybe your life should not be broken in the first place…. ever think of that. Empowerment is about knowing before you need to know. Not about some dumbass, bullshit feminist, post Marxist shitstain response.

Learn how to navigate the territory before you blame the world for your dismal prospects at creating meaningful art…which you have not here”

Followed by

“See what I mean… blame the message and messenger and learn nothing from the words… men build and rebuild the world... women respond, usually with blame. I am not the one sending out my identity politics to a mass mailing, projecting about how empowered I am. That would be you. And last time i checked, criticism was a part of public art presentation. And it is obvious you dont know what i mean… that is the point.”

Like, for reals?????

Joanne Leah, “Reproduction of the Mouth”

Then, came the art fair, SCOPE, in which we showed some of Joanne Leah’s pieces from the show, absolutely gorgeous, lurid images of the human form, which really got me excited about photography again for the first time in years (once upon a time I got a BS in photography). You can see the images for yourself below, but the general reaction was as if we were showing graphic beastieality. “EW” “WHY are you showing women like that?!””NO” or my favorite, a wiping of the hand coupled with “I HATE ALL OF THIS.”

Joanne Leah, “Drum Sticks”

Joanne Leah, “Everything is Still in Motion”

Joanne Leah, “Universal Symbol for Something”

Um. What? What year is this? What city is this? New Yorkers are rude, but this is a bit of new territory for me. I moved to New York because anything goes-or went. Blowjobs on the dance floor at AREA at Don Hill’s, dinners served on nude bodies at restaurants, art exhibitions encompassing sex or cum or shit, not to mention human shit on more occasions than I care to admit (the street, many a subway car, the entire bathroom at Botanica, on my friend’s stairs into her apartment….the list goes on)- I’m only scratching the surface but my point is NOTHING surprises me here and I loved it for this very reason. So, getting these sort of comments, in New York, is so totally confusing to me that I’m not sure what to do. Are we “normaling” so hard that we can’t handle it anymore? Has extreme misogyny permeated Ye Olde Eccentric New York? What the fuck is going on? And what do we do about it?

Seriously. I’d like to know.



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