#girlgaze: UNCENSORED at Subliminal Projects
By Sara Fortson
The art world, just like the world in general, is exceptionally male dominated. There may not be more men in the world as far as numbers, but their presence in the workplace and the media is ever present. In 2017 women have found that we have not come as far as we had hoped since we began fighting for our rights in the early 1900s and the 1960s in regards to our rights, our bodies, and our careers. Amanda de Cadenet curated the recently closed #girlgaze: UCENSORED at Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects gallery as a response to the ongoing censoring of women’s minds and bodies, and the results are startling, beautiful, and thought provoking.
Upon entrance to the exhibition, each visitor is confronted with a large photograph of topless women protesting and one with “puta” painted on her chest. The photograph, by Flora Negri called “Marcha das Vadias” which means “SlutWalk” is mesmerizing and intimidating, sending a powerful message of what the rest of the exhibition holds. Not all photographs in the space are as confrontational, but are no less visceral. There are some poignant photographs of women bearing their scars and a series of photos of transsexual prostitutes. These photos offer an intimate look into lives that are so mysterious and often misunderstood and depict them with dignity and grace.
The exhibit features all female photographers, which includes, importantly, photographers that identify as female. The term “girl gaze” is used in a way that showcases how women see themselves, and now how men see women. Historically in art, women are shown nude and sensual and delicate; they are painted and photographed by men from a male perspective. But these photographs show women as they are and how they view themselves. We are shown menstruation, aging, and transitioning all from the “girl gaze.”
The artists were chosen via Instagram using the hashtag #girlgaze. There were nearly three million entries and among the chosen few were Sarah Eiseman and her portrait of a woman wearing only white underwear hanging backwards from a roof railing. The photograph is dreamy but melancholy, and unexpected among a lot of the other photographs in the exhibit. Some of the works exhibited in #girlgaze not only show the physical side of being and identifying as a woman, but they also explore depression, anxiety and loneliness from a woman’s perspective.
This contemplative and thoughtful exhibition of photographs from young female identifying photographers is the light the world needs right now. #girlgaze: UNCENSORED used social media to discover new talent and promote visibility of marginalized groups of people and did so in a way that was new and interesting and most importantly, tasteful while also being provocative. It is shocking, but aims to remove that shock and to normalize completely natural parts of being a female and identifying as female.