How perfect is it that my first night on a Friday without baby is to an art exhibition at Homewood Studios entitled "Women: Relationship and Identity"?
Venturing out in the early evening snowfall I made my way over to North Minneapolis, which is not an easy feat these days as all but one bridge that crosses the river from Northeast Minneapolis are closed. I put my Jeep into 4-wheel drive and navigated my way to the gallery. It was worth every effort it took to get there as the Art Exhibition was wonderful and Homewood Studios turned out to be this lovely, shining place on a dark little corner of Plymouth Avenue.
I am definitely in that phase of life where my identity is radically changing. I am a new mother, I am turning 40 this year, I left academia to pursue something else with the sneaking suspicion that the something else might actually be "art."
With the intent to demonstrate more than just simple statements about women's identity, the exhibition's curator Sarah Rust Sampedro presents a "visual conversation about the role relationships play in the identity of women." She goes on to state that women are the "relational gender" which I took to mean that relationships play a fundamental part in decisions made by women, in the paths that women dare to tread, in the battles that women choose to engage, the joys that they seek, and the art they choose to create.
The exhibition presented pieces from many local artists as well as some from women across the country. There was a variety of mediums including textile, photography and paint. And...um...hair curlers. Yes, I did look very closely in this piece and discovered hair amongst these curlers which made me smile. What a way to re-use and re-purpose! This piece was created by Elizabeth Lundberg Morisette who resides in Fort Collins, Co (which is also the location of the Fat Tire Brewery, just in case you wanted to know where that awesome beer comes from!). The piece is called "Beauty School Dropout." It was one of the first I saw as I entered Homewood Studios and a result that song from Grease was in my head for a large part of the evening.
KimyiBo created this textile piece and declared it to be "Hope." She is the local artist and mother who invited me to this exhibit. I wish my photo was better so that the colors of this stunning piece were vibrant and visible. In her artist statement, she says "Identity is the result of a struggle to achieve balance between inner self and the world." Her piece demonstrated the fractured, yet harmonious nature of women's identity through this chaos of color and geometric structures.
"A Kiss on the Cheek Can Be a Stab in the Back." Who hasn't experienced this sort of kiss? Jasmine King is a local artist and her piece is from a larger series called "21," which were created at the young age of 21. Damn. It was profound, not only in content but also to think she had such wisdom at such a young age. And the ability to capture the sentiment with such precision.
Sampedro's arrangement of this piece in particular was brilliant. Placed at the end of a long hallway, the painting drew you along and raised curiosity. No problem if you go straight to it as King's art is undeniably compelling. You must walk back through the hallway to get out, so there is time to focus on all the pieces that you may have passed to get to King's.
Like this one entitled "Internal/External."
Danielle Kutscheid pulls together graphite, paper, thread and linen into her artwork. I was drawn to this one, but it still took me a few moments to realize that the subject was breastfeeding.
An alternative title for this post is...Why do I see references to breastfeeding everywhere?
It is because I am a woman, a nursing mother, a resident of Minnesota where breastfeeding is protected by law, and because my instincts and vision are driven by the major changes brought into my life when I gave birth to the Baby Lotus Bud. I know that all these factors have contributed to my identity, my relationship to those around me and the interactions I have with the surrounding community. Or it could just be that I am part of a community of new mothers who all seem to bare their breast in public. Which by the way brings about a whole new relationship between my body and society.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about this evening was the opportunity to hang out with other women of color, other mothers of color. This is important to me. While I am part of a fantastic community of Minneapolis Mamas, I crave sharing my motherhood experience with other women of color. The experience raises my comfort level when breastfeeding in public.
Growing up as an South Asian American in Minnesota, I was constantly under the gaze of the majority White community around me. At times this gaze made me very uncomfortable. A bared breast causes stares in public, understandably so. As a nursing mother, my relationship to this community has changed. Because breastfeeding is a right protected by law in Minnesota, I take this to bolster my strength and will in providing the necessary nutrition for my baby anywhere and everywhere that it is needed.
The ways and means in which women carry this off - breastfeeding in public - is itself a beautiful art form.
The exhibition "Women: Relationship and Identity" runs from January 14-29 at Homewood Studios. Go check it out. And if you've got one, bring your baby along and breastfeed while you are there. Contact me if you want some company!
My thanks to George and Sarah for allowing me to photograph this amazing art!