Exhibition Title: NXT GEN FEM

In our day, 5th Wave Feminism isn’t something on the horizon, it’s here! In popular culture people have come to associate it with the #metoo movement, but the proliferation of Cyber-feminisms, Xeno feminisms, Glitch feminisms and many more movements that attests to a sea change in how we think about digital feminisms in the twenty-first century. Taken together, these movements constitute something of shared set of concerns that about the process of enculturation, exploitation and the power of the internet to connect women’s struggles from around the world. With this in mind, the artists in this exhibition have each expressed a long term commitment to the rigorously critique of stereotypes and especially the hegemonic influence of western media, advertising and imagery from the point of speculative futures. 

In comparison with previous waves, the driving force behind “The New Feminism” has shifted toward making direct interventions in how patriarchal power is exercised within the broader set of practices and institutions that influence the lives of women today. Moving within this greatly expanded scope of concerns, the artists in this exhibition seek to address how patriarchy instantiates itself from the earliest moments of childhood up to, and including, the greater set of symbolic commitments that are levied on women over the course of their lives. It is this through-line of critique, which extends from birthing practices to childhood expectations, from storybook endings to boy-band obsessions, from beautification rituals to familial expectations, that allow 5thWave Feminists to question how we think about what it means to be and become a women in the early twenty-first century, but also, what it might mean for generations to come. 

From this perspective, 5th Wave Feminism constitutes the exercise of a real politik that draws on intersectional concerns about the body, diverse forms of representation and a greatly expanded definition of what being a women might or can mean. While 5th Wave Feminism started as an Ibero-American movement in the 90s that sought to redress many of the misgivings of feminism in Northern America and other western countries, it has gone global over the course of the last three decades as women from different cultures and backgrounds connect to form coalitions of resistance, revolt and revolution. In this regard, 5th Wave Feminism moves beyond performativity to further the work that generations of women have hoped for, fought for and struggled for from different backgrounds, heritages and traditions. In this regard, 5th wave feminism is also synonymous with the rise of global feminisms that are working toward the liberation and empowerment of women in every sphere of life.

Artists in the Exhibition: Merryn Alaka, Sammie Aasen, Malena Barnhart, Antoinette Cauley, Steffi Faircloth,Sam Frezquez, Hilary Harp, Megan Koth, Lisa Von Hoffner, Carolyn Lavendar, Melissa Sclafani and Forrest Solis. Sarah Wiecki, Maya Guterriez, Madison Stratford.

Merryn Alaka:

Merryn Alaka’s projects speak about the racial, economic and gendered disparities that exist in American today. Works like I Ain’t Your Mixed Baby Fetish, Lookin’ Snatched! and Lead with Your Looks all comment on the expectations and prejudices that BIPOC people encounter in everyday life while the Mama Benz Collection of prints speaks to the hidden play of power and corporate influence in our cultural institutions. Alaka also makes works about her Yoruba/American heritage using textiles, craft and other traditional materials in order to make us ask questions the histories that we’ve been told and how they continue to influence our perception of the present. Also known as a constant collaborator and a curator, Alaka has organized exhibitions like Americana, Oracles of the Other and In Memory, the last of which is a public monument to the more than 300 black lives that were lost between 1998-2020. Working with Sam Fresquez she has made large scale installations like It’s Mine, I Bought it and Things We Carry, which use hair and other forms of ornamentation to chronicle the complexities behind appearance and its consequences. 


Sammie Aasen:

The varied projects of Sammie Aasen look at the process of female subjectivization through fictional characters, parody and playfulness but always with a critical edge. Her invention of the character “Glitter Baby” is often used in service of enacting the affect of feminine expectation, and her Vagazzel series comments on the absurdist element of feminine adornment and hyper-sexualization. Her most recent series of candidate portraits of sex workers lets us peak into the world where masculine desire is produced as both a literal and figurative set of symbolic investitures. 


Malena Barnhart:

The works of Malena Barnhart have rigorously interrogated the means and the memes that constitute the earliest instances of ‘girl’ culture that one might encounter in life. Her methods for deconstructing the process of feminine subjectivation are at the very front of 5th Wave concerns by opening up, and looking through the kinds of culture artifacts that are levied on women in terms of expectation, self-image and self-worth. Barnhart’s imagery rigorously critiques the infantilizing impulses that are produced and reproduced over and over again as part of the feminine cultural imaginary well into adulthood and beyond.


Antoinette Cauley:

Antoinette Cauley’s work presents us with a direct and uncompromising vision about the process of enculturation for black children today. Focusing on the tropes associated with gangster culture but displacing them onto the projected personas of children, Cauley’s work presents us with important questions about how we represent the values of the present, and how they can become projections that we may end up living out in the future. By superimposing two overlapping symbolic worlds in one and the same image, often with a hint of humor and irony, Cauley’s work makes us think more deeply about the saturated effects of the media, the cult of celebrity, and the types of enculturation that have become normative expectations today.


Sam Fresquez:

The work of Sam Fresquez examine issues of translation, heritage and queerness in Latinx culture today. By allowing the personal to become political, Fresquez has connected the worlds of poetry, mourning, crisis and relationships through the use of allegory and objecthood. Words become sculptures, pictures are joined with audio and functional items become sites of inscription and adornment that help us to connect different worlds of experience. A frequent collaborator with Merryn Alaka on projects about presentment – or really, about how we “present” in public spaces – Frezquez has used tasseles, hair and spices to make us more aware of how cultural prejudices can be transformed into positive expressions of heritage, even when that sense of heritage is being questioned, transformed, or adopts a position that is fluid and in flux. Her most recent work, The Meet Cute, takes a look at the cinematic tropes of couples meeting, where visual ques are displaced by queering the act of flirting, ultimately displacing heteronormative expectations with touch of levity and comedic timing.


Hilary Harp:

The works of Hilary Harp help us to reconfigure the place of the cultural imaginary as being more inclusive of desire and difference. Her images address the making and the unmaking of the libidinal world by creating new narratives about sexual identification, narrativization and intersubjective relations. Through critical strategies of camp, parody and pastiche, Harp’s works make a space for rethinking the process of enculturation by moving beyond the confines of normativity, offering an expanded horizon for self-stylization, self-realization and new modes of being.



Lisa Von Hoffner:

Lisa Von Hoffner’s work examines how women are depicted both in the digital age as well as throughout art history. Her aesthetic is one that samples, DJ’s and remixes the notion of the feminine as an abstract property and as a subject that is in perpetual flux. Her more recent series show us how the feminine has become part of the virtual, and that this space offers both a place of confinement and possible liberation. Von Hoffner’s works marshals the full spectrum of affective qualities as a way to highlight the figure as well as to underscore how images of women have been so quickly and easily subsumed by the digital medium. In so doing, her works return her subjects to a sense of singular presence without the conscriptions of patriarchal re-appropriation. 


Megan Koth:

Megan Koth’s work looks at the ritual aspects that are associated with womanhood, and the rituals of beauty and beauty standards in particular. Only in Koth’s hands the notion of “beautification” is examined by picturing the before and after of society’s projections. In her work the play of self-creation and self-othering act as a never ending feedback loop in the process of subjectivation. This critical perspective confronts both feminine denaturalization and the double-standards of self-presentation by underscoring the uncanny, dark and demonstrative aspects that issue from the industrialization of beautification. 


Carolyn Lavender:

Carolyn Lavender’s work transverses the political, the personal and the world of nature. Whether challenging how we think about representative politics through icons and anthropocentricism, documenting the nature/culture divide in her Journal Series or speaking about explicitly gendered injunctions in works like No, I will Not Get Over It, and Sometimes I Wait on My Husband, Usually I don’t, allows Lavender’s work to highlight how patriarchal structures divide and displace us from engaging with each other and the world around us in a deeper, and more meaningful way. Lavender’s Animal/Nature series underscores how we make trophies and souvenir’s, from mounted heads on the wall to minor trophies that caricature the lives of living species by making them into kitschy collectables. Even Lavender’s prints help us to map the world around us, speaking to the function of abstraction in how we cognize relationships both near and far. 


Forrest Solis:

The works of Forrest Solis examines some of the most pressing questions of enculturation and women’s health both today and over the course of the twentieth century. Solis has remade famous works from art history but changed both the subject and the gaze to denature patriarchal assumptions. She has critiqued modern presuppositions about how to raise women in her series “Lessons” and made self-reflection about the inverse roles that men and women are supposed to play in society the central concern of her self-portrait series like Looking-Glass Self as well as in her allegorical drawings. Most recently she has made work that deals explicitly with the experience of labor and the treatment of women in the health care system including founding Creative Push, a multi-media art and oral history project about birth and birthing stories.


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