Posts Tagged ‘female sexuality

15
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency’ at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

Exhibition dates: 19th January – 23rd May, 2021

Artists: Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, Carmen Winant

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Poison, Pesticide & Desperation / A deadly solution for many women' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Poison, Pesticide & Desperation
A deadly solution for many women

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Toxic religion

This is a harrowing exhibition. In reality, in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be, for the problems that it investigates – the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility; the lack of open acknowledgement of pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, and trauma – should no longer exist. Women’s bodies are not vehicles for reproduction as seen through a patriarchal, capitalist lens.

Basically it comes down to two things: men and religion.

Men dominate religious doctrine and government. Religion and governments decide whether abortion is legal or illegal (Poland), whether women are sentenced to years in jail for abortion (El Salvador) or whether a women is handcuffed to a hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion (Brazil). In religious countries untold harm is being done to women in the name of Christ the saviour. What a joker our imaginary friend is. Never will women be seen as equal in the eyes of God for the dogma of teaching denies their humanity. No compassion, no equality, no freedom.

The standout works in this exhibition are the devastating photo-stories of Laia Abril from On Abortion, the first part of her new long-term project, A History of Misogyny; and the surrealist collages of Joanne Leonard taken from Journal of a Miscarriage (1973). I have transcribed the text under Abril’s photographs so you can read the horror which is propagated and reproduced in the name of religion. Dark ages indeed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: The Oral Solution; top right: Deadly Grapevine; bottom left: A Night Outside; bottom second left: Poison, Pesticide & Desperation; bottom third left: Coat Hanger

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
The Oral Solution
Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Coat Hanger' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Coat Hanger
Nd
From History of Misogyny
© Laia Abril

 

 

Laia Abril

“I’m trying to visualise a history of misogyny so we don’t forget what’s in the past and don’t get too comfortable in the present; so we take a look at things that sometimes we don’t want to – in a visual way that doesn’t make you just turn the page but makes you engage somehow and think a little bit.”

Under ‘natural’ circumstances, the average woman would get pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood. For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women die from botched abortions.

Across many countries and religions, millions of women are still denied access to abortion by the law or by social coercion. They are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, even minors and rape victims, and for many the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalised for trying to abort.

On Abortion is the first part of Laia Abril’s new long-term project, A History of Misogyny. The work was first exhibited at Les Rencontres in Arles in 2016 and awarded the Prix de la Photo Madame Figaro and the Fotopress Grant. Abril documents and conceptualises the dangers and damage caused by women’s lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. She draws on the past to highlight the long, continuing erosion of women’s reproductive rights through to the present-day, weaving together questions of ethics and morality, to reveal a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been largely invisible until now.

Laia Abril is a visual artist, photographer and bookmaker from Barcelona. After graduating in Journalism, she enrolled at FABRICA – the Benetton artist residency; where she worked at COLORS Magazine as a creative editor and staff photographer for 5 years. Her projects have been shown throughout Europe, in the United States, and in China and have been published in media worldwide. Her work is held in many private and public collections. Her first book with Dewi Lewis Publishing, the critically acclaimed The Epilogue (2014), was shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First Book Award, Kassel PhotoBook Festival and the Photo España Best Book Award.

Text from the Dewi Lewis Publishing website [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: Sentenced to Decades; bottom left: The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage; right: Manuela in El Salvador.

 

Laia Abril. 'Sentenced to Decades' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Sentenced to Decades
Las 17’s court records in the headquarters of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalization of Abortion

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

El Salvador and ‘Las 17’

“Last month in El Salvador, a young woman walked free after nearly a decade behind bars. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana was just 18 when, in 2008, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Her crime? Having a miscarriage.
El Salvador has one of the world’s most draconian abortion statutes. It criminalises abortion on all grounds, including when the mother’s life or health is in danger, and in cases of rape. Women and girls cannot access an abortion even if continuing their pregnancy will kill them, or if their fetuses are not viable.
Those who defy the law and seek unsafe, clandestine abortions face horrifying consequences: The World Health Organization in 2008 reported that 9 percent of maternal deaths in Central America are due to such procedures.”
Erika Guevara-Rosas. “El Salvador and ‘Las 17’,” on the Amnesty International website 3rd March 2015 [Online] Cited 12/05/2021

 

Laia Abril. 'The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Manuela in El Salvador
The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In February 2008, Manuela – an eight-months-pregnant, 33-year-old mother of two – suffered a miscarriage in the outdoor toilet of her home in a rural area of El Salvador. After losing, and then regaining, consciousness, Manuela (not her real name) managed to make it back to her house and ask her parents for help. When she got to the hospital, she was handcuffed to the bed for a week. Authorities suspected that Manuela’s miscarriage was actually “an abortion to hide her infidelity”; her husband had left her seven years prior, and she did not have the financial means to divorce him. During a trial that took place later that year, Manuela’s mother was accused of being an accomplice. Law-enforcement officials also took statements from Manuela’s illiterate father, who ended up signing documents that implicated his daughter. Manuela was condemned to 30 years in prison. Following her death behind bars two years later, in 2010, her family learned that her miscarriage had been the result of undiagnosed lymphatic cancer.

Text under the photograph

 

Laia Abril. 'Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador
Guadalupe, one of the Las 17, was released from prison in February 2015. She had served seven years and three months in prison after a miscarriage resulting from a rape and subsequent pregnancy.

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

I was raped when I was 17, and became pregnant. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide, after losing my baby during an obstetric emergency while working at my employer’s house. My employer would not allow me to go home, and I passed out. I was in my third trimester. I wanted my baby – I don’t know what happened to her. They never returned her body to my family. I served seven years and seven months before I was pardoned. The day I was released was very joyful. It had been a long fight, but my lawyers and family never stopped visiting me. I have a newborn baby daughter and I’m thrilled to be a mum.

Text under the photograph

 

Abortion has been illegal in El Salvador since 1998. This is the case in any and all circumstances, including when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the mother. The extremely conservative politics of the country are due in part to the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts an outsized influence on Salvadoran politics and spearheaded a campaign in the 1990s that led to some of the most draconian laws against reproductive rights in the world.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Neil, 33, Ireland (installation view)
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

(Main photograph)

In 2010, my wife Michelle and I found out we were pregnant. She was over the moon, although I was worries and realistic – she had been fighting cancer since 2001 and was terminal. Unfortunately, her chemotherapy treatment had probably damaged the foetus, before we even knew there was one. Michelle was also unlikely to survive a pregnancy. Her oncologist prescribed an abortion. Michelle did not want to, but we had no other option. To our surprise, Cork University Hospital refused to do it.

(Right top)

The hospital told us that Michelle’s life was not at immediate risk [the only circumstance in which abortion is legal in Ireland]. Her doctor helped us to coordinate a trip to England, where the law is more flexible. Michelle was English, but she had no passport – she had not planned to travel! Waiting for the paperwork took two months, during which she was also denied treatment for her cancer [due to the pregnancy]. The trip itself was a nightmare, she was so sick and heartbroken. We had planned a medical abortion, but the pills didn’t work. In the end, she underwent a surgical procedure, which took a big toll on her health.

(Right bottom)

Michelle became quite active in the media, speaking out against the state. The [Irish government] ended up paying her compensation for the injustice. Before her pregnancy, Michelle had been responding very well to her treatment, and doctors said she could end up living for five more years. She was a very spiritual and optimistic person. But after we cam back from England, she took another scan. Her cancer had become more aggressive and spread to her brain. She died in November 2011.

Text under the three photographs above

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Magdalena, 32, Poland
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Magdalena, 32, Poland (2018)

 

 

(Main photograph)

It was December 17, 2014. I took a pregnancy test and it came out positive. I am gay – I don’t want to talk about how I got pregnant. I don’t know for sure if my grief for the abortion is over, if I left it all behind. I think about it once in a while, and sometimes I cry. Not much, though, and not because I regret it. I don’t. I know I made the right choice, and the only possible one. It was the hardest experience in my life. I am a different person now. And I’m proud of myself.

(Top left)

On a Thursday, I went to see my gynaecologist. She’s a feminist, known for openly pre-choice views. She directed me to a trusted male gynaecologist, who performs ultrasound examinations. She he confirmed the pregnancy, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I am a feminist activist, and I was familiar with the obstacles to abortion in Poland: abortion is illegal except in cases of sexual assault, serious metal deformation, or threat to the mother’s life. I talked to the ultrasound doctor openly. He hesitated at first.

(Top middle)

There is a medicine called Arthrotec: it’s a combination of the drugs Diclofenac and Minoprostol, which are used to treat cateoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You can buy it in the pharmacy with a prescription, and use it to induce miscarriage. Another alternative is to buy abortion pills on the black market, but I don’t trust them – many vendors fake abortion pills that cost a lot and do nothing. So I contacted a colleague who’s a stomatologist and lied that mom need Arthrotec due to back problems. I was lucky. On Sunday, I had the prescription.

(Top right)

On the evening of December 22, 2014, I stayed at my friend Tomo’s. I took my first pull around 10 pm in her kitchen. You take Arthritic in three phases – four pills every three hours, three times. It’s extremely unpleasant. You can’t simply swallow the ill. You have to hold it under your tongue until it melts, then spit out the small part of analgesic Diclofenac. The pills are bitter and your moth gets numb. It rook almost one hour for the first four pills. The bleeding really started two and half hours after the first set.

(Middle left)

I felt cold and freezing. Timo cooked some potatoes and beetroots for me. Also sauerkraut – I remember I had a great craving for that. I needed someone to take care of me, and anyway it’s recommended as a presentation in case of extended bleeding or other problems. It was hard for me to pick a person, but Timo asked no questions, and gave me her full support from the beginning to the very end of this experience.

(Middle centre)

After the pills, I took several showers, and changed my sanitary napkins ofter. We watched Stardust with Claire Dens and Robert De Niro. They always sooth me. i mostly slept thorough the next day and night. But the bleeding didn’t stop. I became a bit worried, so I phone my doctor. It seems I hadn’t fully purged, he said, and advised that I take another set to pills. He also prescribed antibiotics. The second time was a horror. I was literally giving birth. I was exhausted, but even after that, clots of blood remained in my uterus. A procedure called “curettage” would be need to get rid of them.

(Middle right)

I checked into my doctor’s hospital on December 31. He told me exactly what to say: “I’m pregnant. Recently some bleeding has begun. I hope everything is fine, please just check on me.” My doctor and I pretended we didn’t know each other, so other hospital staff wouldn’t get suspicious. The plan was to state that the foetus was dead, which would me the curettage legally. My doctor winked when I was supposed to say “yes” or “no” to the procedure. It was absurd and humiliating at the same time. The curettage was scheduled for the first day of the New Year. Honestly, I didn’t care.

(Bottom left)

The next morning I had the curettage, First anaesthesia in my life. I was numb enough not to feel much fear. I stayed in the hospital until late evening. Another chat with my doctor. I thanked him a lot. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he hadn’t guided, me, advised me. answered my phone calls, then worked out a safe and legal hospital scenario. A lot of things might have happened, but I was lucky. I physically recovered quickly.

(Bottom middle)

But I was traumatised. I remember lying in bed two days before I took pills, with my hand on my belly, thinking that it would nice to able to keep that pregnancy. I cried so much the day I took the pills and told Timo how much I did and did not want to do it at the same time. How much irrational sadness I felt, even though I didn’t want to have a kid, not then, and probably not ever. It was hormones. But it was also something more than that; you can’t really talk about it unless you’ve had the experience yourself. I grieved some time after.

(Bottom right)

Later, I created a private group on Facebook so that women could help each other. exchange addresses and phone number of trusted doctors, and give each other advice. Sometimes a woman contacts me and I give her all the info and contact I have. I feel like that’s the least I can do. I still have a few mementos related to my abortion, including an ultrasound photo of the foetus. Sometime I want to throw it away. But I never do.

Text under the photographs

 

Laia Abril. 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018 from the book 'On Abortion'

 

Magdalena, 32, Poland 2018 from the book On Abortion by Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Marta, 29, Poland (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. At centre bottom, An FBI warrant for James Kopp (Nd); at right top, Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner (Nd); right middle, Midwife’s Mugshot (Nd); right bottom, Prisoner #5603 Dr. William H. Johnson

 

 

Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner

In 1941, Dr. Fenner was charged with feticide and sentenced to 16 months of hard labor in Nebraska. The doctor denied that he had performed the alleged abortion but admitted that he had performed ‘curettage” on a female patient. He claimed that his patient would have died due to inflammation otherwise.

Midwife’s Mugshot

Brazilian midwife Maria Berlimont practiced medicine without a licence and was accused of providing abortions illegally. “Dessie [current] public condemnation of both women and providers, law enforcement more often goes after the abortion provider. Police action and the media reports focus on illegal clinics while remaining silent on the women who seek out illegal abortion services.”

Prisoner #5603: Dr. William H. Johnson

In May 1910, doctor William H. Johnson of Nebraska was found guilt of having performed an illegal abortion resulting in the death of sixteen-year-old Amanda mueller. He was sentenced to two years of hard labor. Johnson was paroled on April 14, 1911, pardoned by the governor, and discharged on April 25.

 

Laia Abril. 'An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998
Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Telephone – Voice mail, Florida Abortion Clinic (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence

 

Laia Abril. 'Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence, by Laia Abril, referring to the case of a woman in Brazil who was handcuffed to her hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion

This time, the found material and loaded objects – from an operating chair to a tangled heap of coathangers – make the testimonies all the more stark. One of the most resonant images is a staged photograph of a pair of handcuffs hanging from the rail of a hospital bed. It is titled Hippocratic Betrayal and refers to the case of a 19-year-old woman from São Paulo, who was taken to hospital with severe abdominal pains after ingesting abortion pills. After treating her, the doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the foetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed and freed only after agreeing to pay £200 bail. Denunciation by doctors is common in Brazil, Peru and El Salvador.

“There are so many stories,” says Abril, “and it was important to find ways of telling them visually. The image of the handcuffs is a reconstruction because, of course, I was not present. No one was. The stories are true, the research is journalistic, the imagery is sometimes imaginative and sometimes documentary.”

Sean O’Hagan. “‘I’ve seen horrible things’: photographer Laia Abril on her history of misogyny,” on the Guardian website Wed 20 July 2016 [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing photographs from Laia Abril’s On Abortion (2018) with at second left, Soap and Enema Syringes

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and Enema Syringes' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and Enema Syringes
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In the picture a set of household abortion tools. In places where abortion is illegal, certain medical instruments can be a giveaway. For this reason, specific supplies have rarely been developed or sold for this procedure. Instead, doctors, back-street abortionists and pregnant women turn to common household tools: knitting needles, wire clothes hangers, urinary catheters and a wide variety of other objects long enough to reach into the uterus.

In the history of coercive reproduction, before the legalisation of abortion – and currently in the countries which remains illegal; was dominated for centuries by restrictive laws, based on demographic and religious agendas. Due the lack of alternatives, women was forced to apply dangerous methods for termination of her pregnancy, facing serious physical damage or even death. Both safe and very effective methods were only developed as of the middle of the last century.  The lives and the survival rate of women have thereby greatly improved.

Museum of contraception and Abortion, Vienna, Austria, 2015. Laia Abril.

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The term “reproductive” is twofold. It implies the characteristics of a photograph, bringing attention to a notable lack of visual representation of the experiences of the female body. Additionally, the term is a reference to a common patriarchal, capitalist view of women’s bodies as vehicles for reproduction. This exhibition aims to add visual presence and a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of female rights and freedoms in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency from January 19 – May 23, 2021. The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organised by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.

With works ranging from photography to video installations, the exhibition includes work by artists Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner, Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, and Carmen Winant. This exhibition seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of reproductive rights in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

Works on view cover a range of issues all linking back to the theme of reproductive justice. Highlights include Candice Breitz’s installation Labour (2017-ongoing), which probes the many meanings of the word “labour” in terms of capitalism, from the act of giving birth to the labour that is inherent in mothering and nurturing a child, as well as the domestic labor that has historically been assigned to women.

Artists Carmen Winant and Elinor Carucci both explore female sexuality, implicitly and explicitly critiquing the patriarchal gaze at different stages of female life and fertility. Winant’s photographic assemblage of female sexuality in History of My Pleasure (2019-2020) highlights the agency of the libidinous female body, while Carucci explores sensuality and pleasure after menopause, emphasising imagery that is seldom made visible within art history and popular culture.

Other works on view highlight the often-invisible struggles of the reproductive body, including Under the Knife (2018), a project created by Chicago-based artist Krista Franklin, which intimately details the artist’s long struggle with uterine fibroids, a condition that can cause infertility and disproportionately affects Black women. Joanne Leonard explores a different kind of trauma in her Journal of a Miscarriage series (1973), a series of collages that grapple with the loss of her first pregnancy to miscarriage.

Taking a historical approach to understanding the contemporary state of reproductive healthcare, Laia Abril investigates the history of birth control and the subsequent consequences of restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion, while Doreen Garner hauntingly pays tribute to Black women who were subject to torture in the name of medical research. Looking closely at the contemporary moment from an LGBTQ+ perspective, Candy Guinea depicts the artist’s journey with her partner as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

The exhibition’s title, Reproductive, refers to both the act of copying something, like a photograph, and the biological creation of offspring. Additionally, the active tense of the verb “to reproduce” points to the capacity that these artists are at once demonstrating and demanding agency.

“The artists featured in this exhibition create space for themselves – and for others – to claim their power,” said exhibition curators Karen Irvine and Kristin Taylor, “revolutionising the prevailing sense of what it means for a woman to be (re)productive.”

Press release from the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Candy Guinea. 'Still from Mariposa' 2017

 

Candy Guinea (American, b. 1984)
Still from Mariposa
2017
Single-channel video, looped
17 minutes
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

This short film convos the family story of Candy Guinea and her partner Castro as they move through the heteronormative childbirth industry. Guinea documents their journey as a queer, Latinx couple as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, navigating numerous trials and errors with the process, and considering the larger emotional and social realities of those who undergo this often-arduous form of conception. As the film progresses, we follow the couple as they attempt to find gender-neutral maternity clothing, as well as LGBTQ+ friendly prenatal care, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing work by Joanne Leonard

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing three works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion), from Journal of miscarriage 1973; at centre, Tears, November 28, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion) (installation view)
1973
From Journal of a miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

 

Gerri Santoro

Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro (née Twerdy; August 16, 1935 – June 8, 1964) was an American woman who died because of an illegal abortion in 1964. A police photograph of her dead body, published in 1973, became a symbol of the abortion-rights movement.

 

Biography

Santoro was raised, along with 14 siblings, on the farm of a Ukrainian-American family in Coventry, Connecticut. She was described by those who knew her as “fun-loving” and “free-spirited”. At age 18 she married Sam Santoro; the couple had two daughters together.

 

Circumstances of death

In 1963, her husband’s domestic abuse prompted Santoro to leave, and she and her daughters returned to her childhood home. She took a job at Mansfield State Training School, where she met another employee, Clyde Dixon. The two began an extramarital affair and Santoro became pregnant.

When Sam Santoro announced he was coming from California to visit his daughters, Gerri Santoro feared for her life. On June 8, 1964, twenty-eight weeks into her pregnancy, she and Dixon checked into the Norwich Motel in Norwich, Connecticut, under aliases. They intended to perform a self-induced abortion, using surgical instruments and information from a textbook which Dixon had obtained from Milton Ray Morgan, a teacher at the Mansfield school. Dixon fled the motel after Santoro began to bleed. She died, and her body was found the following morning by a maid.

Dixon and Morgan were arrested three days later. Dixon was charged with manslaughter and Morgan was charged with conspiring to commit an illegal abortion. Dixon was sentenced to a year and day in prison.

 

Famous photograph

Police took a photograph of Santoro’s body as she was found: naked, kneeling, collapsed upon the floor, with a bloody towel between her legs. The picture was used in placards and famously published in Ms. magazine in April 1973, all without identifying Santoro. The photo has since become an abortion-rights symbol, used to illustrate that access to legal and professionally performed abortion reduces deaths from unsafe abortion.

Leona Gordon, Santoro’s sister, saw the photo in Ms. magazine and recognised the subject. Santoro’s daughters had been told their mother died in a car accident, which they believed until the photo became widely distributed. Of the photo’s publication, Santoro’s daughter, Joannie Santoro-Griffin, was quoted in 1995 as saying, “How dare they flaunt this? How dare they take my beautiful mom and put this in front of the public eye?” In more recent years, Joannie has become an abortion rights activist, attending the March for Women’s Lives in 2004 along with Leona and Joannie’s teenage daughter Tara, and blogging about the memory of her mother.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973
1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973' (installation view)

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973 (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973'

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing two works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Untitled (woman/flower/snail) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Love Letter, November 16, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973,

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (woman/flower/snail) (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at right, Untitled (clam/shell/birth), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at second right, Untitled (Joanne, frog and sperm) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at left Magic Act (with painting my M. Ner) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019) with at left, Winter 2016

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019)

 

Elinor Carucci. 'My Uterus' 2015

 

Elinor Carucci (Israeli-American, b. 1971)
My Uterus
2015
From Midlife 2012-2019
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

The intimate images show Elinor Carucci as she approaches the age of fifty and enters menopause – the last cycle of female fertility. Photographs of attempts to remain psychologically balanced and youthful in appearance are coupled with close-up images of blood – a longtime symbol of fertility and the female body. In one poignant image, the artist’s uterus lies starkly on a medical cart just after a hysterectomy – a powerful metaphor for ageing and the grieving that often accompanies a long life. Also included in the series are images of Carucci’s sexual intimacy with her husband Eran, augmenting her bold look at the physical and mental struggles of losing fertility with a hopeful meditation on the longevity of sensuality, physical pride, and pleasure.

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Krista Franklin (American, b. 1970) 'Self-Portrait in the Aftermath' 2020

 

Krista Franklin
Self-Portrait in the Aftermath
2020
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

(left to right)

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The Success of the Silver Suture: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The First Operation: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Death Would Have Been Preferable: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

 

Carmen Winant (American, b. 1983)
A History of My Pleasure (installation views)
2019-20
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The MoCP is CLOSED when Columbia College Chicago is closed, including all major holidays.

Museum of Contemporary Photography website

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09
Mar
18

Review: ‘Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco’ at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th November 2017 – 12th March 2018

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I’m going through changes' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I’m going through changes
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
200.0 x 180.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo

Meaningless talk or activity / a form of words used by a person performing conjuring tricks.
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment.

 

I have never been convinced by the work Del Kathryn Barton and this medium-sized exhibition at NGV Australia does absolutely nothing to change my mind.

Replete with the artist’s usual cacophony of tits, vulva and penises, the works mine various forms: sculpture, drawing, painting, film and collage; have multiple influences: Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, Barbara Kruger to name a few; and investigate numerous concepts such as the fluidity of gender, the link between human and animal forms, women’s genitalia and the blooming of flowers, the ornate decoration of species, “the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and … Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.” Too much she cried!

Barton has a certain facility in the drawing of line, but this is too often overwhelmed by her inability to let negative space speak for itself. Every work is filled to the brim with vacuous detail, then overlaid with multicoloured polka dots in both collages and paintings (see the detail of her work in the face of cosmic odds, 2016 below), as though this device will tie all the works together. Her signature paintings of women have surface presence, are “just so meticulously attractive”, but absolutely lack what Barton is seeking – “so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses …” I felt nothing of that when looking at these works – no connection to an inner self or ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’.

Barton’s inability to engage the viewer in an intimate dialogue of body and mind can be seen in both text and graphic.

“today my body is feeling love
you fell into my flesh…… and we are fresh…… again
the unflesh are so clean somehow….. and their stirrings inform our smallness….. so that we are still small”

You fell into my flesh and we are fresh again. Please.

Then you look at the line work in volcanic woman (2016, below) as “these women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth,” and note the caricaturesque drawings lack any sense of intimacy or sensuality despite the subject matter. I think about Barton’s hero Louise Bourgeois and her work “10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (2006, below). Both works are displayed in a grid and produced in the same colour but the difference could not be more stark: Bourgeois’ use of negative space, the quiet sensitivity, eroticism and the superb intimacy of the work is the antithesis of Barton’s sexual megalomania. So often in art, less is more but Barton never seems to understand the adage.

To use Christopher Allen’s turn of phrase about the NGV Triennial, Barton’s works are “frenetically busy, but inherently insipid,” despite the overabundance / reliance on the display of sexual organs and excretions. While the artist desperately wants the viewer to be drawn into an intimate embrace with the supposed psychological and spiritual meanings of the work, the lack of emotional, sensual or erotic sensation negates any feeling towards it. Barton’s meaninglessness talk using confusing iconographies lays a surface trap for the viewer, taken in by decoration and sexual abundance. But if you look beyond the psychedelic aesthetic and decorative surfaces it’s just a conjuring trick, ritual representation as pseudo-spiritual experience.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The NGV presents a major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most popular artists, Del Kathryn Barton. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco reveals the artist’s imaginative and deeply sensuous world, where ornately decorated species – both human and animal – are rendered in seductive line and colour. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is a survey of new and recent work by the two times Archibald Portrait Prize winner that reveals the breadth of Barton’s practice. Featuring comprehensive displays of recent paintings and drawings for which she is arguably best known, the exhibition also includes collage, sculpture, textiles and film, all drawn together by the artist’s exuberant and psychedelic aesthetic.

 

 

“The creatures are so gorgeous. They’re just so meticulously attractive, I’m never repulsed. Without the darkness Barton seems to think is there, what is left? Passive psychedelia? I believe Barton feels intensely, but a second-hand trip, like a dream told to a friend, is never as emotional as the teller thinks it is.”

.
Victoria Perrin1

 

“I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.”

.
Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the inside another land series (2017, detail)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

 

In this series of seventy-five montages that combine digital collage with hand painted details, Barton creates post-human visions in which women’s bodies are both human and plant. The Dadaists used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Like the Surrealists, Barton uses collage as a method to critique the illusion of a defined and orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium of these works induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible.

It is widely understood that flowers symbolise female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associative significance in their blooming, which invokes the creation of new life in birth. The history of floral representation strongly binds femininity and flowers, from the Greek nymph Chloris and her Roman counterpart Flora, who oversaw spring and flowers, to Sigmund Freud who was very clear on the matter: ‘Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants’. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
inside another land (details)
2017
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'you’re not a bit ashamed' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
you’re not a bit ashamed
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'to speak of anger, I will take care' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
to speak of anger, I will take care
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work briefly turned into dreams (2016)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'briefly turned into dreams' 2016 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
briefly turned into dreams (detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
come home to me
2014-2017
Gouache and ink on hot pressed paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and A3

 

 

The flexibility of language is revealed in come home to me. Barton loves language but at the same time questions its ability to communicate. The floating words are a strategy for awakening us to the various, infinite and slippery meaning of words. Like poetry, Barton’s fiercely non-didactic texts are open to diverse understandings. There is no wrong or right interpretation of these texts. Without dictating the associations these words create in each of our minds, Barton evokes sensual delights and pleasures of the flesh. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work come home to me (2014-2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
mud monster (details)
2014
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I am flesh again' 2008 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I am flesh again (detail)
2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the photogravure work the stars eat your body (2009) and the bronze up in this (2012) top; and the bronze i can grow you more, drunk on its own nectar (2017) bottom

 

 

Two-time Archibald prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton is being celebrated in the largest ever exhibition of her work to date at NGV Australia. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco features 150 new and recent works by Barton, including her famed kaleidoscopic portraits, a never-before-seen large-scale sculpture in homage to her mother and Barton’s short film RED, starring Australian actress and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’, said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

This show is deeply personal for Barton with the debut of her new sculpture, at the foot of your love, which has been created in response to her mother’s terminal illness. Completed in 2017 and comprised of printed silk and Huon pine, the sculpture is reflective of Barton’s reoccurring themes of motherhood and nature. Featuring a wooden conch shell and an enormous silk ‘handkerchief’, the work is symbolic of Barton’s grief for her own mother.

Comprised of five panels and over 10 metres in length, sing blood-wings sing is Barton’s newest and largest painting to date. The painting features a female-focused reimagining of the 1963 Peter, Paul and Mary coming-of-age song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Barton often listens to the folk tune whilst working in her studio as a symbolic reminder to maintain her childlike curiosity through her artistic practice. Barton’s interpretation of the song and its meaning is depicted by four breasted, rainbow coloured dragons. In her signature style, she blurs human, mythological and animal representations in art, encouraging her audience to see how imagination and desire can test traditional forms.

The exhibition also features Barton’s acclaimed film RED, where Cate Blanchett plays a mother re-enacting the redback spider’s deadly mating ritual, alongside actor Alex Russell, Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap and Barton’s own daughter Arella. In RED Barton conveys the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and encapsulates Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1993. She won her first Archibald prize in 2008 for her self-portrait with her two children and then again in 2013 for her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is one of five solo exhibitions by leading Australian artists for NGV Australia’s 2017-18 summer program. The exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne from 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.

Press release from the NGV

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

sing blood-wings sing (2017)

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'the highway is a disco' 2015

 

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco
2015
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I want to love you' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I want to love you
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

at the foot of your love  (2017) was made by Barton as she prepared for her mother’s death. The fabric represents a handkerchief for the tears of all children who mourn their mother’s departure. The wooden conch shell is envisaged by the artist as a boat on which to sail into the darkness of eternity and ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’. It celebrates home and place, since the Huon Pine tree, from which the work is made, is a precious and endangered timber of Australia, subject to decay. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'of pink planets' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
of pink planets
2014
Collection of Boris Tosic, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

In this work a creature with the head of a wallaby and the tail of a snake looks as though it might suckle from one of the woman’s five breasts. The breast is a dual organ, both of pleasure and sustenance, and multiple breasts suggest abundant life energy. Symbolically, the multi-breasted woman recalls the mythological icon Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility. In some interpretations of the iconography, the nodes on Artemis’s chest are said to be the testes of bulls sacrificed to her. This fluidity of gender, human and animal forms is a strong current in Barton’s art. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'openly song' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
openly song
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'or fall again' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
or fall again
2014
Collection of Leonard Warson, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

The tangled and lush floral decoration of Barton’s paintings recreates the millefleur (1000 flowers) technique of late Middle Ages to early Renaissance tapestries, distinguished by a lack of uniform pattern. The medieval period is sometimes perceived as a time of pagan superstition when the mysteries of nature and humanity were still full of wonder and darkness, and the unknown and unexplained were revered. Barton’s works evoke this period and direct viewers to a mysteriously interconnected world where spirit, psyche, natural cycles and the body are interconnected in intimate, unknowable relationships. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work or fall again (2014)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work in the face of cosmic odds (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'See ya mumma' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
See ya mumma
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
140.0 x 160.0 cm
Collection of Brooke Horne, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'is the energy' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
is the energy
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'girl as sorcerery figure' 2005

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl as sorcerery figure
2005
Collection of Jane Badler, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl #8 (installation view)
2004
Fibre-tipped pen, gouache, watercolour and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Del Kathryn Barton
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006  Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006 Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006

 

Louise Bourgeois
“10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (details)
2006
Etching, ink, watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the volcanic women series 2016-
Photo: © Tom Ross

 

 

‘I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.’

HÉLÈNE CIXOUS, THE LAUGH OF THE MEDUSA (1975)

 

In this new series of works, entitled volcanic women, Barton coaxes and melts women into and out of the Earth’s larval core. Bodies flow from the ground, emerging as hot red lines of ink. These women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth. Barton here celebrates the abundance and generative necessity of women’s desire and sexual vigour. The suppression of women’s sexuality by a culture of fear is melted away in these volcanic works. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'volcanic woman' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
volcanic woman
2016
From the volcanic women series 2016-
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the volcanic woman series (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

 

“The film is split into sections titled MOTHER, FATHER, LIFE, DEATH and DAUGHTER. When it comes time for the father to feature, he is accompanied by a shot of a car revving. When the spider arrives (in a wonderful dance performed by Charmene Yap), she moves in an incredibly enthralling manner, but she’s writhing on a muscle car. The performance of gender isn’t twisted, it moves straight past the iconic and into the parodic. But it’s not supposed to be a parody of the deadly spider that eats its mate, it’s dead serious. Barton has no intimation of the taboo and genuinely titillating danger that Bourgeois could reproduce in spades. Then it hits me, everything in Barton’s world is conventionally beautiful, yet we’re supposed to find it shocking. I don’t see women reflected in her vision of “hyper-women”, I see great beauties, I see movie stars and high-fashion models.”

Victoria Perrin1

 

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
Stills from RED
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

‘Mother of otherness Eat me’

SYLVIA PLATH, POEMS FOR A BIRTHDAY (1960)

 

Sylvia Plath’s words open Barton’s first short film, RED. The human maternal figure at the heart of this work (played by Cate Blanchett) is interchangeable with a red-back spider. Alongside Blanchett, Barton’s daughter, Arella Plater, and actor Alex Russell portray the nuclear family, and Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap is the arching, writhing spider. The film explores women’s desire and maternal experience. In the realm of recent art history, the mother-spider recalls American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s massive, looming arachnids. Bourgeois is one of Barton’s greatest influences and represented spiders in a renowned series begun in 1994 and continued until the end of her life in 2010. Like Plath and Bourgeois before her, in this work Barton has rendered the overwhelming complexities and contradictions of motherhood. (Wall text)

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

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National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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