A New Change on the Horizon: Representation in Art Galleries

Raise your hand if you have ever been on an artwalk. Good. Now tell me: why are trans and queer artist of color, people with no BA’s, and people with disabilities left out of the picture, or not pushed to the forefront? Because the gallery owners are either rich, white, or male. Here are three galleries that are redefining the art world for the better with owners who are not rich, white, or male.

One of these art galleries is on the other side of the world, in the thriving metropolis of London. The gallery is called Sid Motion, which is also the name of the gallery owner and curator. The gallery opened up back in June 2016 with the intent “to bring a range of fresh vibrant artists working in different media to this new gallery space” as stated on the gallery’s website. For example, for her opening show she chose to exhibit a group of unsigned artists in the UK who work in various mediums. Her shows range from solo shows to two-­woman show and group shows. She presents a  spectrum of artists from the established artists to lesser­ known and difficult-­to­-track­-down artists. These exhibitions “aim to introduce a forum for conversation, education and development.”

Back on the West Cost, there is the Ori Gallery that “seeks to reclaim and redefine ‘the white cube’ through amplifying the voices of Trans and Queer Artists [sic] of color, community organization and mobilization through the arts”, as stated on the gallery’s website. Co­-directors Maya Vivas (ceramic/performance artist) and Leila Haile (tattooer and community organizer) are not fazed by “limiting” those who can participate in the space. The most marginalized identity is being reflected and, unlike most galleries, they are being direct about it. Since they opened last February the gallery has been seen eight exhibitions that directly connect back to the gallery’s goal. So far, the gallery has done group exhibitions such as Emergent, which featured eleven young queer /trans /artists of color and two­-person exhibitions such as Linoleum Flowers . These exhibitions show the work as is and leave the “diversity representation” behind which connects to one of the gallery’s goals to “hold institutional power.”

Finally, the Wolff Gallery, run by Shannon O’Connor and Zemie Barr (visual artist themselves) seeks to “broaden the Portland art scene by prioritizing the exhibition of work by traditionally underrepresented artists.” These include exhibitions that focus on being “dedicated to a feminist, collaborative organizational model.” This means “rejecting certain things women have been told to believe.” Their grand opening, Now I am Myself exemplified this specifically through five female photographers, and focused on eliminating the male gaze and leaving the viewer with non-sexualized subjects. The five artists used softness and vulnerability in their works to shift the narrative and communicate strength.

As you can see, these newfound galleries challenge the status quo and make the viewer question society as a whole. These types of independent galleries are being brought to the forefront to instill curiosity and thought in this chaotic world. Therefore, the world is in a dawn and it is up to the owners/directors of these galleries to make a difference in society.

Notable Mentions:
Access Gallery
Medium Tings

Works Cited:
Skidmore, Maisie. (2016, October 10) A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an Art Gallery. http://www.anothermag.com/art­photography/9154/a­beginners­guide­to­opening­an­art­gallery

McCann, Fiona. (2018, January 30). A New North Portland Gallery Gives Space to Queer and Trans Artists of Color. https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2018/1/30/ a­new­north­portland­gallery­gives­space­to­queer­and­trans­artists­of­color

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, April 12). Now One Called Koons “Masculinist Art”.
https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/04/12/no­one­called­koons­masculinist­art/

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female Artists. Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female
Artists. https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/09/07/portlands­-newest-­gallery­is-­only-representing­-female­-artists/

Women Taking Down the Street Art Boys Club

Forget Banksy for a second and let’s focus our attention on the women taking on the male dominate world of street art. Here are 5 female street artists making headlines and giving new meaning to street art.

American artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, known for her wheat pasting, is also an activist and humanitarian. Her projects/work include: Konbit Shelter, which helps to rebuild communities in Haiti and the Braddock Tiles project that enables local employment and arts training in North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Shamsia Hassani, who is the first female Afghani graffiti/street artist, is also a associate professor of sculpture at Kabul University. Her art depicts women as “strong, independent figures.” The figures can be seen with musical instruments, inside of which they either play or carry, and which act as a vehicles for self­-expression.

Nina Wright, aka Girl Mobb, who hails from Oakland, California, creates work that expands on the theme of “urban girly grotesque,” where her figures display their hairy legs as they lounge. She has been doing graffiti since she was a teenager in her rural hometown in Ohio. When she moved to Oakland, although she found community through street art, she also found herself as the only female in her crew,  This lead her to create a graffiti camp for girls to hopefully shift the gender imbalance in street art. Her graffiti camp proved such a success when she launched it 2017 she has since been asked to bring the camp to other cities around the country.

Vexta is an artist from Australia whose theme gravitates towards feminine forms that are painted with bright colors. Her thoughts on inequality in the street art world: “Often you’re [sic] doing a project there’ll be the inclusion of one girl. Or people go to the other extreme and make it all girls. There’s no middle ground, which to me highlights the inequality.”

As you can see, many of these artists focus on inequality in the art field and society. These artists want to be considered on the basis of their works alone, and not their gender, for this to happen there needs to be a change.

Other notable mentions:
ELLE
Bambi
Lady Pink
Clare Rojas
Maya H
Olek
Lady Aiko


Work Cited:
Ryzik, Melena. (2014, Aug 6) Life Wonderment: Swoon Blurs the Line Between Art and Activism. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/arts/design/swoon­-blurs­-The­-line­-between­-art­-and­-activism.html

Burke, Sarah. (2017, Aug 14) Dismantling the Street Art Boys Club at an All ­ Girls Graffiti Camp. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjj5yq/dismantling-­street­-art-patriarchy­-graffiti-­camp­-girls

Henry, Roland. (2015, Jan 7) Meet the woman redefining street art. Retrieved from https://amp.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jan/07/street­-art­women-elle­-swoon­-vexta

Graham ­ Harrison, Emma (2012, Feb 24) Art in the Streets of Kabul. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/24/graffiti­-street­-art­-kabul

Suing Public Art?

Yes, a billboard company actually sued the city of Portland back in 1998. In order to understand the law before 1998, one has to understand that in 1986, Portland exempted murals from billboard advertising restrictions. This meant that the murals were not regulated as signs and were seen as art. The reason why Clear Channel Communications (Portland’s largest billboard company) sued the city was because content-based regulation of speech was unconstitutional. With this change in law, it made murals almost impossible.

Fast forward to 2004, the city’s mural sign codes were being challenged by Joe Cotter and other artists. The result of this fight was the Public Art Murals Program that is administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. At the time, Clear Channel took the city back to court and argued that the program was unconstitutional. This unfortunately brought it back to the previous court ruling.

In 2009, the court ruled that murals exist as an art form. With a new mural policy in place all a muralist needs to do is pay $250 for a city permit or go through the RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council), get permission from a building owner and notify the neighbors. Murals may be dropped from the sign codes, but still have regulations and have to meet certain requirements.

Work Cited:
Hu,Ev. (2009,July 16) Muralists ready to tackle the
big picture. Retrieved from
https​ ://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/200
9/07/muralists_ready_to_tackle_the.html
Jenniges,Amy. (2005,December 29) Standing Up for Art: Mural Painter Intervenes in Clear
​ Channel Lawsuit. Retrieved from
https://www.portlandmercury.com/news/standing-up-for-art/Content?oid=35807