Naturally, themes in the work presented err towards notions of intimiacy, sexuality and gender, casting hotel rooms as spaces where societal norms are often suspended for hours at a time. The artworks on show are exclusively by female-identifying artists. We caught up with five artists whose work is included in the show to find out what is missing from mainstream depictions of female sexuality. How do you expect or hope that your audience will relate to that experience?
Mainstream depictions of sex often seem to focus on the act itself, rather than any moments immediately before or after. It seems that film especially seems to ignore a key part of the experience. There seems to be an air of transience of temporary space that reflect the theme of the show?
I met a couple in California that lived out of a motel room. They had been living there for months and had made it their home. They brought in their own furniture and put their own art on the walls.
It was pretty cool. I drove by the last time I was in LA but their room was empty. Not sure where they moved to. The objects I present are deeply personal and, unfortunately, politicized. That type of art is important. By stitching still lives, anyone is able to relate to the art and the object. I could have cross-stitched birth control pills and infused my experience in the art, but that would box out others. It creates empathy and understanding in what is a hotly contested and divided human rights issue.
Is embroidery a feminist statement for you? Anything can contain a feminist statement. Embroidery certainly has a long history of pushing motherhood and domesticity on women, and limits their interests to passive and feminine subjects. Young Colonial girls learned how to stitch samplers in school so they could learn to be productive wives and mothers for men.
The samplers presented social sanctioned values, religious beliefs, and rudimentary knowledge—values of what it meant to be a women, a wife, and a mother. However, it excluded the physicality of those roles, which are essential to those identities. My stitching health and family products are my attempt to fix that omission, and to hopefully modernize the practice itself. Had embroidery and other social traditions, honestly, depicted what life is like as a woman, perhaps women would not be fighting for the right to control their body today.
Embroidery is also a wholly corporal artistic practice, which I think enhances the message of my likewise corporal subject. I think we see a lot of overt displays of sexuality or the absence of it.
As curator of the show, what does the concept of a hotel mean to you? I wanted to explore through this exhibit the private scenarios that women experience while staying in hotels. One can imagine anything can and has taken place… it may be mundane, erotic or very dark and dangerous. That endless mystery of what may have taken place in your hotel room is captivating and I wanted to explore that idea in depth with this installation and exhibition, through the experiences specifically of women staying in hotels, and the intimacy and private moments that take place behind closed doors.
Hotel XX is an immersive installation of a hotel which creates the framework for an exhibition of over 20 female artists exploring themes of intimacy, fear and fantasy. I was inspired by the idea a hotel where one could experience vicariously through the artwork the history of the guests that have stayed in the rooms, as if their memories and dreams were left as visual momentos.
When entering the room, each work is its own time capsule of experiences. A lot of artists explored romantic and erotic scenarios, while others touched on themes of violence or the mundane. Every component of the installation is a work of art, including the furniture, the accessories lying about such as cameras and cigarettes many of which are porcelain sculptures , the lights which are for example table lamps made of neon and the rug, which is a dye-sublimation photo printed on a carpet.
Your own work in the show features photographs of sex workers. What stereotypes or assumptions surrounding sex workers were subverted during the process of making those pieces? The typical prostitute featured in films is usually easily identifiable by wearing a lot of heavy makeup, perhaps badly dyed hair and fake everything else… In reality these days many sex workers are college girls, making money to pay for their tuition, or the girl next door, who books clients through social media and her iPhone app.
Thankfully, femininity is a multi-faceted concept in contemporary art, which elements of being female does your art appeal to? My work generally addresses women and their relationship with their bodies. I try to find ways to honor the female body, and encourage a degree of honesty and acceptance among women who participate in my work, or consume it.
Is it important for you to identify personally with the themes in your art work? That is the only way I can produce the work!
I think that creates the best product. We need to see more sex positive women taking charge of what happens within their sex lives, and being proactive in asking for what they want. I would like to encourage women to know that their pleasure needs to be prioritized, and they are not simply tools or objects to be used in male fantasies.
What is the connection between them in the piece? These images are where female sexuality meets the landscape. The subjects become larger than life; like giants. I am merging the scale of the human body with immense industrial markers and architectural feats, in this case, The Shuttle Endeavor. The female body and sexuality take center stage, And I try to collage an overpowering and swallowing scale of these grand engineered structures, or rockets invoking stages of action, spaces of political and sexual movement.
The bodies of women some of which I photograph my self are used to pose deep and difficult questions about the history and nature of power within our western culture. They have transformed in my work from representing symbols of male power in opposition to the female body to being the metaphor of the body itself. What do you think is lacking from mainstream depictions of female sexuality?
Female sexuality and power are so complicated and interesting — and there remains such a lack of mixing pleasure, sexuality, politics, and activism.
This future feminism is in the midst of creating alternative frames of reference with a new perspective, in hopes of a more open and regenerated kind of perception and rethinking of feminist and queer aesthetic intervention.