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Chelsea Womyn

The time is flying by and already a week has passed since the website and first article went up. As with anything you are trying to make permanent, disciplining yourself to stick to a plan is the hardest part...especially when this winter weather makes you want to rush home and cuddle under some covers after working all day. Luckily, the weather decided to be a little forgiving, driving me (along with a bunch of tourists) to check out some galleries in the Chelsea area.

Chelsea not only houses some of New York City's most famous galleries, but is also a haven for fashion and design. Both men and women walk down the streets dressed in their own personal styles, reflecting the area's atmosphere, generating promotion for self-expression. After getting off work, I made it a point to see at least three galleries. This isn't a hard task to accomplish considering there can be five or more galleries contained in just one building. First stop...ClampArt. The gallery's marketing tactic was a perfect example of allowing the the art to draw the viewer in. I was walking past a set of glass doors when a poster about an exhibition for Jill Greenberg caught my attention. At first glance, the blue-toned poster looked like paint pigments or liquids mixed together. Nothing grand, but it instantly captured my attention. After going through a maze of hallways and glass doors, I entered a small open space where Greenburg's pieces hung. When I first saw the poster, I assumed the images were of paintings. It wasn't until I entered the gallery and saw that her works were detailed photographs of oils and acrylics. The vibrant colors hypnotize you to contemplate the chemistry behind such mixtures of these painting mediums. I easily spent a solid 5 minutes in front of each piece trying to figure out the mystery behind what the original painting was trying to convey. The abstraction behind her color palettes and positions allowed me to focus on the work itself and not necessarily on a statement...a surprisingly refreshing aspect considering most artwork has a specific message to get across.

Just twelve steps across the street and I found myself in Agora Gallery. I had recently downloaded an app, Chelsea Gallery Maps, primarily listing those in the Chelsea area that feature current and upcoming exhibitions. While it doesn't contain every single gallery, especially in the greater New York City area, it is a great resource allowing anyone to know what major shows are going on. On the app, I noticed Agora Gallery had an exhibition called "Degrees of Abstraction" that instantly captured my attention. When first entering, I was a little thrown off by the display of other primarily black, yellow and red colors splattered in strategic areas of the canvas, almost like a section specific technique of Jackson Pollock. While the pieces did intrigue me and the space allowed ambient light to seep right through the large windows, I was confused where the abstraction show was. Somehow my curiosity made me look around this corner of the gallery and go up a few steps-then there I was. "Degrees of Abstraction" had a diversified mix in both artists' origins and expressionism through various colors and patterns. Though all (mostly women artists) contributed great work, the minimal paintings of Wei Xiong stole the show for me. Most of her works were unnamed, giving me the freedom to create the subject matter I gained from viewing her works. One particular piece left me in wonderment and I have to admit, made me go back fora second look. While the primary colors are evident, her textured mixture in the foreground created an almost landscape of wheat grass or tall foliage sprouting in front of a dominating blue mountain. A red sash takes over the top left corner of the painting, hinting maybe at a sunset or lighting effect from the atmosphere. Was this a real place? Or was this an imagined location that the artist escapes to in her pieces? Needless to say, I wanted this landscape to be real.

After Agora, I headed to Artemisia Gallery. Once walking in I was instantly greeted, which I have to say caught me off guard. Most of the time you enter a gallery the person at the desk will just stare as you enter the space, making you uncomfortably aware that their eyes are on you. Before entering, I had made a mental note that most of the pieces I had been seeing were done by women artists. Although it wasn't my intent, the afternoon was turning into a feminine gallery walk; knowingly went to Artemisia Gallery where they had an exhibition called (conveniently) "Femininity". The show contained mostly two-dimensional works with a wide range of mediums, colors and viewpoints. It's hard enough getting art shows in the city, but to have all these women housed under one roof gave an even greater voice on the importance of women in the arts. I thought the exhibition's art choices highlighted perfectly the perception women have had in art historical and pop cultural references. One painting, undeniably derived from the Gabrielle d'Estreés et une de ses sœurs painting, showcased the same subjects with decadent gold earrings, red nail polish and a pink background assorted in various patterns. A collection of six tissue wipes displayed removed makeup, unveiling distorted facial expressions of full, crimson lips, powdered faces and drawn in eyebrows. On the left side, a nude in a euphoric state was depicted with full breasts and curves floating up in a cloudy sky. All these works alluded to the interpretation of how women have been or continued to be viewed. Body image and what are bodies are used for have played a crucial role in the world of women, continuing to influence our way of living and physical presentation. It was an uplifting feeling to know, that although unorthodox in some cases, these pieces reflected our awareness on this social demise.

Thinking about calling it a day, I started to head back to the subway when yet another gallery called my attention. The words "Choice" patterned with the American flag automatically called me to find out what this show had to be about. Upon entering Nancy Hoffman Gallery, more pink tones came into view...but nothing overbearing. After glancing upon some detailed watercolors of flowers and photographs, I walked into the second half of the gallery which contained the Michelle Pred show called "Choice". Purses and handbags were the canvas of this exhibition and lights substituted for the paint to convey a message. Phrases such as "My Body, My Business" and "Equality" left nothing to the imagination of what this artist was trying to say. As women, we are sometimes limited to the material items that become part of our identity. Items such as purses, heels and jewelry have become a staple in our role as women, whereas Pred uses these materials to make statements on equality, empowerment and identity. One of her pieces even asks the viewers to participate by taking a selfie in front of one of the embedded mirrors containing the universal female sign. Inside each of these mirrors were words like beautiful, equal, feminist, etc. allowing the viewer to consciously make a choice of which identity they wish to become.

Naturally, leaving the gallery left me in a thought process about this neo-feminism era that we have going on right now. While I won't go into a rant about feminism, I will say a woman and aspiring artist, women art still in the back burner. These artists not only displayed talent and skill for their craft, but that there is still a glass ceiling we can't seem to surpass. There is still a limit to what we can do. Yes, we have come along way...but we can still improve. Luckily, art is a platform where ideas can be presented in the hopes that changes will take place to enable the social construct of our future more equal and beneficial. My afternoon with the galleries ended up turning much more pensive in thought than I had anticipated, but I guess that's the power (and intrigue) that art can bring. You go in not knowing what to expect...but leave in a trance, transfixed as to how those artworks truly affected you.

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