I have an extreme positive view of women, they are beautiful and powerful. That was part of the evolution of this show, I chose everyone because they are all brave, extremely brave, and they are not at all wallflowers. I feel surrounded by a lot of goddess energy; most of the support I get (for this show) is from women. The show is a celebration of the beauty and power of womanhood. – Daniel Schuster, Curator “Feminine Mystique”
When I was asked to cover “Feminine Mystique,” currently on display in Building Bridges at Bergamot Station, I was immediately intrigued by two things; the title and the idea of perception between female artists. Curator, Daniel Schuster carefully selected four artists, one male and the rest female. His secondary show is a display of his brother’s incredible sculptures and designs. Upon arriving, taking the tour and discussing core elements, Daniel asked me if I would like to meet one of the artists, Tanya Ragir, at her home and studio space nearby. The afternoon became an gift from the art gods, I suddenly found myself at an impromptu artistic garden party surrounded by a phenomenal amount of beautiful large scale sculpture sipping Proseco on a perfect Los Angeles day. But I digress; we’ll get to that in a bit.
Schuster, with a fondness for the mystic, goddess's and of course women, developed the idea for the show that included three female artists and one male; mixed media painter, Barbara Fritshe, sculptor, Tanya Ragir, photographer & designer, Mary Cheung and photographer Michael Kluch. A secondary show, “Treasure’s from the 21st Century” consists of large scaled sculptures by Larry Schuster. Both displays carry an overall feminine theme still beckoning the underlying question about perception. The way women perceive themselves, each other and men perceive women, more importantly, in the context of artists.
Both Frank and Shana Nys Dambrot, delve further into these ever evolving themes of female sexuality, social equality and energy and their relevancy the art world today. As of recent, there has been more and more show uncovering the staggering ratio of under represented female artists vs. male in galleries. A disappointing dilemma that the female artist must face especially when we live in such advanced times. Women actually consider if their work is not controversial enough, angry, feminist, or sexual enough. Add some global market research and it’s enough to make you question the essential root for making art in the first place... self-expression from experience, right? Resulting in altering the perceptions of our work and our creative selves. One of the many reasons, Daniel felt that this show was so important.
Before diving into the feminine mystique, Schuster explains his reasoning for a secondary show, “Treasures from the 21st Century” which is dedicated to self taught sculptor and Daniel's brother, Larry Schuster. The room holds grandiose, detailed hung pieces made of all sorts of meticulously crafted material ranging from stained glass, plexi glass, gold plate, fine wood, iron and steel. A remarkable display of craftsmanship, detail and vision.
His use of ‘light and spectral shadow’ expresses an attraction to images and objects like dragonflies and pagan apparitions that carry innate poetic allusions and emotional touchstones intuitively affiliated with feminine power as it exists in a natural, spiritual, possibly perfect realm always out of reach. – Shana Nys Dambrot
Larry’s Dragonfly (Santa Barbra) has over 1200 pieces of glass. Inspired by a neighbors cat “gifting” a dragonfly at his door leading Larry to research the meaning behind the insect. Schuster began catching them and basing his pattern design for their wings. He cut slots to support the stainless steel veins he made for the objects.
The table, which he tells me “This Is Not A Table”, was inspired after famous Rene Magritte “This Is Not A Pipe.” Not only did Larry make the “Table” but he made the display stand that it sits on. In fact he made every single one of the stands for his pieces. The process for each piece was more intricate than the next, with names of machinery and tools that sent my brain into a tailspin although I still found it extremely intriguing. “He’s so smart, he can do anything, a self taught, quiet prodigy.”
“Calendar Girls,” a collective ceramic wall piece made from individual pieces mounted on what seemed to be tile is a repeating pattern of the female form; torso, breasts, buttocks, thighs (you get the idea) deconstructs the nude figure. Ragir, references the sacred relationship between all organic form by juxtaposing details of the feminine landscape with geometric context.
Next are two sculptures from her new “Warrior” series, Warrior III/ “It’s All In Your Head” and “Leap of Faith.” The pieces are exquisite; they are powerful examples of a metaphor for life. Inspired by the recent loss of her father and the “state of being; internal/external barriers, vulnerability, risk and trust.
Daniel invites me to do an impromptu studio visit after my visit at the gallery is completed. Realizing that has become a rarity to see classically displayed sculpture and because I know when the universe hands you the unexpected there's a reason for it, so we end up going, but hold on, Ill get to that in part 2.
Barbara Fritshe, whose studio is an old airplane hanger close to Ventura used to be located in Downtown Los Angeles. The three paintings: “The Game is Up, Social Media, Cash for Keys” are all mixed media collage using broken mirrors, funny money, acrylic paint, playing cards, and a figure drawing that looked like it was done in pastel. The incredible rawness of her work are reminiscent to that of an 80’s street art and artists like Basquiat. They are approachable in the sense that her work isn’t typical gallery “polished” glazed in shiny varnish to seal the objects to the canvas instead they protrude giving the painting a slight 3 dimensional feel. Without familiarizing myself with Fritshe’s previous work, I envision her as a rule breaker and as an artist who works from her gut; there is a certain confidence that is given off from those three pieces. Cash for Keys, uses fear based word art adjectives from newspaper cut outs in the essence of female word art pioneer, Barbara Kruger.
Mary Cheung incorporates fashion, set design into her multilayered prints. She is involved in creating each detail down to the framing. Her series incorporates five female archetypes: the Nurturer, Warrior, Fearless, Lover, and Temptress. Some images have over 30 photographs layered in them.
Michael Kluch, texturizes the photos of his models with leaves, bamboos, flowers, pencils, metallic weaves and clothes pins covering the female nudes reinforcing the idea of being covered in a shame based society.
Feminine Mystique showcases all forms of mediums that make up a cohesive and strong collective statement that combine artists who are vastly different. FM will be up till sometime in October. For more information please visit www.adcbuildingbridgesartexchange.org
Side Note: Daniel mentions the remarkable impact that Building Bridges director, Marisa Caichiolo, had in making this show happen. “If people knew what Marisa did they would be blown away, she has shows all over the world. She just came back from China and went to the cultural affairs for me about Larry’s work because I feel it belongs in Shang Hai. She’s on the board of LA Art Show, she’s a world famous curator, but she never talks about it. She just makes things happen. She called up Peter Frank and Shana for us.”
Stay tuned... Feminine Mystique Part 2: Sculptor, Tanya Ragir