Julia Hess -- SEATTLE.
The latest art premiere at SZ Gallery is TENACIOUS, a group show curated by Deborah Kapoor, showcasing 19 different contemporary women artists featuring interpretations of perseverance related to the feminine. Works encompass a range of materiality including painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, glass, fiber, cut paper, drawing, collage, embroidery, mixed media, bronze casting, and video installation.
The first artists’ reception on August 3rd from 5 – 8 pm will give viewers a chance to interact with the exhibit, the curator, and the artists in attendance.
The curator, Deborah Kapoor, is a Seattle-based artist who creates dimensional, haptic, mixed-media paintings, prints, and sculptures about the distilled poetry within cultural markers. She had a solo exhibition at SZ Gallery in 2017 entitled “Into the Pink.” Her work is exhibited in solo and group shows in Seattle, the larger Pacific Northwest region, and nationally, and has also been published in books and magazines. In addition to her own work as an artist, she curated Navigate at Tashiro Kaplan in Seattle, and Intersections at Blakeley Hall in Issaquah. The exhibitions she has organized are rooted in culture and are interdisciplinary in approach.
The works for TENACIOUS were selected on an invitational basis by Kapoor. The show brings the tenacity, perseverance, and grit of the lived experiences of women, often expressed in quiet ways. “TENACIOUS is a fierce synonym for women.” Kapoor elaborated, “It’s about the past and present all at once.”
While preparing a series of workshops in response to the #MeToo movement this August for Vashon Center for the Arts, she began to contemplate the word “perseverance.” The experience inspired her to think about all the obstacles women overcome to continue to grow and manifest their own destiny.
“Within my own artistic pursuits, there have been many barriers to overcome in order to continue to make work,” Kapoor shared. “Years ago, I remember a conversation I had with someone who told me I have ‘stick-it-ability,’ a word that in essence means tenacity, or grit.”
With insights from her own life, Kapoor wanted a diverse representation in the show.
Pieces like Diem Chau’s “Legacy” address the issue of cultural identity. The work depicts a porcelain plate, with a single female figure embroidered with her back facing the viewer. A long, black braided ponytail is attached, extended beyond the plate’s edge. From her statement she shares, "In many cultures across the world, hairstyle is used as an outward symbol of identity. Hair can be worn to signify marital status, social standing, or tribal associations. Hair is also a literal timeline of our lives; it grows with us, in essence capturing a bit of who we are in that moment. ‘Legacy' is my celebration of personal history and the legacy that we all come from."
Carol Milne’s knitted glass shoe called “Wild Fire” is bound to fashion. Says Milne, "She’s a contortionist trapped inside her shoe with her hair on fire. A jab at uncomfortable footwear for women, this piece is also about conformity and the fashion industry’s view of the way we should look and what we should wear, regardless of comfort.” And finally, Ellen Hochberg’s video “Human Family” features the eyes of many races and gender identities with a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem of the same title.
While the pieces were selected for their aesthetic expression, Kapoor added that “I admire these women, too. They’ve found a way to inject pathos, vulnerability, and humor into their work."
In curating TENACIOUS, her hope is that people can appreciate the strength and contributions of women and to honor the many roles they play. She wants people to see “their tremendous ability to problem solve in the most extreme circumstances -- to value and support women.”
Viewers are advised while looking to take it slowly and let the messages soak in. “Spend some time with each piece, and examine both the image and title. And if possible, talk to the artist about the process of making it,” Kapoor suggested.
On the question of what it means to support women and artists in today’s world, Kapoor asserted that “Supporting women artists by purchasing their art is a political act. A willingness to spend money on art is a gesture of valuing creativity, and especially with a show like this, it’s a gesture of valuing these women and what they do.”
A major source of support for TENACIOUS is from Suzanne Zahr herself, who helped Kapoor with the spatial conception of the exhibit. “I’m always in awe of how Suzanne sees a space,” Kapoor remarked. “She’s very generous in considering ideas, while also being humble. She’ll say something, and you’ll think, ‘Oh my god, that’s genius.’”
Zahr sees her gallery as a place that promotes diversity and engaging conversations, often hosting not only a monthly artist’s reception, but also non-profit meetings and events. She finds immense value in making time and space for things to happen spontaneously in terms of creative expression, as these moments lead to a safe place of vulnerability. And from vulnerability ultimately comes great art and community.
Kapoor hopes that the art on display will spark a dialogue and inspire others to take note of the everyday obstacles that women face.
“In my own work, I try to come to terms with what is challenging in human experience by channeling it into something good,” Kapoor shared. “Artists are like alchemists who channel their experience into palpable, visual form. In that, I see a tenacity.”
See TENACIOUS at SZ Gallery from August 3rd until October 3rd during gallery hours or by appointment, and please join us on August 3rd and September 7th for the artists’ receptions.