The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women artists, and today they invited a group of local creatives to view one of their latest exhibitions, Women House, and walk with Assistant Curator Orin Zahra, to learn more about the works featured.
Women House can best be thought of as a sequel to Womanhouse, (January 30 – February 28, 1972) organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts Feminist Art Program. From the NMWA website:
Featuring work by thirty-six global artists, Women House challenges conventional ideas about gender and the domestic space. The exhibition is inspired by the landmark project Womanhouse, developed in 1972 by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. With works that disrupted traditional ideas about the home as a feminine realm, Womanhouse was the first female-centered art installation to appear in the Western world. In the new exhibition, Women House, women artists from the 1960s to today examine the persistence of stereotypes about the house as a feminine space.
Through photography, sculpture, installation and video works organized across eight themes, Women House emphasizes the plurality of women’s views on the home.
While some artists communicated the concept of "home" as a place of safety and nurture, others expressed the idea as a place of imprisonment and oppression. My two favorite examples of this were Zanele Muholi’s 2007 photograph of a young lesbian couple in South Africa titled, Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, which shows home as a place of warmth and protection from the homophobic violence outside, and Mona Hatoum's piece simply titled, Home, which features an assortment of mundane kitchen tools arranged on a wooden table top, connected by wires which channel electric current through them thereby rendering them dangerous, and potentially fatal; the viewer is restricted from gaining close access to the piece by tension wires strung across the niche where it's displayed, which calls to mind imprisonment or even concentration camps.