Curator Sarah Sloan’s Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of “Feminine” Artmaking

Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of “Feminine” Artmaking (Sept.12 – Oct.10 at Kunstraum LLC) brings together five emerging artists of all gender identities to analyze their artmaking practice through the lens of art historical connotations of the “feminine.” This is independent curator Sarah Sloan’s first exhibition in New York City.

Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, Sarah moved to Brooklyn in 2018, after completing her graduate degree in Art History at the University of Florida. Her continued interest in gender studies, and specifically women and the ideas of femininity, brought her to this project. Now at Kunstraum Gallery, Sarah has further explored the art historical narratives of gender.

The word “feminine” in the exhibition’s title is not meant to label or limit the included artists’ practice as feminine, but rather identify imposed characteristics in history and today. The goal of Speeding Up, Slowing Down is to disprove notions of medium’s hierarchy and the idea that craft/feminine is lesser than the fine arts/masculine; and show that historical and even current categorizations with “feminine” art are socially constructed and, at times, arbitrary.

We spoke with Sarah in detail about Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of “Feminine” Artmaking. Information about attending the exhibition is below.

This show reflects on the concepts of fine arts being exclusive towards men. How does this show disrupt that idea?

This exhibition includes artists of all gender identities working in mediums that, in the past, have not always been associated/afforded to their gender. Along these lines, I am referring to the dichotomy of fine art versus craft, which is a common thread of art historical discussion and, in one way, has boiled down to becoming a conversation on gender.

For instance, oil painting and sculpture have been considered fine art and, historically, created by men; because women were not socially accepted to go into this profession or considered even able to do it. Today, this is clearly wrong, but I think it’s worth noting the many women who are working in these mediums today.

In an effort to do this, this show features two female oil painters, Qendresa Mani (she/her) and Yurie Hayashi (she/her), working in a rather large scale (historically also considered masculine). On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Austin Coudriet (he/him) working in ceramics and Cong-Tam Nguyen (he/them) working in ceramics and textiles, mediums often consider craft for its utility/domestic nature, and thus labeled feminine.

While it is apparent that nowadays these gendered labels don’t always affect artists’ decisions to go into a certain medium as much as they have in the past, these historical viewpoints persist today in various ways.

How have the terms “genius,” “fine arts,” or even “artist” been gendered?

It is certainly interesting to think of these terms in conjunction with each other in terms of gender. Going further past the fine arts versus craft debate, the gendered conations of each of these categories then comes to genius versus hobbyist/amateur. Artists who create “fine arts” have been considered geniuses because their artwork is especially good at involving/invoking emotion/feeling and is often considered priceless or unreproducible. They have an innate talent.

Who has historically been able to learn- going against the very idea of genius- how to paint? Men.

Craft is something that is considered reproducible and, supposedly, doesn’t take any innate talent to create. Creating decorative objects is a skill to be learned. Thus, it has not been considered genius. However, as printmaking June Wayne points out in her 1973 article “The Male Artist as a Stereotypical Female,” the term artist is societally considered feminine in terms of the idea that an artist gives birth to their artwork and derive their work from emotion, a stereotype of women. Thinking of these terms together gives layers to the issues presented in this exhibition.

Tell us about the artists and work we will see? How did you choose the artists and curated pieces?

This exhibition includes five emerging artists from different backgrounds and identities working in all different mediums: Austin Coudriet makes ceramics going between utility and design, Sarah Rain Hammond world builds in digital illustration, Yurie Hayashi and Qendresa Mani create highly emotive large-scale oil paintings, and Z. Cong-Tam Ngyuen uses assemblage and textile work to reference their family history.

It was really important to me that I included multiple different mediums, as well as artists who work in many different ways and for different lengths of time. The title of the show Speeding Up, Slowing Down is a reference to the ebbs and flows of creative process that many artists go through, when and how this is different for each one.

How are the ideas of femininity and the feminine explored in this show?

I think in this day and age, people are beginning to understand that the word “feminine” does not automatically equate with women, as it once did for many. It has become clear that gender is no longer simply determined by one’s sex/anatomy, but is a spectrum taking many forms outside of the binary of what is considered male/female.

Hence, I have tried to include artists of multiple different gender identities in the show (including non-binary). The use of the word “feminine” is not a determinate of these artists’ gender identity, but more so to determine that many things can be considered masculine or feminine by historical/societal standards. But, in my opinion, it isn’t always helpful and can simplify the complex nature of some artist’s practice.

What is your personal connection to the artwork and ideas explored in this show? How do you relate? Or not?

This is something that I haven’t really had a chance to verbalize through other outlets and speaking about the show. Many of my artists are from different countries or cultural backgrounds outside of the northeast and also the United States in general – Austin hails from the Midwest in Nebraska, Sarah is from the south like me, Qendresa is from Kosovo, Yurie is Japanese and Tam is second-generation Vietnamese-Loation-American. Though discussing these origins may not seem incredibly relevant to my thesis, I think it certainly plays a part in the way gender identity is explored and determined for a person. This sense of origin/place affects the content these artists create. Pretty much all of them reference the places they are from in some way, and I think this also plays a huge part in how we think about gender and what we can do/be.

As someone who is not originally from New York and is living and working outside of their home region, I feel like I relate to a lot of the themes in the work in a certain way, and gender has always been a part of that for me.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?

Going back to the goals of the show, it’s important to me that the audience understands that medium and gender hierarchy within the arts is not particularly helpful. And is even a hindrance to creative production. I think all of us are fluid beings and have the right to explore the diversity of thought and feeling within ourselves. I hope that this show pushes this sort of artistic freedom/energy out into the world.

Top photo: Sarah Sloan
Photo credit for all photos: Jenna London

Speeding Up, Slowing Down: The Practice of “Feminine” Artmaking is open until October 10th, 2021 at Kunstraum LLC, 20 Grand Ave, Space 509, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Hours: Thu – Sat 12-6 PM by appointment only – please contact 24 hours in advance. Contact: Sarah Sloan, 601.988.5599, sarah@kunstraumllc.com

The program was made possible by the New York City Artists Corps.

Artists: Austin Coudriet, Sarah Rain Hammond, Yurie Hayashi, Qendresa Mani, Z. Cong-Tam Nguyen

About Sofia Pipolo (11 Articles)
Sofia an independent filmmaker and writer, graduated from Marymount Manhattan College for Digital Media and Film Production. Her interest in both media and social outreach allows her to think and create diversely. As a writer, I cover stories on art, culture/politics, and community businesses for Park Slope Reader, Give Me Astoria, and other publications. On set, I am an invaluable Script Supervisor and is currently, producing the documentary, Wrestling With Identity.