Associate Professor Mary Tsiongas in the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts, Art and Art History Department, was selected to display her work in the National Museum of Women in the Arts “Women to Watch” 2015 exhibition in Washington, D.C. through Sept. 13. This year’s theme, “Organic Matters,” explores the relationships between women, nature and art.
“My vision for ‘The Mercurial Dog Anticipates Her,’ which is part of a body of work called ‘The Likenesses of Light,’ was to relate the interdependence of plants, animals and humans to the interrelationships of art forms through contemporary media,” Tsiongas said.
The work is informed by early film history. Tsiongas used a botanical print by Edward Skeats, a little known artist in the collection of the UNM Art Museum, as a backdrop or environment for the action to happen.
“The work shows a scenario in the desert that alludes to childhood fables and folklore, but also our deep dependence on water and animals for survival," Tsiongas said. "I evoke fables and folklore because as children this is one way we learn about nature; we learn that nature is animated, alive, wise, tricky, powerful, humbling, etcetera.”
Historically, women artists were encouraged by society to take the natural world as their subject. Rather than narrative art, which was thought to require invention and imagination beyond women’s capabilities, subjects such as botanical drawings, still-life paintings and images of animals seemed to require merely the power of observation.
Turning this archaic paradigm upside-down, the contemporary artists highlighted in Organic Matters actively redefine the relationship of women, nature and art by investigating the natural world—to fanciful and sometimes frightful effect.
Collectively, the work encompasses modern society’s complex relationship with the environment, ranging from concern for its future to fear of its power. Through a diverse array of mediums, including photography, drawing, sculpture and video, these artists depict fragile ecosystems, otherworldly landscapes and creatures both real and imagined.
Organic Matters is the fourth installment in NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, which explores the relationships between women, nature, and art. Women to Watch is presented every two to three years and is a dynamic collaboration between the museum and participating outreach committees. Each of these exhibitions features emerging and underrepresented women artists from the states and countries in which the museum has committees.
The connection between women and nature has a long history, one that is fraught with gendered stereotypes and discriminatory assumptions. The contemporary artists highlighted in Organic Matters build upon and expand these pre-existing conceptualizations by actively investigating the natural world, to fanciful and sometimes frightful effect.
Collectively, their work addresses modern society’s complex relationship with the environment, ranging from concern for its future to fear of its power. Through a diverse array of mediums, including photography, drawing, sculpture, and video, these artists depict fragile ecosystems, otherworldly landscapes, and creatures both real and imagined.
The 13 committees participating in Women to Watch 2015 worked with curators in their respective regions to create shortlists of artists working with the subject of nature. From this list, NMWA curators selected the artists whose work is on view in Organic Matters.
The exhibition features works by Dawn Holder (Arkansas), Jennifer Celio (Southern California), Andrea Lira (Chile), Françoise Pétrovitch (France), Jiha Moon (Georgia), Goldschmied & Chiari (Italy), Lara Shipley (Greater Kansas City Area), Rebecca Hutchinson (Massachusetts), Mary Tsiongas (New Mexico), Rachel Sussman (Greater New York Region), Mimi Kato (Ohio), Ysabel LeMay (Texas), and Polly Morgan (United Kingdom).