“BEYOND INDIFFERENCE” IS A MULTI-MEDIA EXHIBITION THAT EXPLORES IDEAS OF FEMININITY, GENDER, AND POWER. BY USING OBJECTS ASSOCIATED WITH DOMESTICITY, WHICH WE’VE CULTURALLY ASCRIBED AS “FEMININE,” THE ARTIST SEEKS TO BRING FORTH QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY AND PRIVILEGE.
The Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery is proud to announce its exhibition of artist Shelby Head’s project Beyond Indifference, opening on Saturday, May 20th from 6 to 9 pm. The inspiration for this series cannot be divorced from the current climate of Trumpian politics and the new wave of intersectional feminism. While Beyond Indifference reflects upon the objectification of the female body, it also brings forth questions of gender identity and the body as a political instrument.
Head is aware of how her position as a white, female artist in Connecticut offers her a certain privilege of creative speech. She uses this to shed light on the broad spectrum of female existence. As a collection, Beyond Indifference is a series of mixed media works assembled from decorative and domestic objects commonly associated with the “feminine.” Materials and medium, through personal association, evoke memory, and emotion. However, the series is not a memorial but rather moves with the subject of misogyny and the questions of gender.
By incorporating materials of lived-experience–cookware, appliances, and décor–the work challenges a purist aesthetic hierarchy that privileges one set of materials over another based on gender association. This is an exhibition of history, politics, and of lived life. The artwork titled Power Figure is the centerpiece for the series. The sculpture is inspired by power figures called Nkisi Nkondi made by the Kongo people of the Democratic Republic of Congo during the19th century. Power Figure serves as the administrator of justice for the collection and attempts to drive away destructive forces believed to be the cause of individual ailments and broader social and political ills represented in each of the eleven sculptures in the series. Selected for their association with women, fingernails, hair, and herbs are stored in the belly of Power Figure to draw in the power of spirits.
The medicinal combination is shielded by a piece of reflective surface that represents the “other world” inhabited by the spirits of the dead who can peer through and see potential enemies. To evoke the spiritual force of the Power Figure, eleven knitting needles are driven into the figure. The clothes iron, winding cord, and plug refer directly to the figure’s function to address issues concerning misogyny and gender. When brought to life, Power Figure has the power to heal, to protect, and even to punish. This is Head’s second solo exhibition with the Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery. Previously, she has exhibited at Choate Rosemary Hall, Creative Arts Workshop, Silvermine Arts Center, and Southern Connecticut University.