Artists celebrate vulnerability during the Gender Symposium

Photo by Ray Freedman

By Alannah Balfour

The Gender Symposium Art Show filled Stamm Hall between March 7 and 9.  Following past Symposia models, co-curators Sylvia Eisenbeis ’18, Claire Lyman ’18 and Annie Reynolds ’19 worked to showcase community artwork relevant to the Gender Symposium theme of “inSECURITY.” The gallery follows the complexities of what security means in our current political state, which has become unstable,  potentially threatening and difficult to navigate. This was echoed in the various forms of artwork with mediums including sculpture, videography, music, photography and paintings.

Intimacy connected each work. Every piece reflected something about the artist’s life related to their gender experience. While leaning in to someone’s gender and sexuality can be intrusive, the viewer was invited to understand the artists’ lives. The audience was asked to gaze at the artist’s life and deepen their empathy. The gallery moved the symposium’s impact beyond the keynote speakers and symposium presentation.

On the opening night, Gender Symposium guests and contributors filed into the gallery space for a reserved dinner event. The artwork framed the invitees, and any lull in conversation was quickly filled with appreciation for the exhibition. It allowed time for artists to speak to their creative processes — each artist had a story of what drew them to share at the Symposium. The discussion at all tables led to the importance of identity, exploration and acceptance.

“The curators of the gender studies symposium created a space that allowed for discourse surrounding socio-political commentary specifically, but also allowed for more personal experiential interactions,” a student who preferred to remain anonymous said.

“Contextually, who is interacting with the piece helps allow the sociopolitical intentions to be navigated and facilitated,” the student said.

Anastasia Pindera, a Canadian visual artist and metalworker, incorporated photography and a matching physical sculpture that brought vulnerability into the room beyond the limitations of a two-dimensional image. A naked feminine body with a face concealed by blond curls rested in the outline of a hunched body constructed from metal. The metal frame sat in front of the image, as if inviting people in the audience to sit down and replicate the curled up shape. The interactive photography of Lewis & Clark  student Kaija Xiao ’18 required the viewer to hold a blank sheet of paper in order to observe the images. There was a secretive, humbled feeling in each and yet the mere publishing of it makes the image bold and the artist self-assured.

Art will forever be linked with social commentary. The artists, speakers and visitors who shared their lives with us this past week are capturing a moment in time where many are fighting for space. The Gender Symposium created a well-deserved platform. The artwork allowed viewers  a personal glimpse into the struggles of being comfortable in one’s own skin and navigating a complex world that tries its best to limit individuality.

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