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On Tuesday, “UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN” opened at Untitled Space in New York, on view through January 28. Gallery owner and artist Indira Cesarine organized the exhibition as a call to action for female artists after the election of Donald Trump. Designed to open the week of the inauguration, Cesarine was overwhelmed by over 1800 submissions from over 400 artists around the country and even abroad. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of works in the show will benefit the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality.
Whitewall spoke with Cesarine about the politically motivated show, the power of female artists, and the rise of angry women.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for this exhibition? And why did you want it to open during the week of the inauguration?
INDIRA CESARINE: The day the election results were announced, I felt compelled to start working on the exhibit. Like many others, I was totally shocked by the results. I was horrified that our country had elected a future president who openly discriminates against so many others. His sexist, racist, xenophobic politics are appalling by any standards. On November 10th, we posted the exhibit online as well as to social media, and various art websites.
I felt it was a crucial time for artists to have the opportunity to express themselves with works of art responding to the social and political climate, and to have a platform to create works that could be empowering to themselves and others. It made sense for it to take place during the week of the presidential inauguration. The exhibit is politically motivated, and the artwork in “UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN” raises awareness of how women in America are feeling right now regarding the current situation.
I reached out to the ERA Coalition to see if they wanted to partner with us shortly after announcing the show, and we are looking forward to raising funds via the exhibit for their Fund for Women’s Equality.
WW: You received 1800 submissions from over 400 artists. Were you surprised by the overwhelming response?
IC: I was hoping we would get a good response from artists, although with only one month to create and submit works, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the end we did get a phenomenal response, which was way more than I expected. It took me several weeks to review all the artist statements and finalize the artwork. It was definitely very inspiring to see the artwork and read the artists statements.
WW: The show will include 80 works. What considerations were part of the selection process?
IC: When curating the exhibit, I was looking for artwork that could have social and cultural impact. It was equally important to have female artists from all over the country with diverse backgrounds represented in the show. I felt it was important for “UPRISE / ANGRY WOMEN” to present powerful political works, that engage critical thinking, and challenge the status quo. I was looking for art that could ignite conversation and inspire or empower others with its message. Under the circumstances I felt it was also better to focus more on female identifying artists based in the U.S. versus international artists, as women living in this country are obviously more affected by the issues and would address the subject more directly with an American point of view. We do have several international artists in the exhibit, but for the most part they live in the US.
WW: What role do you see female artists playing in the months and years ahead in face of the current and ongoing political climate?
IC: Women are uniting in response to the current political situation. I think in times when we are challenged as a culture, artists become more creative and more productive. I saw a lot of artists submit works to this exhibit that previously weren’t politically inspired, or even align with feminism. I think with all of these issues finally coming to the surface, we are going to see massive progression with feminist art as a genre having more impact in the art world, in the media and in the public eye.
WW: Can you tell us about the work you created for the show, PROTEST?
IC: I attended several protests following the November 8th results, and was inspired by the passion that brought the crowds together. My oil on canvas PROTEST was inspired by those protests, as well as images from historical feminist protests in history, including protests for the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, to protests for equal rights, abortion rights, and against rape culture in recent times.
I decided to paint exclusively in black and white, to further emphasize the expressions and emotions of the women depicted.
WW: Do you see the results of the election as further impacting the gallery’s programming, and your own artistic practice?
IC: When I launched The Untitled Space gallery, one of my initiatives was to emphasize contemporary female artists and feminist art as a genre. Over the past few years we have done many exhibits addressing feminist themes. I definitely think the results of the election have pushed our curatorial into an even more political direction. It is important for Trump’s sexist, racist behavior to not become normalized. Culturally speaking, art can be a catalyst for change, and can be an act of protest itself. Art can have a massive social impact, and I think it’s important to encourage artists to create works that empower others, that inspire, that challenge the status quo.
As far as my own artistic practice I am definitely inspired to make art than can make an impact. I am motivated to keep fighting.