Domestic Policy - SAWCC Visual Arts Show
Curated by Rocio Alvarado Aranda
Artists: Jaishri Abichandani, Shalalae Jamil, Asma Kasmi, Swati Khurana, Vandana Jain, Divya Mehra, Sa’dia Rehman, Gazelle Samizay, Apnavi Thackar.
Essay by Rocio Alvarado Aranda
Dates: Nov 12th – Dec 10th 2009
Opening reception: Nov 12th 2009, 6: 30 – 8:30 pm
Venue: The Guild, NY
The Guild Art Gallery and the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) present SAWCC’s Annual Visual Arts show titled Domestic Policy, curated by Rocio Alavarado Aranda.
This exhibition explores the various meanings of the words "domestic" and "policy," both separately and as they relate to one another. Together, these words signify the laws, programs and decisions made by governments in relation to their citizens: the "domestic policies" that construct national ideologies and behaviors. Taken separately, each word offers layered possibilities of meaning and interpretation.
Rocio Aranda explains:
Domestic policies also influence an individual’s experience of reality. Rules governing behavior, gender, sexuality, free will, income, marital status, education and much more are developed and enforced by the state and are also known as public policies. Specifically, these signify the laws, programs and decisions made by governments in relation to their citizens: the policies that in turn construct and influence national ideologies and behaviors. Frequently, these policies are a source of friction among people of various backgrounds and philosophical positions. Thus, the ability to be attentive to simultaneous realities and other experiences as informed by such policies can become a powerful tool for the artist.
In contextualizing the works Aranda elaborates how each artists work reflects, debates and discusses these ideas. Asma Kasmi’s works, $10.48 and Not for Sale, present the viewer with two images that bear visible outward signs of poverty and the objects associated with them. In both works, the absence of the human figure serves to underscore its fragile presence. Shalale Jamil notes through her powerful photographic imagery, the “rules of engagement” in private spaces. The reading of Divya Mehra’s sculpture, which is made from a neon sign that unequivocally states “I’m fucking you,” is further enhanced by her explication of the work: “a mental position held passively by both parties in a dysfunctional relationship.”
Swati Khurana’s Wedding Trousseau relates to traditions and rituals relating to marriage and their influence on gender and the social roles of women. She notes: “To me, the seductive promises of rituals comprise a huge part of domestic policy.” Sa’dia Rehman’s installation, Coming, 2009, is created from paper pulp, the artist’s own hair and a revealing audio component. Immigrant issues occupy a tenuous and fraught place among domestic policies. In this case, the movement of the artist from her native Pakistan to the United States has caused problems in her own domestic sphere. Ms. Samizay’s beautiful and meditative video works recall the endless, repetitive acts that are a constant part of everyday (domestic) life. Her methodical washing of a bedsheet, as she ironically wears a perfect manicure and pearls, turns into a kind of symbolic exorcism. As negative memories of domestic unhappiness seep from the bedsheet, the woman begins to realize her implication in her own unhappiness. Another of the most contested issues in public policy is health care. Vandana Jain’s work, Heart and Hearth (2009) addresses the health care reform debate. Using Tibetan prayer flags as her support, the artist has drawn directly on the surface, replacing the deity that usually occupies the center with an invented one.
Like immigration, law enforcement is also a significant chapter of domestic policy and is actively challenged from both liberal and conservative factions. In her commanding painting, Apnavi Thacker underscores both the role and the implication of law enforcement with her title, Moral Police Me (2007/2008).
Jaishri Abichandani strives throughout her work to examine networks of power and how these are experienced on an individual and collective level. Her work, Allah hu Akhbar (2008) is tellingly fashioned from leather whips, wire, nails, paint and Swarovski crystals. The contradictory nature of these materials—intended simultaneously to repel and seduce—is deftly taken up by the artist, who exploits the sensuous, calligraphic line as well as the meaning of the text, which translates to “God is Great” and is borrowed from the Iraqi flag of 2008.
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