Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Nevertheless She Persisted" – Judith

This is the big new piece I made for "High Priestess" – the group show opening at at ArtShare LA this Saturday night, March 18 (details at the bottom of this post). It's a portrait of the (apocryphal) biblical heroine Judith, a "daring and beautiful widow" (h/t Wikipedia) who slays Israel's enemy, the general Holofernes, with his own sword and brings his head back to her fearful countrymen, in triumph; Israel is saved.

I find it astounding how many portraits of strong women use the "head bowed" posture – when men in similar narratives are usually shown with heads held high, basking in their own greatness. Women are traditionally shown as humble or modest in their achievements, undercutting their strength and undermining their accomplishments. Or at least that's the way I see it. So my Judith is shown with head bowed to subvert that model, and her sword shines bright as she contemplates what she's achieved. The handle of that sword addresses the dichotomy of representation of female heroes in traditional narratives – the negative attributes applied to women so that they remain unsure of their power and themselves, positioned above the verses from the Book of Judith which celebrate her. It's like the folks who set down these stories just couldn't handle a strong woman, and kept trying to chip away at female strength with stereotypical insults.

I've titled this papercut "Nevertheless She Persisted" after the words used just last month by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to attempt to silence the voice of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” said McConnell. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Dick move, McConnell – and his words became a rallying cry for those, like me, who will not stand idly by and allow women's voices to be silenced. "Nevertheless, she persisted."

The papercut is made of cut-up comics featuring female super heroes, including Wonder Woman, the first female human Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, Mary Jane Parker, Black Canary, Scarlet, Elektra, and more. The words in Judith's face — "I've got no reason to be afraid any more" — come from a comic book called "The Wicked + The Divine" (written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie) attributed to a character named Inanna – who shares a name with the Babylonian goddess of love, wisdom, and war.

Want to hear more about it? And see it in person? Join me this Saturday night, March 18, from 7-10 pm, for the opening reception of "High Priestess" at ArtShare LA in downtown Los Angeles (801 E 4th Place, 90013.
Femininity is both an energy and an idea, and is not necessarily the same as femaleness — as these hypnotic and quasi-mystical works explore through images of secular mythology and cultural power.).
The show features a bunch of new work by me, as well as some wonderful art by Hagop Belian, Elena Johnson, Mirabelle Jones, Lois Keller, Erika Lizée, Rebecca McFarland, Lauren Mendelsohn-Bass, Lena Moross, Robert Nelson, Jason Pippen, Nataša Stearns, and Tslil Tsemet.

 Click here for more details.

Nevertheless She Persisted
24" x 36"
Mixed media
Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik

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