Artist Jessica DeMuro Graves and Laura Earle“…Where we commune with our first true understandings of self and connection.”
Artist Rosa Maria Zamarron “…Learning to cook from my mother was our ceremony …We choose to silence our ancestral calling or reclaim what was taken….”
Suppose the subtle, dynamic, invisible energies at play in the spaces of our dwellings — homes, apartments, cottages – could take shape, materialize, in concrete tokens of imagination and beauty, what would those spaces look like? They would resemble the art exhibit, Womxn House, curated by Laura Earle and Asia Hamilton of Detroit’s Norwest Gallery of Art. In this stupendous show, 14 women artists have rendered Hamilton’s entire childhood home an objet d’art, by evoking experiences we associate with home, family, and ancestry in a series of breathtaking spatial designs. Here are rooms, porches and thresholds that startle, provoking feelings of whimsy, grief, trauma, longing, anticipation, order and peace, maternal presence, and hope.
Womxn House helps us see space itself as a vital aspect of our lives by surprising us – for example — turning a cupboard for food or dishes into an altar! Look what has become of the kitchen! Now the space is filled with a sense of reverence for the divine. Or was the kitchen always an altar of love, food and medicinal magic, and we simply didn’t realize it because we were not attuned to the deep energies and meaning invisibly at work in the space? Artist Maria Zamarron wrote of her kitchen installation, entitled Antepasados: “Learning to cook from my mother was our ceremony…my right [rite?] of passage to womanhood…. We choose whether to silence our ancestral calling or to reclaim what was taken, heal the pain and trauma and honor our ancestors.”
I Am because You Are, 72 Feathers, and Community Art Memorial are spaces to commemorate treasured relationships and mourn loss — including the deaths associated with COVID 19. Other works, This Is Me, Letters to Myself, and Prayers from the Community, offer rituals of blessing, meditation, and personal reflection. Dalia Reyes writes of her installation, Ground Portal: “A space in the ether just for sacred thoughts…your escape from the heaviness and denseness of the physical.” In The Apothecary – Home Medicines, Sabrina Nelson unveils a magic, luminous site of healing waters, herbal remedies, and traditional cures — in the space we call the bathroom.
At the nucleus of Womxn House, we find Womb – an installation into which we are invited to walk in our bare feet. Artists Jessica Graves and Laura Earle have transformed a bedroom into an experience of the place of our innermost vulnerability and power. Womb conjures a throbbing, deep red portal and enclosure, with folded layers like viscera of magenta satin, muslin, and suede. The work defies commentary. You simply have to go there. Graves and Earle speak of Womb in this way: “She is the center of creation, and of destruction, existing in the cyclical rhythm of birth and death. It is here, in this home, where we commune with our first true understandings of self, and connection (Exhibition Catalogue). This artwork, which posits the womb as the first home, reminds us of the essential function of the house as protective space, safe base from which we navigate the world, a workshop for identity formation.
The Apothecary – Home Medicines
Artist Sabrina Nelson “A space to offer healing pathways….”
Artists Amelia Duran and Laura Earle “…Juxtaposition of two very different cultural and political realities.”
Fall in Love
Artist Asia Hamilton “…The euphoric feelings of love…or the magic you experience in a new relationship.”
Artist Jessica DeMuro Graves, Laura Earle, and Olivia Guterson “Evoking dangerous abortion practices that endanger women’s lives; protesting SB-8 law.”
Artist Laura Earle and Jessica DeMuro Craves “Protesting SB-8 law.”
At the deathly opposite of Womb, there are the installations, Hanger Monster and $10,000 Bounty (mounted on the front lawn of the property). These are expressions of outrage against the recently enacted law, SB-8, which denies women’s reproductive rights, and threatens to cast women back into “back alley abortion practices which maim, sterilize and kill…”(Graves, Earle and Guterson, Exhibit Catalogue).
Womxn House lifts into visibility the ways in which we are in interchange with the energies of the spaces in which we live. We are embedded in what some scientists have called the environmental biodance. Our sense of our separateness from space is an illusion. In Euro-American culture, we are not inculcated with a consciousness of our interdependence with the environment we inhabit. Those in power take the spaces (land, resources, cities) for granted, and impose their realities and requirements on both the natural and built environments. So the ways in which our bodies and souls interact with everything around us rarely demand our attention; but spaces are alive. They are not neutral; they are not empty. It’s important to hone our consciousness of environment — for our personal enlightenment and realization of our kinship with the Earth, and for resistance against the political uses of spaces to confine, control, dehumanize, poison and oppress – as in ghettos, evictions, homelessness, toxic waste disposal, dilapidated school buildings, jails and prisons.
The artists explored a web of very important issues in Womxn House: The lingering traumas of childhood, the quandaries of socio-cultural/political identity; the sweetness and vulnerability of falling in love, concerns over the legacies we will leave our children; the glass ceiling and other career inequities; the terror associated with missing and murdered women and girls; the deep emotional and social challenges of aging. Having been engulfed and inundated by the dynamic interplay of objects and the energies of artistic intention in these designed spaces, as we exit Womxn House, we feel affirmed as women, uplifted, thoughtful, and thankful. So many of the concerns we carry in our heads and hearts are reified in this brilliant exhibit. Deep gratitude to Asia Hamilton and Laura Earle for their powerful vision as curators, and to all the artists for their equally powerful gifts!
Installation: Womxn House, Detroit
September 18 – October 23, 2021
Curators: Laura Earle and Asia Hamilton
Loralei R. Byatt
Jessica DeMuro Graves
Rosa Maria Zamarron