Posts tagged Female
Samantha Louise Emery returns to The Other Art Fair October 3 - 6

Artist Samantha Louise Emery is set to exhibit a multimedia portrait of author and journalist Caitlin Moran at The Other Art Fair in London in October as part of Art Below.

Caitlin Moran is one of ten in Emery’s portrait series IKONA | Mirrored Interior featuring the influential female trailblazers who have inspired the artist throughout her life. After creating original digital artworks from photographs of her chosen muses and superimposing imagery of her own body, the artist instinctively paints and embroiders directly onto the printed canvas. Through her layering of pigment and texture, the artist intricately translates her perception of her subjects’ unique voice, expression, and aura.

Emery’s work conveys a powerful message about female solidarity and empowerment. By including a self-portrait in each of her portraits, she seeks to keep in touch with her own evolution as a woman as well as highlighting the importance for all women to regard themselves as modern muses.

“Throughout my life, I’ve sought to understand who it is to be a Woman. What is the nature of our roles as a daughter, mother, partner, sibling and ultimately an individual? The root of feminine strength lives in us and is a birth right to all Women. I am on a journey to rediscover the source of a woman’s power, the Feminine Spirit. We’ve been graced with living in a time when many women have asserted their feminine selves and have inspired others through their actions. Yet more awareness still needs to be brought to the world about feminine solidarity, education and the positive effects it can have for girls and women today, and into the future. This sense of purpose drives the exploration and rendering of IKONA | Mirrored Interior; celebrating women who have inspired my life through their actions, attitudes and accomplishments. Some of these women I have known quite well and have participated in my evolution as a woman, and as an artist. Others have inspired me from afar, and yet all of them share something in common; they exercise their feminine vulnerability with courage and dignity. This internal mirroring is a phenomenon that I work to expand through my use of hand embroidery, digital drawing and traditional painting techniques, and digital photo compositing. I follow an intuitive process which seeks to combine shape and colour to develop textures that interpret the deep and intricate feminine qualities of each subject while honouring their unique personality.”

“Above all else, Caitlin Moran makes me smile. From the inside out. Her desire to bring laughter into the world channels my sense of self respect by being able to laugh at my own circumstances and daily struggles. Her strength of character and articulate nature sharpens my own wit and feminine intuition as I continue to grow and mature.”   Latex, acrylic and embroidered gold, silver and copper on canvas.  120cm x 170cm

“Above all else, Caitlin Moran makes me smile. From the inside out. Her desire to bring laughter into the world channels my sense of self respect by being able to laugh at my own circumstances and daily struggles. Her strength of character and articulate nature sharpens my own wit and feminine intuition as I continue to grow and mature.”

Latex, acrylic and embroidered gold, silver and copper on canvas.

120cm x 170cm

Emery is currently working on her next series IKONA | Wise Women which will showcase cultural activists, journalists, and filmmakers, amongst others, who inspire women to rise to their highest potential through their work.

A portion of all income from the series IKONA | Mirrored Interior is donated to the Working Chance charity and the Malala Fund. Working Chance is the only recruitment consultancy for women leaving the criminal justice and care systems. The Malala Fund works to give all girls the chance to an education.

London born Emery completed her Ceramic and Design degree at Central Saint Martins in 1993. In 1992 she won the award at the Young People’s Film & Video Festival for her short film Night Shift inspired by the work of Sylvia Plath. Emery then moved to Canada and debuted several series of paintings which she exhibited in Toronto and New York. The multimedia artist splits her time between the UK and her studio in Bodrum, Turkey, her spiritual home.

For more information please contact: Phoebe Ruffels, or +44 (0) 203 981 5200

Loreal Prystaj

Loreal Prystaj is a visual artist from New York now based in London. Presently she is attending the Royal College of Art, to obtain her MA in photography, and previously received her BFA in photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Surrounded by a thriving “fashion environment” she planned on becoming a commercial photographer but chose to take a Fine Art direction where she felt she could express her ideas more freely.

She has had three solo exhibitions and participated in over thirty group exhibitions, including Arles Photo Festival (2018), MIA in Milan (2016) and selected to show with LifeFramer's travelling exhibition (2017).  Her work has been seen in galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and China, and she presently has pieces included in the permanent art collection at the Erie Art Museum, Pennsylvania, since 2014.  Prystaj’s archive of work has led to guest lecturing at accredited universities, such as NYU, FIT and Columbia, in New York. She has been awarded jury prizes from more than ten photography competitions internationally, including Ashurst Art Prize (2018), ArtSlant (2017), Neutral Density (2016), and TIFA (2018), alongside with being published widely, from The Guardian (2018), The British Journal of Photography (2018), My Modern Met (2017) to multiple articles in L'oeil de la Photographie (2017, 2016, 2015).


Her work often exposes the relationship between a specific time and space, with a juxtaposition of the human form and its environment. She expresses ideas through her photography and uses the medium consistently - in installation and interactive pieces - as well as using herself as a character or form in her images, performance and video work.

Holly D. Gray

The role of caregiver, predominately assumed by women, is the inspiration and basis for my artistic practice. While creating my newest works, I was thinking about my role as a female caregiver and what that means to me personally, but also what that might look like for the mothers of medically fragile children that happen to be so similar to myself. With this identity, I was absorbed in the daily labor both physical and emotional for these women.

I tend to collect objects over a measured and set amount of time, and I enjoy giving myself specific time restrictions for my practice. With the specifics of time and volume, my photographs for the One Day Project refers to a 24-hour period of collection from thirteen different mothers and their disabled children, that are located across the United States. The ceramic installation, 52 weeks, is a nod to the weeks of a year and this piece was created by my personal weekly collections as a memorial to the year gone by. 

The subject matter of my work is the daily detritus or waste material that comes with the life of a medically fragile child. The female caregivers, mothers in most cases, fight for these supplies on numerous levels and use this material in hopes that it will be part of the puzzle to keep their child alive one more day. Without these mundane daily rituals, their children and mine would not survive. And with this subject, I’m left to think about the moment to moment that ends up being a tremendous weight in this type of caregiving. 

The materials that I use are rooted in the daily care for children with multiple disabilities. By using photography as a material to transform what would be considered in most cases trash, I’m able to document a moment in time that is fleeting for the families involved. With the use of ceramic sculpture for the installation 52 Weeks, the forms offer a fragility and softness that the source plastics cannot achieve.

There is an elegance in this type of caregiving that most don’t see. There’s a light in its brokenness. After all, this is a parent and child relationship. The images of Light in Nurture reference the collection of source material in a unique way. My intent with these images is to add beauty to the perceived brokenness. Society and politics often view disability as a tragedy or a drain on resources. A life lived atypically is often related to strain and stress, but there is a calmness, strength, grace, and resilience that come from this community of women. For myself, I’ve had the same routine for eleven years with my daughter, so the daily practice of this core group of women is fiercely important to my artwork. 

Best known for her contemporary photography and ceramic sculpture installations, Gray’s materials are chosen and rooted in the act of daily caregiving with a soft female aesthetic. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Holly D. Gray will receive her MFA in May of 2019 from The University of Texas at Arlington.

Lisa Von Hoffner

Lisa Von Hoffner is a contemporary figurative painter from Philadelphia. She received a BFA in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design and an MFA in painting at Arizona State University. In 2015 she was selected to partake in an artist-in-residence program in Joutsa, Finland where she invoked the richness of contemporary Finnish art to edify her work. Lisa has exhibited extensively in the States and abroad and was selected as one of only 40 artists out of nearly 1,000 applicants to be published in the New American Paintings MFA Annual. In 2017 she was on the Phoenix New Times list of “100 Creatives You Need to Know” and had her art featured on the show Good Morning AZ 3TV. Lisa is an educator at Arizona State University and continues to work on solo projects and collaborative efforts throughout the valley. 


My work brings to light the paradoxical state of women’s sexuality in a distinctly patriarchal society, literally and figuratively. Laced with bright lights and a near hallucinatory fanfare of color, the immediate tenor of my most recent work is a carousel of revelry and excitement, similar to the buzzing allure of Vegas. This sparkling veneer is sarcastically subverted by the realities that are being addressed ─ objectification, commodification, and the disfigurement and misuse of women’s sexuality in society. Through the hallowed reiteration of circles and a hyper-spectacle of art objects, these pieces enter the realm of devotion ─ devout objects to be revered, objects that pay homage to the sanctity of womanhood. This sentiment is punctuated by ever expanding upon the materiality of the work with complexly loaded ingredients, such as neon and LED lights. By elevating my paintings off of the wall, wrapping them in neon and slathering them with puddles of resin, I defy their two-dimensionality. In doing so, these paintings are transformed into art objects themselves, echoing the normative objectification of women.

Space for Women's Stories: Interview with Hiba Schahbaz

Hiba Schahbaz was born in Karachi, Pakistan and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She works primarily with paper, black tea, and water-based pigments. She depicts women’s bodies while referencing self-portraiture, creating a space for herself and other women to tell their stories and reclaim their histories. Since migrating to the United States, her practice has expanded from miniature painting to human-scale works on paper.

Schahbaz trained in miniature painting at the National College of Arts, Lahore and received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute. Her solo shows include The Garden (Spring/Break Art Show, 2018), Hiba Schahbaz: Self-Portraits (Project for Empty Space, 2017), Hanged With Roses (Thierry Goldberg Gallery, 2015), and In Memory (Noire Gallery, 2012). 

Schahbaz has participated in numerous group exhibitions; including shows at NiU Museum of Art, The Untitled Space, and Center for Book Arts; and at art fairs such as Pulse Art Fair, Art.Fair Cologne, and Vienna Fair. Her work has been written about in Vice, Hyperallergic, The Huffington Post, Coveteur, Vogue, NY Magazine, Art Critical, and others.

Schahbaz has curated painting exhibitions in Pakistan and India. She was an artist-in-residence at Mass MoCA, The Wassaic Project, Vermont Studio Center, and the Alfred Z. Solomon Residency at the Tang Museum. She teaches miniature painting at the Art Students League in NY.

Interview by Sarah Mills

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I can’t say that there was a single decisive moment. When I was a young girl, I would keep little scraps of paper, markers, and a torch under my pillow. I would draw imaginary landscapes hidden under my blanket when I was supposed to be sleeping. I always assumed that I would be an artist, and luckily life flowed in that direction.

When did you decide to start creating large-scale works? What pushed you to do so?

I began painting larger human scale works a couple of years ago. It was a big shift from miniature painting, and although I’d been thinking about it for years, I was still hesitant to do so. I think the shift happened because I had become very comfortable and settled as a miniature painter. I needed to develop something different. I craved growth (no pun intended). 

In part, the transition also happened because I began painting the gaze. When I moved to New York, I wasn’t painting faces at all. Over time, I began painting the side profiles of figures and eventually the women in the paintings turned to face the viewer. At this time I wanted to make their eyes life size to further this engagement.


How did your work in miniatures inform your large-scale works?

I trained as a miniaturist and painted within the genre for over a decade. I see the human sized paintings as an extension of my miniature works. I still paint very stylized bodies and imaginary landscapes. My use of tea, pink, and turquoise are the same colors I utilized in miniature paintings. I also still use a fine miniature brush to articulate areas of detail. Most of the materials I use are a direct extension of my miniature practice, such as handmade paper, tea, gouache, watercolor, and gold leaf.

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Can you tell us a little about your studio practice? 

I’m a full time artist. My studio practice is entirely self-disciplined and self-motivated. I like working at my own pace and being in a state of flow at the studio. I prefer to paint without goals for exhibiting my work, and I don’t need deadlines to get things done. I find I’m most satisfied when I work without pressure and my paintings develop organically. The opportunities to show these paintings arise along the way.

I appreciate harmony. I wake up with the sunrise and come to the studio first thing in the morning. Early mornings are very important to me, since I’m most centred and productive when I have substantial mental space and quiet time in which to work. 

In the studio I often work on more than one thing at a time. These days I’m not working from preliminary sketches or drawing or color studies. All my energy is going into the paintings themselves. If I get stuck, I shift my attention to another work until things fall into place. I often shift scale, moving from working on large paintings to small ones.

What has been the biggest surprise you have faced in your art career thus far?

I think the biggest surprise has been all the support and encouragement I have received from both inside and outside the art world since moving to New York. Even when things got rough in my own personal journey as an artist, I always feel stronger and more accepted when I received a note from someone who had seen and experienced my paintings for the first time. It’s always a surprise and it’s always welcome. I feel a lot of gratitude towards everyone who has supported me on my path.


What is one piece of advice that you got that you feel our readers would benefit from hearing?

Believe in yourself and make work for yourself. If you’re fulfilled as an artist, the rest of the world will come around. Ninety percent of the validation you need should come from within. Consistency is key, so work everyday—it’s not about ‘feeling’ inspired. Lightning will probably strike you before inspiration does! You’re an artist, so create your own inspiration. Never give up.

Katie Evans

Katie graduated from Flagler College in the fall of 2015 with a BFA in Fine Art and a BA in Graphic Design. After school she continued working at a design studio in the area. When she's not making art she enjoys practicing yoga, exploring Florida's state parks, and thrifting for objects that will inspire her next drawing. To stay up to date with Katie's latest drawings and see work in progress, follow her on instagram: @kevans_art

At first glance the women in my work may appear meek and docile, lying lifeless or staring blankly into space. The seemingly submissive poses they hold become performances of endurance as they firmly resist their environment. They are immersed within themselves, possessing a quiet, reserved power.

Lauren Munns

I am fascinated with growth, evolution, and one’s perception of others, discovering and exploring the traditions and habits that stem from these concepts. The rituals between mothers and daughters through generations and the challenges of interaction with outer human spheres are highlighted in my pieces through traditionally “feminine” colors and textures, often transformed to seem as though they are something else. I manipulate imagery of the female form and its most notable parts like lips, curves, and hair. Detached from the female form, these pieces create new conversations of “where did we derive from”, “what are we”, and “where are we headed?”

Sexuality From a Woman’s Perspective : Interview with Lily Brown

Lily Brown graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2015 with a BFA in Painting. Since graduation, she has continued to live and work in Philadelphia. She works with children by day teaching art, her way of helping to ensure a creative future for the next generation. By night, she returns to her studio. Oil and Gouache are her primary mediums, each used for different outcomes. Oil allows for a more complex range of emotion and technique, offering a more complicated result, while Gouache allows her to render a specific emotion with more precision and clarity. 

Using these mediums and techniques, Brown aims to investigate the gender roles in American society with a focus on the female experience. While painting these images, she is closely examining the moments when these roles are being utilized or abandoned. If the subject is leaning into these influences or fighting against them. Or possibly trying to understand them, trying to figure out where she as a human begins and these overwhelming and sometimes detrimental outside expectations end. Examples of the repercussions of gender roles pop up in all forms of social media, sexuality, anger, motherhood, our education, and every other facet of our being. Lily is questioning the foundation of being a woman and attempting to shift how we treat and view them. This drives her to search for moments and images that portray women who are encountering rules that were written by society, and enforced by our own insecurities.

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Tell us about your interest in painting the figure. When did you first begin exploring this subject matter and how has it progressed over the course of your art career?

I have drawn and painted the figure since a very young age, people in general just interest me. Before committing to art in college I started my education as a psychology major, this was before realizing I just wanted to paint people, not necessarily try and solve them. I could just stare at them for hours, imagining where they’ve been, who they are, what they're going through. Maybe subconsciously I started painting them since starring is considered rude.

Not much has changed for me in the sense of the subject matter, but I guess I go in and out of different themes. I know that when I graduated from college I became obsessed with painting highly sexualized images. I was completely infatuated with two bodies crashing against each other and I felt too self-conscious to pursue those thoughts in school. Now I have kind of moved out of that phase, although it definitely shows itself at times. I think my work reflects where I am in my life in some way or another and now I'm at a point where I feel more at home in my practice. I no longer question why I want to paint the things I do, I just act and reflect on it later.


Exploring sexuality from the female perspective is important, especially given our current political climate. Talk a little bit about your approach to painting the female nude.

This is a subject that is forever changing for me and so incredibly important. Sexuality from a woman’s perspective it still somewhat of a mystery to American society, I find this deeply upsetting. I remember growing up and ingesting all of this information from movies, magazines and yes porn, which was all mostly given to us from a man's perspective.

When I’m painting a woman, and people in general, I just want to paint them as authentically as possible. I want to catch every unique part of them. I am so sick of seeing women in paintings being depicted as these otherworldly creatures. I'm sick of seeing perfect skin and “perfect female bodies”. That ideal should be crushed, and I'd like to think that every time I paint myself or some other woman the way they truly are, stomachs, uneven boobs and all, I'm helping myself shed these ridiculous insecurities that should have never been there in the first place. And if I’m lucky, I get to help someone else feel a little more at home in her body as well.


Who are the figures you choose to paint? Where do your references and inspiration come from?

I paint my close friends, myself, and draw inspiration from old playgirls and nudist magazines from the 70’s.

How does the art community in Philadelphia impact your studio practice?

If I'm being completely honest, I am a very solitary worker and it is very hard for me to branch out and speak to others about my work on a regular basis. But when I do get out to see the shows and talk with people in collectives they are all nothing but welcoming and inclusive. I'm lucky that when I need a critique I have a couple Philly artists that are always happy to come speak with me about my practice.

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What should artists and creatives be doing to contribute to the change in how we perceive female sexuality as a society?

I think we need to destigmatize the female form, we need to stop viewing it solely a vessel of sexual pleasure, yes it can be that, but it is SO MUCH more. Just as everyone is more than their sexuality. But for the most part, artists who are dealing with this subject matter are already doing the work. Exposure is key, there is no reason female sexuality should stay behind closed doors or be seen as a subcategory of art. It IS art, just like any other subject matter. What I hope is that curators and collectors will stop viewing sexuality as a taboo theme without any real meat or importance. I hope that this type of work will start to be viewed with more consideration instead of being overlooked as crude and two-dimensional. I want to see female sexuality in galleries and shows without the label NSFW.


What's currently happening in your studio and what should we be looking out for this year?

I'm in an in-between area right now. But I have just recently started a painting of two women wrestling that is really exciting me. I plan on starting a new body of work that focuses on physical female aggression. Usually, when people think of women fighting we imagine them saying nasty things behind each other's backs. And I love the idea two women just throwing punches instead. (not that I endorse female rivalry) But that idea is fun and full of juice for me.

A Shared Narrative: Interview with Lauren Rinaldi

Lauren Rinaldi's work inhabits the space where objectification, female power and sexual empowerment intersect and blur. She uses oil paintings, mixed media drawings and sketches as her vehicles to explore ideas about intimacy, gaze, body-image, sexuality and self-Identity. She looks to the women in her life for inspiration and works to weave their experiences with her own to create a shared narrative. Through observing the nature of women seeking affirmation under the guise of anonymity online, she also is informed by the influence social media has on female identity and how detachment from the depictions of the reality of the self affects and reveals who women desire to be.

Lauren was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1983. She received her BFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art in 2006. She is represented by Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and son.


Tell us about your background. Were you always interested in painting the female form?

I was born in Brooklyn, NY, spent my teenage years in Lancaster County, PA, moved to Philadelphia to attend college where I earned my BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art and have been a resident ever since. I am a full time artist, full time mother of a ten year old and two cats, wife, part time yoga teacher and what usually feels like a million other things.

I’ve absolutely always been interested in painting the female form. I think it came from me trying to make sense of how my own body has, in a way, defined who I am. Painting is my way of parsing out what it means for me to be a woman and thinking about the roles women play, the expectations, the currency of our bodies and our sex and how to both embrace and navigate the gift of womanhood.

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Who are the women in your paintings and drawings? What is their story and how do you come up with the reference images.

The women are me. That’s not something I usually come outright and say, for a lot of reasons, but they are. They’re me and they’re not me and when they really aren’t me, they’re still me. My story isn’t unique or special, but in my work I get to direct it. I stand outside of the frame and inside of it, so there’s no hierarchy and I hold the power.

I usually take my own reference photos or I ask women to send me their own photos and the narrative tends to revolve around reflection, voyeurism and the fluidity of private and public moments. In college I would take my photos with a disposable camera and have them developed at Rite-Aid or CVS (which in and of itself was an… interesting experience), but smart phones have really changed my process. Often times I set my phone up and just record myself doing mundane things like showering or getting dressed and later I go through the videos taking hundreds of screen shots to work from those. Historically, women have been depicted inanimately, so I like to elicit my references from an activated body; it feels more sensual and real to me. So the story isn’t always a specific narrative, but more of a sizing up, looking, assessing and reassessing, peeking, revealing, concealing and evaluating oneself and where and how she fits into a broader context.

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What do you hope to show the viewer about the female identity in today's culture?

The day before the Women’s March this past January, I shared work on social media and I was immediately suspended from Facebook and the image was removed from Instagram. So one of the signs I made to carry the next day read: My nipples violate your community standards. The fact that I, a cis white female, exist unapologetically in my body is controversial and offensive to some in the year 2018. Reactions like that occasionally fuel my work, because I think it’s worth exploring the boundary lines of what is deemed acceptable and what crosses over to vulgar or worthy of censorship. So like most artists, I just want the viewer to feel something, whether that is feeling is discomfort, pleasure, numbness, etc. when they look at the art I make and to question why it makes them respond that way and for them to think about what of themselves they brought to the experience that affects their interaction with the work.

Tell us about a typical day in the studio. How do you prioritize and balance your time?

On a typical day I wake up by 7am and drink about half of a pot of coffee while I answer emails, do bookkeeping things and make lists. Next I’ll either do some sketching to warm up, plan my next piece(s), I’ll prepare some surfaces or I’ll jump right into whatever painting I’m working on. I’ll spend the next few hours working while listening to too many political or murder mystery podcasts and continuing to drink my perpetually cold coffee that I keep reheating and forgetting about. I’m always working on multiple paintings so, depending on what deadlines I have coming up or what needs to dry or how I’m feeling, I’m able to jump around and I never really feel stuck because I have something else to work on. I work until the very last minute and then I run out of the house and pick my son up from school. If there’s time after I take care of general life things, homework, sports practice, dinner, etc. and before I teach yoga in the evenings, I might sneak back into my studio and work some more. As a mom it can be difficult to balance my time and my son and his needs always take top priority, but having to compartmentalize every hour of my day actually helps me to be more efficient in the studio. I know I have a certain time frame in which I absolutely have to be productive.

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Name a few contemporary female artists that you look up to.

Ahh, there are so many! Lisa Yuskavage, Inka Essenhigh, Amy Sherald, Carolee Schneeman, Gina Beavers, Rose Freymuth-Frazier, Jenny Saville, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ghada Amer to name just a few. My local artist friends I know in real life grinding every day and make great art are a huge inspiration, as well.


What do you feel artists need to do more of in order to raise awareness of today's cultural and political issues?

I would just encourage artists to be courageous and not shy away from addressing issues they feel strongly about. To me, art making is about creating an environment of empathy and, it turns out, empathy can be quite contentious and polarizing, which makes art inherently political. I believe art and politics by nature can’t be separated and that it’s our job as artists to process the world in which we live in a deliberate manner, cognizant of the context of our work and its pertinence to whatever current cultural issues we’re facing.

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What are you currently working on and what's next for you?

Right now the majority of my studio time is being devoted to working on a new body of mostly oil paintings for my upcoming summer solo show at Paradigm Gallery + Studio here in Philadelphia. I’m excited about the paintings I’ve got in the works and I’m also looking forward to finishing them up and possibly working on an installation and a couple of fun experimental pieces I can’t stop thinking about.

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Jennifer Nehrbass

The artwork of Jennifer Nehrbass pieces together a beautiful hodgepodge of diverse patterns, shapes, symbols, and objects—complete with body parts such as fingers and breasts peaking out from unexpected places. However, her collage-like compositions are actually created through painting! Although the artist does also create equally compelling collages, most of the work below was made by applying oil paint to canvas—can you tell which is which? Nehrbass’s stunning work flaunts bold backgrounds along with figures that appear to have eyes missing or part of a leg — sometimes they have no body at all. Her style seems to be reminiscent of the work of the surrealists, with uncanny faces and bizarre twists on the human form. She rearranges elements, deconstructing and reconstructing a new space, new beings.  

The artist’s talent and skill in photo-realism is taken even farther in her “Cameo” series. These equally as intriguing portraits beautifully capture a variety of women, with each composition containing a hint of an element of strange. In Nehrbass’s piece “Tasting Juniper,” the woman’s body is gone, and an animal skull rests over her face. In another, the figure seems frozen, unable to move in an interesting landscape. Make sure to check out the whole series for a deeper look into the wonderfully peculiar and unique mind of the artist.

Earning an MFA from the University of New Mexico, Jennifer Nehrbass’s work has been exhibited in cities such as LA, Portland, and NYC, and around in the world in places like Switzerland and Austria. 

Interview: Lena Gustafson

By Sarah Mills 

Lena Gustafson, Visual Artist, Oakland,CA. 

"My lens is often focused on the strength of femininity. I am interested in the private relationships women have with their bodies and with others. Much of my creative output is from the culmination of many observations of women being themselves, doing their thing.  My hope is that this work can be used as a mirror to the people from whom I draw."

Lena's recent work uses bright colors and large female figures at the center of each image. She uses repeated visual symbolism such as flags, water, plant life, color, and repeated gestures to communicate different stories within the body. Often times the line that separates the figure from her environment are blurred. 

Traditionally the female form has been used as a symbol to indulge others' fantasies, dreams, and fascinations.  Lena is interested not in what can be projected onto it, but instead what lies to be awoken within the body itself. She is interested in the idea of body memory and aims to visualize what this would look like if we could see it. Rather than the figure itself it is the stored information within the figure as well as its surroundings that interests Lena. By engaging with the history of representation of the female form, Lena contemplates new narratives for which the female body can understand itself.

Lena is a visual artist based in Oakland, CA. After graduating from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2011, she cofounded Night Diver Press with her partner Peter Calderwood. Together they use silkscreen and other alternative printing techniques to create and publish multiples in the form of prints, books, zines, and monotypes. Lena's recent paintings are technically informed by her background in preparing images for screen-prints. 

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On your website you say that you are “interested in the private relationships women have with their bodies and with others.” Can you expand on this, what draws you to this particular relationship?

I am interested in the conversations that happen when women are by themselves, feel safe, or are beginning to shut down the brain. I don't think enough time is spent focusing on this quieter state, which is why I think it's important to investigate. I am interested in the "private relationships" women have with their bodies because there is an unfortunate psychological "male gaze" that haunts many females that I am both interested in and repulsed by.  A quote that comes to mind is from Margaret Atwood's novel, "The Robber Bride" where she writes, 

“Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies” According to Atwood “Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy: that you're strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you're unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”   With this disturbing situation in mind, I try to imagine women able to escape this internalized male gaze.  That's why it's important for me to portray women by themselves or, at the very most, with other female figures. I make images of states of mind/body that I wish to be true. I paint women that aren’t behold to or haunted by the male gaze.

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What is your earliest memory being drawn to the female figure?

It is not so much the female figure that has drawn me in, but instead the experience of inhabiting a body. And the earliest memory I have of being interested in my physical intelligence is when I was in middle school, and noticed that my grades/performance in school were much poorer than those of others around me. It was also around this time I noticed a big disparity between the way I was able to express myself verbally or academically, and the depth of my feelings. Image making has always helped because it was a way to let people around me, and myself, know that there was more going on than what I was able to communicate verbally. 

Often in interactions with people, I have a challenging time keeping up verbally with conversations even though I may have powerful emotional and physical responses to them.  However, I have come to regard my nonverbal sensitivity as simply another form of intelligence instead of something that is societally inferior.  I rely on image making to let this deeper, watery, abstract content surface. 

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What kind of process is involved when creating your work?

Sometimes to my regret, my process is not centered around routine or predictability. I am usually in my head for a long time. Even if I am in my studio, I spend this time reading, or doing visual research. Visual research is an important part of my process and can take many different forms - from recording different patterns I see in fashion in the city, to taking my camera into the woods. I look for patterns and unusual occurrences and connect them to concepts if possible. Taking notes and recording dreams, overheard conversations, color, and landscape are intregral parts of the process.  After this long period of being in my head, I'll move into the body, and this is when I begin to paint. I think of it as a sort of earthquake, where I have taken topics of interest as far as I can mentally, and they need to erupt physically. 

Painting for me is about translating thought through the hand onto the page. So, in that sense, it is an act of radical acceptance. I am interested in allowing the deep insecurities and mistakes to remain visible, as well as the bold confident marks. It feels like a tight-rope balance between not letting it be too easy, and not making it unnecessarily hard. Some people talk about having an out of body experience when making work, I am trying to have as much of an in-body experience as possible. The concepts I am working with often have to do with physicality, body memory, or physical intelligence, and I try to mirror this concept in the way I paint.  

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What is your favorite part of the creative process?

 I have two favorite parts. 

1. When I come back to my studio after being extremely hard on myself for not making the kind of work that I want to, or not translating what was in my head accurately, and then seeing it with objective eyes. I enjoy this time because the work feels out of my hands or control and I can appreciate, simply, that it was made. 

2. When someone who responds to my work verbalizes my exact intentions for a piece. This is an incredible feeling because it instantly bridges the two disparate worlds of fantasy/concept with reality and a shared experience. My main impulse as an artist is to communicate/connect with people so when people mirror back my intentions, there is an amazing clarity. 

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How do you choose the color pallet you work in? 

Color plays a big role in my recent work. In the last year and a half I have had a color resurgence in my work. I think this is because before just recently, most of the images I was making were in collaboration with my partner who is a screen-printer. So I would prepare all the files in solid black to later be translated into screen prints. It got to a tipping point where I needed to involve color/texture/immediacy in my own work. My color pallet comes from the visual note-taking I do before making a series of work. It is influenced by color combinations found in nature, patterns that come form behind my eyelids, fashion/clothing/textiles, and of course other artists' work. Color is one language that is part of the non-verbal realm I am interested in. 

NSFW at Spoke Art

A Group Exhibition Curated by Dasha Matsuura

August 5-26, 2017 

Spoke Art is pleased to present NSFW, a group exhibition featuring over 40 female and femme identifying artists exploring sex and sexuality. This dynamic group displays a complex spectrum of experiences from the feminine perspective.

Working in a variety of media including painting, embroidery, neon and beyond, each artist presents their unique interpretation of sexuality. Celebrating the concurrent, opposing forces of femininity, the work celebrates the female experience by highlighting the presence of soft sensuality with powerful and brash frankness.

Each piece delves into the complexity of female sexuality, not as a definitive narrative, but as a larger conversation. Giving voice to artists across the spectrum of gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, racial background and experiences, the exhibition explores how each artist relates to their own sexuality.

Please join us for NSFW, opening Saturday, August 5th, with an opening night reception from 6pm - 9pm. The exhibition will be on view through Saturday, August 26th. For more information or additional images, please email us at

Participating artists include:

Jen Bartel | Laura Berger | Audrey Bodisco | Stephanie Brown | Nomi Chi | Katie Commodore | Jess de Wahls | Vanessa Del Rey | Jenny Dubet | Robin Eisenberg | Sabrina Elliott | Lyndsie Fox | Alex Garant | Nicole Guice | Jessica Hess | Sally Hewett | Alisha Huskin | Tina Jiang | Natalie Krim | Lauren YS | Noel’le Longhaul | Cathy Lu | Tina Lugo | Sarah Maxwell | Miss Meatface | Miss Van | Nadezda | Joanne Nam | Jeany Ngo | ONEQ | Meryl Pataky | Petite Luxures | Allison Reimold | Emma Rose Laughlin | Ellen Schinderman | Jessica So Ren Tang | Mel Stringer |Lindsay Stripling | Miranda Tacchia | Winnie Truong | Mandy Tsung | Neryl Walker | Wishcandy | Kathrine Worel

Interview: Elody Gyekis

Elody Gyekis earned her BFA in Painting and Ceramics from Penn State. Her artwork includes painting, drawing, and sculpture and has been exhibited widely throughout the US. She completed an artist residency in Sibiu, Romania in 2014 and has taught intensive painting workshops as part of an artist residency in both Costa Rica and Honduras. Elody is also an active muralist, having created several community based projects throughout Pennsylvania. She splits her time between living in Pennsylvania, Central America, and New York City, where she will begin her Master of Fine Arts studies at the New York Academy of the Arts in 2017.

What first drew you to art or inspired you to become an artist? 

That is a difficult answer for me, as the impulse to create is as old as my first memories. I had an isolated childhood, not always but in the sense that I did spend many hours alone. I lived on a small mountain in central Pennsylvania that had only three houses on it and both of my parents worked, so after day care or school, I spent my afternoons largely alone (my older brother was around but not usually engaging with me). I read, I drew, I collected fossils. I dug clay in the stream bank and made pinch pots. I made fairy houses out of twigs and leaves. I drew. My parents were creative and encouraged me. My grandmother was an art teacher and so visits to her always involved arts and crafts. Later, in high school, I would spend hours on drawings and paintings after school, creating enough work of high enough quality that I was able to get into a phenomenal program that sadly does not exist anymore: The Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, a prestigious full scholarship summer art program that was in Erie, PA. There, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by many talented and creative kids, many of us the "misfits" of our own schools, and together we found belonging and encouragement and inspiration and our creativity and passion flourished. I was 16 when I went, and it changed my life, giving me confidence in myself and planting the seed of the idea that I could pursue art as a career. 

How did your early career develop and where did you study?

I studied at Penn State University. I applied to and got into MICA, Pratt, SFAI and other art schools, but decided on Penn State for financial reasons. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had a strong art program, great faculty, and as part of the Honors College I had access to wonderful academic classes to feed my intellectual curiosity, which in turn fed my studio practice. I earned a double BFA in Painting/Drawing and Ceramics while I was at Penn State.  I started organizing and creating community murals during my freshman summer break, which almost inadvertently turned into a significant portion of my career and income out of school as I was trying to figure out how to make a living as an artist through a combination of painting sales, public art, commission work, and teaching painting classes. 

Figure painting in particular has such a long history, how does your work fit into this canon? What is your interest in this subject and especially the female form?

My work is fueled by collaboration, driven towards beauty, and preoccupied with the feminine experience. It explores the internal battles faced by women as we confront society’s prefabricated narratives, realize our unique identities, and compose our personal responses to the emotions that shape the human experience. I am particularly interested in the conflict that emerges when the contemporary female experience collides with the narratives that we have inherited through myths, folktales and fairy tales. In my compositions, reality merges with the mystical, allowing me to recreate historical fables and invented tales from the perspective of the heroines living the stories today.

My first use of myths as a source of visual allegory resulted in a painting series informed by my fascination with animal-human hybrids, exploring the idea of two distinct and contrary entities sharing the same body. I wanted these hybrid creatures to visually manifest feminine beauty as but one facet of a complex entity that also embodies power, wisdom, strength, grace, magic and even the threat of danger. In my most recent work I use the language of myth to represent intimate stories of modern feminine experience in a series that began as a process of personal catharsis and later expanded to include the cathartic explorations of other women. I asked each of my collaborators to help me create compositions expressing their personal stories informed by fable and myth. I wanted the paintings to act as both sacred space for our characters to inhabit and safe spaces for them to reveal themselves to the viewer. Photography was an invaluable tool that allowed me to combine locations and subjects that I could not physically bring into my studio. Even more, it facilitated dialogue with my collaborators, translating ideas into a useful form of visual communication.

Visually, the paintings are informed by a centuries old tradition of depicting archetypal female forms in natural spaces and in private interiors through painting. Historically, such images have been created by men to appeal to the male gaze, in the words of feminist scholar Laura Mulvey, making women “the bearer of meaning and not the maker of meaning." My paintings are created collaboratively with my subjects; the women within my compositions enter that domain with agency and consent as makers of their own meaning and narrators of their own stories. I seek to continue the tradition of storytelling using familiar visual elements while elevating the narrative content and process to examine the complexities, strengths and beauty of women today.

I deliberately place feminine beauty as a central visual element in my work to celebrate its power and to challenge the viewer to look past it in order to discover deeper emotional material and narrative content. The female subjects that are central visual elements in my compositions inhabit a sort of dream space, balanced between reality and the fantastic. They appear simultaneously bold, confident and overtly self-conscious as they engage in the struggle between the need to conform to and the desire to rebel against conventional societal pressures. 

Have your works taken on new meaning (for you or your audience) in the current political climate?

Absolutely. Whether or not it comes across to the audience, my passion for women's rights is a huge influence on my approach and content of my work. Many other political human rights and environmental rights are important to me, but as a woman those issues are closest to my heart and in my work I am always trying to give voice to the female experience. 

The paintings you create seem very involved based on the scale and attention to naturalism. What is your process like? Your studio space? 

My process varies from piece to piece, but I rely on photographic references frequently, either combining references form photographs I have taken in my travels or having an idea, elaborately creating a scene in a space with props and photographing it to work from. I frequently work from life in small paintings to stay fresh, but logistical challenges prevent me from working from life in my larger and more complex compositions. I paint in layers, starting with a colored ground, laying out the composition, blocking in the lights and shadows, and lastly painting the final work on top of those preparatory layers. 

I have had the luxury of a large studio in my home base in PA over the last 8 years, though I have also set up tiny studios in which I have created huge works while painting abroad in Central America. 

You have traveled quite a bit, including residencies abroad. How have living and working internationally affected your work?

Enormously. My experiences abroad have shaped me as a human being, given me an ever growing and deepening perspective through which to understand the complex world we live in. My travels also influence the content, scenes, and color palette of my work, and it is often my experiences abroad that give me my inspiration for my paintings. 

How do you see your paintings progressing over the next few years?

I'm about to enter the painting MFA program at the NYAA. I expect my skills to develop, as well as my content, and my relationship to my work and its content to become at once both more nuanced and stronger and more clear in its voice. I am open to great change in my work, but I am positive my work will still largely involve the female experience and exploring figuration in contemporary art. 

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you are working on?

I currently have a solo show in Williamsport, PA of my latest body of work "do not reveal me" that will end in August at Gallery 425. It is the culmination of my last year of work. As I am entering a graduate program, I did not line up any shows for this coming year, but will participate in shows and open studios at NYAA. I am also working on a 6-painting collaboration with a wonderful artist named Joanne Landis that we will show at some point once we have completed the paintings. 

What has been the most interesting or memorable reaction to your work? 

It is too hard to narrow it down to just one. I love it when people tell me their emotional reactions to my work, when a piece speaks to their soul. i have also had extremely meaningful reactions to the public art projects that I do collaboratively with communities. 

What do you love most about being an artist? 

I feel unbelievably blessed to have thus far managed to live as an artist. There are so many challenges and struggles, learning the logistics and trying to make it financially viable, and an unbelievable percentage of my time is spent not making art. But at the end of the day, I have the great fortune to dedicate my life and much of my time to the act of creation. When I am painting, I am lost in another world, I lose track of time. when I am getting ideas and talking about them with other artists, I am filled with passion and excitement and joy. When I do not have time to create for too long, I become dissatisfied, restless, stressed, and cranky. Perhaps my work is not making big changes in the world, or even helping other people much at all, but it helps me to be a better person in this world. 

Jocelyn Hobbie

Artist Jocelyn Hobbie creates portraits of women that are completely mesmerizing as they absorb the viewer in their hypnotic layers of patterns. It is not just that artist’s liberal use of vivid colours, striking contrast of light and shadow, or her subjects’ incredibly stunning features that makes her work so visually compelling. Each of the women in her paintings have a distinct look on their face; a look that you cannot quite put your finger on, that is familiar and distant at the same time. They do not seem engaged with their surroundings; they do not appear to be looking at anything around them, including the viewer. It is as if they are in a world of their own, lost in their own thoughts. A feeling of intensity is visible on each woman’s face; one of deep psychological distress that compels the viewer to search deeper into the mystery that is the cloud of detachment that looms over them.

Hobbie’s bold use of intricate patterns manipulate the space in her compositions, creating a flatness that heightens the realistic, three-dimensional bodies of her subjects. Even their clothing features patterns that often clash with the background, forming an interesting visual tension. This brilliant combination of colour and shape is one of the many elements of Hobbie’s work that makes her paintings so extraordinary. 

Interview: Natalia Fabia

A graduate of the Art Center College of Design, Natalia Fabia began showing her art in group exhibitions around Los Angeles in the early 2000’s, establishing herself as a contender in the figurative painting arena. Using her surroundings and life as a rich garden of inspirations, Fabia began making colorful, sultry scenes filled with people, lush environments, ornate fashion, light, interiors, glamour, graffiti, landscapes, punk rock music and an unapologetic sexiness entirely her own.

Fabia finds a genuine comfort and truth in the realness and imperfections within her subjects. She glorifies the individuality and unique aspects of her human figures. Hers is a colorful world celebrating the vibrant diversity and beauty of the life she lives and that exists around her. Painting, she feels, exists to allow artists to create any world they want – make it, and make it yours. Infused with Fabia’s signature style, vividly saturated candy color palettes and a dazzling spectrum of light, her work is a combination of fantasy narratives and actual moments captured from the artist’s life.

Influenced by artists the likes of Henri Toulouse Lautrec, John William Waterhouse, John Singer Sargent, Rebecca Campbell, Lisa Yuskavage etc., plus fashion designers like Alexander McQueen, Fabia’s painterly studies in oil are marked by bold, determined strokes that offer depth and clarity. Having studied with many contemporary masters, her knowledge and understanding of the color palette underscore her ability to bring life and light to canvas.

Fabia's work has been featured in numerous galleries including Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York, The Shooting Gallery in San Francisco, Q Art Salon in Santa Ana, and M Modern in Palm Springs. Museum exhibits include Bristol Museum of Art, MXW Masterworks group exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art and Lancaster Museum of Art.

She has been featured in Juxtapoz, New York Arts magazine, Hi Fructose, Art Ltd., and Angeleno Magazine. Fabia was featured in LA Weekly’s 2010 People Issue as one of “LA’s 100” most fascinating people. Born in 1983, Natalia Fabia is of Polish descent and was raised in Southern California, where she graduated class of 2006 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Fabia has had multiple solo shows and is represented by Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. Fabia currently works from her studio in Costa Mesa, CA.

When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

Gosh. I think since I was very young.

Well, I honestly cannot remember a day that art was not in my life. I was always around it because my parents were both artists. But I do remember one day when I was about three. I went to my dad and asked him to draw me a girl and I watched his every move. I was always drawing and attempting to paint, always creating. I remember laying out all of my drawings on our living room floor when I was a kid when my parents’ friends would come over. I would try to sell them my drawings. They were nice and came over to look at my drawings, but never bought any! Thanks a lot!

After high school I attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I knew that was all I wanted to do. For me there was no other option. That may sound naive, but it felt right not to overthink it, and it launched me into my work.

What do you love most about painting?

The entire process. Watching something appear from pushing paint globs around and slowly a whole world emerges. I love converting a developing idea to a form. 

I also love painting from life and the entire experience of working with the model and having their personality come through in the piece. 

Tell us about the figures in your work. What would you say your paintings are about? 

Most of the figures in my world are my close friends or people I know. They are all strong women, composed of mothers, other artists or yogis. 

The rewards of painting my friends and the female form is that we have so much fun! We talk, listen to music, have wine, and have great conversation. I really get to know someone very intimately when I paint them. 

In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than the female form. I love skin, curves, and the soft and diverse anatomy. Women are very powerful.

My paintings have different meanings, depending on the theme of the show and the individual piece. In my last solo exhibition, I explored what’s known as the seven year life cycles, and the emotions experienced in those time frames. I explore our shared connection to ourselves and the universe through cosmic stardust. This concept is incorporated into my work with rainbow sparkles, splatters, and expressive marks. My previous work focused on strong women and that was still a big part of my last show, but I went deeper than I have before, addressing meditation, spirituality, oneness, and the cosmos.

What are your hobbies when you are not in the studio?

Yoga! I am a crazy yogi. 

It is a big part of my life and if I even miss a day or two of it, I start to freak out. I have been practicing for about 12 years now, and it has helped my painting and every single aspect of my life. It is very grounding and meditative. It gives me energy and helps me stay balanced and manage stress.

What is something you are very proud of in your career so far?

All of my solo shows and the feeling of creating complete bodies of work. Looking back at them , sometimes I can’t believe how they evolved from start to finish. I never know what the final paintings will look like. My original idea gets formed through research, photo shoots for reference, and getting into the zone of painting for hours on end. It is fun and exciting and a ton of work, but well worth it.

I also enjoy teaching and showing my daughter the value of a strong work ethic, and allowing her to play and create freely in my studio.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My advice to my younger self would be to plan, value, and prioritize studio time. Time is precious and painting requires consecutive hours to really escape, and get into that magic mode where time does not exist. I would tell my younger self to always experiment and push boundaries. I did that a bit but I don't feel like I did it enough. I'd definitely say paint for yourself not for others, and know yourself. Paint and draw from life each week—as much as possible! 

I would say to always keep learning, take criticism, take praise, learn a little about your own work and business, and remember why you love creating art!