The new digital project “A Feminine Lexicon” by Arts Curating students Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli opened in May at museo.ferragamo.com.
Their project took inspiration from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo’s “Women in Balance”, an exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri that celebrates the history of Italian women during the economic boom and the rapid changes in their identities. “A Feminine Lexicon” continues this conversation into what is considered feminine today through the works of eleven international contemporary artists and their testimonies.
In the digital exhibition, through audio recordings, all the artists describe their works and how they relate to a larger feminine lexicon in their own words. An excerpt of these reflections is gathered here for I’M Firenze Digest readers as a way to help them dive deeper into the exhibition.
By Pia Diamandis & Elena Tortelli. Cover image: Stacey Gillian Abe, Amomo the 2nd, 2021, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Unit London
“A Feminine Lexicon” artists include Kampala-based visual artist Stacey Gillian Abe (b. 1990, Kampala, Uganda). Her work rethinks conventional depictions of Black women through autobiographical reflections.
By subverting the conventions about how we look, opportunities can be created for a different understanding of the Other in our collective unconscious. In “A Feminine Lexicon”, Stacey Gillian Abe showcases her series of indigo paintings, where black women are represented in an interplay of direct and indirect glances with the viewer. Immersed in a neutral landscape, their physical presence is intensified by the use of the colour indigo, which permeates their skin.
Stacey Gillian Abe’s indigo paintings are featured in the Representations section of the exhibition “A Feminine Lexicon”, underlining how retelling and representing are ways of caring and, at the same time, of defining one’s identity.
The Representations section features works by Stacey Gillian Abe, Haruka Sakaguchi & Griselda San Martin, and Reba Maybury.
PD, ET: How would you best describe your paintings: Coming of Age, Amomo the 2nd, and Fatima? What has inspired you to create these works? Thank
SGA: My paintings take an autobiographical approach to storytelling. Amomo the 2nd, Coming of Age and Fatima highlight not only my own personal experiences in the work but also hint to key societal issues I am interested in addressing.
The concepts in each painting are multilayered of which possible meaning is altered. The core elements that fuel my concepts include gender, identity, cultural mysticism, class, and race. With a reference to memory, my experiences and history, these elements probe dialogue and questioning on gender and my position as a black woman now.
PD, ET: In your opinion, how has the representation of feminine identities evolved today? Do you think that visual art can change how we can represent, narrate, and ultimately see the others?
SGA: I think the first step is to define feminine or femininity. Femininity or feminine could mean to have qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women. Although the term feminine and masculine refer to gender terms in the social cultural category, I want to think feminine identities does not exclude persons that do not confirm to these social constructs. The concept of feminine has varying meanings. According to French intellectual Simone Beauvoir, I quote “no biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society and one is not born but rather becomes a woman.”
So, for me I think it’s difficult to properly divide contemporary positions of women from their his- torical representation and structures that have been in place for centuries. The representation of feminine identities has evolved today through emancipation and its need to set free from all forms of restriction.
As an artist, my work does not seek to impose or alter other opinions and beliefs but rather to inform and question gaps between inequality and bias. My work leaves room for dialogue and interpretation. I think visual art as a whole has the power to re-inform and re-address social, societal, personal and global issues.
A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, available at museo.ferragamo.com.