Jersey City Museum September 19th to January 27th, 2007
The Feminine Mystique

Artists revisit and respond to the findings published in Betty Friedan's critical feminist text The Feminine Mystique (1963). This exhibition features works by Gema Alava, Louise Bourgeois, Aliza Augustine, Shelly Bahl, Sandra Bermdez, Caroline Burton, Pam Cooper, Mary Beth Edelson, Carson Fox, Nancy Friedemann, Ayakoh Furukawa, Heather Hart, Swati Khurana, Jessica Lagunas, Megan Maloy, Jeanette May, Esperanza Mayobre, Jennifer Mazza, Margaret Murphy, Adrian Piper, Babs Reingold, Justine Reyes, Kara Rooney, Rachael Serbinski, Lorna Simpson, Jennifer Sullivan, Juana Valdes, Alison Weld, Noelle Lorraine Williams, and Meghan Wood.

Museum's label:

Gema Alava's installation is based on her study of ornamental window grates seen in the south of Spain (and by extension in the Spanish colonies). The ultimate protector of feminine virtue, the window grate allowed young women in the seventeenth century to be courted through the window by their prospective suitors. A legend from Spanish history tells of the disconsolate beauty Sara, who breathed a sigh and expired in front of her window, the window where, only a short time before, her beloved Captain Poblete showered her with clever compliments. Sent to war, Captain Poblete also died in a difficult battle after hearing that Sara had died a tortured soul. Made from ephemeral materials, artist's installation evokes the cultural implications of architectural motifs and their meanings. The artist studied at the San Francisco Art Institute.

From the catalog:

Underscoring the confinement of the nurturing environment, Gema Alava has re-created a cast-iron grille like the kind seen adorning windows in the south of Spain (and subsequently throughout the Spanish colonies). Made from thread, a gendered material, the artist creates elaborate forms by wrapping thread around pins (cat. no. X). Usurping the original function of the pin and thread, the artist instead constructs a complex space with these simple, feminized elements. The literal craftiness of the work is in the artist's ability to allude to space by the mere forming of various lengths of thread around innumerable pins. Perhaps the most well-known reference to the role of women and this decorative metalwork is seen in a painting possibly by Francisco de Goya or his son, Xavier, Majas on a Balcony (before 1812). Goya created two versions of the image, one featuring young women of the upper classes and the other presenting two prostitutes. The cast-iron grille work could serve equally to protect and to display the body seen behind its exquisitely curving forms.

Rocio Aranda-Alvarado Curator Jersey City Museum


c) Gema Alava 2008