By Robert Waddell
With so many arms, it was inevitable; Shiva would have her hands full.
Artist Cinnamon Willis represents a playful clay doll as modern woman and exhausted goddess balancing baby, groceries, housework, money, and profession – all juggled on six arms. As part of a new exhibit, Willis is saying even sacred deities do not escape manual labor.
The defining moment of the ever changing Woman’s Movement must be the lines of demarcation and self-definition for the possibilities of who and what a woman is and isn’t personally, professionally, in relationships, as a sexual being, as a parent, in their communities, control over their bodies; where she’s been and where she’s going. “Innuendos,” a new show exhibiting the art and voices of ten Bronxite women explores the role of women beyond all suggestions and beyond outward definitions.
While some images in “Innuendos,” at the Andrew Freedman House on the Grand Concourse until April 1st, give some studied nudes, all of the art here explores, explodes and exposes the female form, inside and out. The outward may be ever changing, but it is the deep inward psychological dream qualities that run through this show. These artists suggest strength, through vulnerability and control of their own destinies. It is not nude as armor but its nude as interior revelation, revelatory creation, and freedom.
For example, Ijeoma D. Iheanacho’s photographs give the impression of women tattooed or branded by someone else’s idea of who they are supposed to be. In Laura James’s “Abundant Goddess,” “Orchard Beach Venus” and “Cool Goddess,” a viewer is treated to visions of women as part of and in control of natural elements. An observer can wonder if the 10 artists’ view of femininity and womanhood comb through a tidal wave of attitudes and prescribed definitions swimming out to a shore of a country they can call their own — a true personal meaning and self-definition through controlled art. “Innuendos” could be a lighthouse in the search for that self-definition.
Laura Alvarez’s powerful 3-panel acrylic “I’m Every Woman” examines the notion of words as complement and accusation together. The panels give a left, back and right of a headless woman with words whispered or shouted around the subject as in a mug shot where sometimes people blame, shame and talk about a woman just for being who she is.
Then there is Elena Bouza’s “My Husband,” a painting of a woman looking tired out from behind her thick glasses. She has physically over exerted herself through exercise or from fighting. She is wearing combat boots, sits in a suggestive pose on a chaise lounge and there is blood on her knuckles. Innuendo? In your face.
“Innuendos” includes artists – Laura Alvarez, Elena Bouza, Melissa Calderon, Yarisa Colon, Sharon De La Cruz, Abigail DeVille, Ijeoma D. Iheanacho, Laura James, Yelaine Rodriguez, and Cinnamon Willis, in association with Yolanda Rodriguez and the Bx Arts Factory.
Next door, almost as a companion exhibition in sister galleries, “Artists in Residence” is presented. There are overlapping ideas of artistic expression as in Valarie Irizarry’s 72-inch grand multi-colored yarn and wood hanging sculpture of wings stretching outward titled “Too Close.” This is an ambitious piece that speaks of exhilarating freedom and flight, as in elegant portraits of Muhammad Ali by Jimmy Smith. The show is all anchored by Josue Guarionex’s floor to ceiling sculpture of musical instruments seemingly balanced on an ambulatory crutch.
Melissa Calderon, presents in both shows, in “Artists in Residence” she brings a black and white checker board square on a beige background with a gold stand hanging from the painting as if her art was bleeding off the canvas.
Probably, Yarisa Colon’s “It’s Not What You Think” collage completes a woman’s definition beyond just one defining image or idea, which could be a subconscious nightmare amalgam of an Asian dancer, skulls, knights, a third-eye and a golden statue. The idea that women are more than just one thing, a golden calf or a golden idol, signifies so many definitions – going beyond even defining this show.
Obviously, it is tiring work being a woman and as the old adage goes, “a woman’s work is never done.” Come on! How much more can she take? Shiva’s hands are getting tired.