Some of the most eye-catching pieces in the exhibit are the work of Romina Ressia, an Argentinian photographer who’s become something of an internet sensation with her cutting-edge portraiture. In works like Double Bubble Gum (2015) and Popcorn (2014), she subverts the idea of a classic Renaissance painting, casting her young female subject as a restless modern woman who entertains herself with snacks from the craft service table while sitting for a portrait. As the artist told Slate in February, she’s interested in how people—women in particular, we might safely assume from her subject matter—“simulate things just to please others or to be loved.”
Like Ressia, Australian Dianne Gall takes an archetypal female image—in this case, that of the solitary femme fatale popularized in black-and-white films from the 1940s—and turns it around on itself. She infuses her oil paintings with a technicolor-like palette, reimagining her sultry heroines in a sixties-era setting that’s at once bewildering and viscerally appealing.
There’s a sense of isolation to each of the female figures at the center of many of the works in the exhibition, from the gilded and deliciously ethereal paintings of Alessandra Peters to Nancy Depew’s large-scale, hyperrealistic nudes and the gorgeous but vaguely panic-inducing ceramic busts by the Canadian sculptor Jess Cooper.
On the flipside, Deon Duncan’s “Swim Series” depicts sprightly swimmers, both women and men. The artist had painted for 25 years before. Then, upon sculpting the human figure six years ago, she says, “I had the epiphany of my life…I knew within the week that I was a born sculptor. This was what my talent was made for, and I had found it.” How’s that for female empowerment?