She Who Tells a Story: Rana El Nemr

In Arabic, the word rawiya means “she who tells a story.” Each artist in in NMWA’s summer exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World offers a vision of the world she has witnessed.

Rana El Nemr

(b. 1974, Hanover, Germany; lives Cairo)

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A NMWA visitor gazes at Metro (#7) in She Who Tells a Story

Primarily working with conceptual photography, Egyptian artist Rana El Nemr captures urban stories that focus on ideas of space, identity, and the sense of belonging. She is also a co-founder of the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), a platform for contemporary Egyptian art.

In Her Own Words

“I try [in the series “The Metro”] to capture the riders’ response to the urban underground, the train, the station, and its vibrant ceramic designs. Riders become figures defined by form, line, and color in the midst of a congested modernity in which they no longer have a sense of place.”—Rana El Nemr

“When I was watching people and watching the space, I became very obsessed by how the space made the people, some of the people who are using the space, how it made them so absorbed, and so kind of out of their body’s presence in a way.”—Rana El Nemr, WGBH News

What’s On View?

In four images on view from her series “The Metro” (2003), El Nemr inconspicuously photographs passengers in the first car of Cairo’s subway, which is reserved for women and children. Her subjects are shown seated or standing, often absorbed in thought. Some riders are only glimpsed through the car’s windows, as seen in Metro (#7). Conveying the anonymity of city life, El Nemr’s subjects seem to be alienated. The artist describes them as “vulnerable to cycles of depression, indifference, and religious intolerance—illnesses that are both caused by, and transmitted to, the rest of Egyptian and Arab society and the world.”

Rana El Nemr, Metro (#7), from the series “The Metro,” 2003; Pigment print, 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum purchase with general funds and the Abbott Lawrence Fund, 2013.569; Photograph © 2015 MFA Boston

Rana El Nemr, Metro (#7), from the series “The Metro,” 2003; Pigment print, 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum purchase with general funds and the Abbott Lawrence Fund, 2013.569; Photograph © 2015 MFA Boston

El Nemr’s photographs record the rapid changes that middle-class Egyptians encounter in the megalopolis of Cairo. Her works convey the displacement and belonging that affect interactions between people and public space. Metro (#7) depicts the backs of two subway riders through the blue-and-white exterior of the car. The pairing of their black and white abayas, each framed by a window of the closed doors, demonstrates the artist’s eye for asymmetrical compositions.

Visit the museum and explore She Who Tells a Story, on view through July 31, 2016.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

A Housewife’s Ballet: Kirsten Justesen on Domesticity and Art

Danish artist Kirsten Justesen’s oeuvre highlights her experience navigating her role as a woman and artist. Justesen (b. 1943) explores the links between female identity and gender roles, examining the limits women faced as they fulfilled Western society’s expectations to become housewives and mothers during the 1970s. Themes of freedom and struggle are pronounced in Justesen’s oeuvre. Her works examine how childcare and domestic duties impact the scope for expression. Even Justesen’s studio was positioned between the kitchen and the nursery—an “inspiring threshold” and physical illustration of her blended identity as an artist and a mother.

Image of Kirsten Justesen; Courtesy of Kirsten Justesen

Image of Kirsten Justesen; Courtesy of Kirsten Justesen

As a student at the Royal Danish Art Academy, Justesen helped pioneer the birth of the feminist art movement in Denmark. In 1970, Justesen joined a collective of women artists whose experimental art project, Damebilleder (“Women’s Images”), portrayed women’s role in society “from the beauty parlor to dish-washing.”

The group’s efforts challenged gender perceptions by focusing on female perspective and capturing women’s experiences through art.

Justesen explains, “My generation is brought up with the male gaze, a gaze that still seems synonymous with defining the history of art . . . we want our gaze back in history, to secure diversity.”

On view at NMWA, Justesen’s photograph Lunch for a Landscape (1975) portrays a jubilant, nude Justesen sitting in a shopping cart with her arms raised. Justesen said, “I made this when I was raising two small boys, breastfeeding the baby, and also living as a spouse in a foreign country [Canada]. I describe my life then as a daily ‘housewife ballet.’ Here, a housewife is on her way in the vehicle of her life.” Justesen juxtaposes a celebration of freedom with a traditional symbol of wifely duty—a grocery cart.

Kirsten Justesen, Lunch for a Landscape,1975/2009; Chromogenic print, 48 3/4 x 67 3/4 in; NMWA; Gift of Montana A/S, © Kirsten Justesen

Kirsten Justesen, Lunch for a Landscape,1975/2009; Chromogenic print, 48 3/4 x 67 3/4 in; NMWA; Gift of Montana A/S, © Kirsten Justesen

In Justesen’s own words, “through our upbringing we were defined as reproduction tools and were supposed to behave in order to find suitable husbands.” The core of the feminist art movement challenged the marginalization of women and the confines of strict gender roles. Justesen’s Lunch for a Landscape seems to imply that the adoption domestic duties does not mean giving up the desire for freedom. Works like the photograph on view at NMWA provided a voice for Justesen and enabled her to establish herself in the art world.

—Sophia Wu was the winter/spring 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: April 29, 2016

Beyoncé made headlines this week with the release of her latest visual album, Lemonade.

Quartz applauds Beyoncé’s collaboration with African artists Laolu Senbanjo and Warsan Shire while The New York Times explores Shire’s life and poetry further. Slate examines one scene where Beyoncé smashes a car window with a baseball bat, comparing it to Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s iconic video installation Ever Is Over All. NPR describes the album as “too much and not enough and gorgeous and mesmerizing and messy.”

Front-Page Femmes

Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock, a 14-foot blue chicken sculpture, will move from London to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who was sentenced to more prison for drawing a satirical cartoon, was repeatedly forced to undergo virginity and pregnancy tests.

Three Yayoi Kusama installations will be on view at the Glass House in Connecticut.

Wrapped in paper, hanging from furniture, or bent in awkward yoga positions, photographer Polly Penrose captures herself in vulnerable poses.

Brazilian photographer Camila Fontenele de Miranda invites men, women, and children to pose like Frida Kahlo.

Reaching international stardom at the age of 72, Phyllida Barlow says late success is “enabling me to make work in a way I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be able to.”

Martine Syms discusses publishing, zine culture, and why she tries not to read anything online.

The Huffington Post shares work by 25 women who are pushing the limits of street art.

Nancy Nowacek starts a Kickstarter campaign for Citizen Bridge, a floating bridge to connect Brooklyn to Governors Island.

Swiss artist Manon Wertenbroek used her brother as a model for her series of cartoonish tableaux.

Painter June Leaf knows when a work is finished. She says, “I think the secret is honesty. The image has to hit you back.”

ARTnews goes behind-the-scenes of artist Amanda Ross-Ho’s Los Angeles warehouse-turned-studio.

Slate explores British author Helen Oyeyemi’s new short story collection, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

Sounds and Sweet Airs, by cultural historian Anna Beer, traces how women of classical music have been forgotten.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o tells NPR, “I think subconsciously I was excited by work . . . that was not about my body.”

Marcie Begleiter, the director of Eva Hesse, talks about why the documentary is overdue.

BBC pledges to fill half of their on screen, on air, and leadership roles with women by 2020.

Electronic artist Claire Boucher, known as Grimes, discusses gender politics, being a science major, and unsettling audio.

Shows We Want to See

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s solo exhibition includes a sci-fi film that imagines a post-apocalyptic future for Palestine.

Using photography, film, and writing, Moyra Davey explores new media interspersed with historical media and autobiographical details.

Helen Frederick’s pulp paintings in Acts of Silence at the Phillips Collection “evoke a concern for environmental degradation.”

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

She Who Tells a Story: Gohar Dashti

In Arabic, the word rawiya means “she who tells a story.” Each artist in NMWA’s summer exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World offers a vision of the world she has witnessed.

Gohar Dashti

(b. 1980, Ahvaz, Iran; lives Tehran)

Gohar Dashti creates photographs that reference history and culture within contemporary society, particularly her homeland, Iran. She says, “Because my work is about social issues in Iran, I have to touch it, I have to feel it, if I want to do artwork.”

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Left to right: MFA Boston curator Kristen Gresh and She Who Tells a Story artist Gohar Dashti during the exhibition’s opening reception; Photo: NMWA

In Her Own Words

“This conflict [the eight-year Iran–Iraq War, 1980–88] has had a strong symbolic influence on the emotional life of my generation. Although we may be safe within the walls of our homes, the war continues to reach us through newspapers, television and the Internet. [Dashti’s series ‘Today’s Life and War’] represents war and its legacy, the ways in which it permeates all aspects of contemporary society. I capture moments that reference the ongoing duality of life and war without precluding hope. In a fictionalized battlefield, I show a couple in a series of everyday activities: eating breakfast, watching television, and celebrating their wedding. Though they do not visibly express emotion, the man and woman embody the power of perseverance, determination, and survival.”—Gohar Dashti, artist statement for “Today’s Life and War”

What’s On View?

Several of Dashti’s photographs from the “Today’s Life and War” series are on view in She Who Tells a Story. The two models in these images proceed through activities of daily life amid signs of war—barbed wire, tanks, and sandbags—in a desert landscape. In some images, such as one that shows them sitting in a burned-out car in wedding finery, they look directly at the camera with neutral or stricken expressions. In others, they look to each other, to their chores, or to TV, newspapers, or computers.

Gohar Dashti, Untitled #5, from the series “Today’s Life and War,” 2008, Chromogenic print, 27 5/8 x 41 3/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist, Azita Bina, and Robert Klein Gallery; © Gohar Dashti

Gohar Dashti, Untitled #5, from the series “Today’s Life and War,” 2008, Chromogenic print, 27 5/8 x 41 3/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist, Azita Bina, and Robert Klein Gallery; © Gohar Dashti

Dashti says that the site for the photographs is a government-owned area used by filmmakers creating movies about war. She was able to secure the location—a huge area—to take pictures, and she selected 10 of her staged photographs for the finished series. Through this series, Dashti hoped to evoke the experience of her generation, who had to proceed with their lives and youths in spite of the war around them.

Visit the museum and explore She Who Tells a Story, on view through July 31, 2016.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: April 22, 2016

TIME magazine released their list of the 100 most influential people. Bustle writes, “with 60 men and 40 women, the TIME 100 list is still experiencing a gender gap.” The magazine also highlighted 13 women whose influence exceeds their fame, including Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei and 87-year old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

In a TIME interview, rapper Nicki Minaj gives advice to women and says, “Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for the top dollar in your field.” Jennifer Lawrence writes an essay about Adele and calls the British songstress “an international treasure.” Tina Fey writes a feminist ode to UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. The list also includes actresses Melissa McCarthy, Priyanka Chopra, and Gina Rodriguez—among others.

Front-Page Femmes

The Guardian examines how the death of student Sara Ottens profoundly impacted Cuban American performance artist Ana Mendieta.

Ilma Gore faces a potential lawsuit from Donald Trump’s legal team if her painting of a nude Trump sells.

The Guardian discusses how to buy indigenous Australian art—ethically.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz discusses career advice she received from Queen Elizabeth II.

Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. There are also plans for seven more historic female figures to grace the $5 and $10 bills.

ARTnews discusses how artist Lynn Hershman Leeson published art criticism under the guise of three invented personas.

Everybody Loves Raymond actress Doris Roberts passed away on Sunday at age 90.

“It takes a lot of bravery to be kind,” says Newbery award-winning author Kate DiCamillo.

Slate interviews photographer Amanda Marsalis about Ava DuVernay, gentrification, and directing her first film, Echo.

Barbara Holmes used wood reclaimed from a dump in San Francisco to create a spiraled, site-specific installation.

After tragic news of Prince’s death on Thursday, women artists paid their respects on social media and Slate explored his history of collaboration with women, calling Prince “one of music’s great champions of women.”

Coachella has no female headliners—for the ninth year in a row.

The documentary series, The Ascent of Woman, recognizes feminist trailblazers in an attempt to “retell the story of civilization with women and men side by side for the first time.”

Shows We Want to See

Lee Miller: A Woman’s War at the Imperial War Museums closes this Sunday. The exhibition showcases over 150 images by the war correspondent, alongside Picasso’s portrait of Miller, and her personal correspondence with Condé Nast.

The first major survey of Mona Hatoum’s work in the U.K. is on view at Tate Modern. The Lebanese-born Palestinian artist is best known for adjusting domestic items to “imbue them with a certain lethal horror.”

A new exhibition features Pati Hill’s “delicate, remarkable images, all made on the rather unremarkable IBM Copier II.”

Roz Chast creates a larger-than-life mural in the Museum of the City of New York, for an exhibition of 200 of her drawings titled Cartoon Memoirs.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

She Who Tells a Story: Boushra Almutawakel

In Arabic, the word rawiya means “she who tells a story.” Each artist in in NMWA’s summer exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World offers a vision of the world she has witnessed.

A NMWA visitor studies Boushra Almutawakel’s Untitled from The Hijab series

A NMWA visitor studies Boushra Almutawakel’s Untitled from “The Hijab” series (2001)

Boushra Almutawakel

(b. 1969, Sana’a, Yemen; lives Sana’a and Paris)

Yemen’s first professional female photographer, Boushra Almutawakel, gained international recognition for using the veil to challenge social trends and explore the complexities of public appearance. Almutawakel says, “I want to be careful not to fuel the stereotypical, widespread negative images most commonly portrayed about the hijab/veil in the Western media.”

In Her Own Words

“I wanted to explore the many faces and facets of the veil based on my own personal experiences and observations: the convenience, freedom, strength, the power, liberation, limitations, danger, humor, irony, the variety, cultural, social, and religious aspects, the beauty, mystery…”—Boushra Almutawakel

“A lot of people think that covered women are oppressed, backwards and uneducated. That is far from the truth. But at the same time I can’t hear very well if I am veiled and I can’t see the lips of women wearing the niqab. The biggest problem I have is with children being covered—there is nothing Islamic about that. I prefer our traditional veils which are colourful and more open.”—Boushra Almutawakel, interview in The Economist

What’s On View?

Ten photographs by Almutawakel are on view in She Who Tells a Story, including nine that comprise her “Mother, Daughter, Doll” series (2010). These staged portraits portray a young girl holding a doll and sitting on her mother’s lap. In each successive photograph, the figures’ smiles fade and their clothing darkens, covering more and more skin. The final photograph shows a black backdrop and an empty pedestal––the mother, daughter, and doll have vanished.

Boushra Almutawakel, “Mother, Daughter, Doll” series, 2010; Pigment prints, nine photographs, each 24 x 16 in.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum purchase with funds donated by Richard and Lucille Spagnuolo, 2013.556–564; Photograph © 2015 MFA Boston

Boushra Almutawakel, “Mother, Daughter, Doll” series, 2010; Pigment prints, nine photographs, each 24 x 16 in.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum purchase with funds donated by Richard and Lucille Spagnuolo, 2013.556–564; Photograph © 2015 MFA Boston

Almutawakel and her eldest daughter posed for the portraits after the Yemeni women who agreed to be photographed realized the work would be exhibited and declined. The artist said, “I thought, you know, if I’m asking them to take a risk and to be photographed, I said why don’t I put myself to the test and put myself in front of the camera.” The outfits in the first three images are clothes worn and owned by the artist herself, while the others belonged to family members and friends.

Almutawakel says, “I’m not against the hijab—I’m not even against the veil—but it has become a bit excessive in the covering.” Rather than denounce the headscarf (hijab), these portraits protest the more extensive, all-black niqab. Almutawakel’s visual commentary challenges the spread in Yemen of religious extremism, which calls for public concealment of women’s and girls’ bodies.

Listen to an audio recording of the artist discussing her work here. Visit the museum and explore She Who Tells a Story, on view through July 31, 2016.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: April 15, 2016

The New Yorker traces French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle’s unconventional life and art through her Tarot Garden—a project she had “envisioned in a dream . . . when she was locked in an asylum.”

For the two decades that Saint Phalle worked on the sculpture park in Tuscany she lived inside a house-sized sculpture of a sphinx. The artist wanted to create “a sort of joyland” where visitors could have “a new kind of life that would just be free.”

Front-Page Femmes

French street artist Mademoiselle Maurice arranges candy-colored origami works in unexpected places.

Kit King’s hyper-realistic and abstract work conveys the artist’s struggle with agoraphobia.

Italian artist Chiara Fumai “channels the ghosts of marginalized women” in an exhibition that “scandalizes and unsettles the viewer.”

Conceptual artist Maria Eichhorn’s next show gives gallery staff five weeks off from work.

Carrie Mae Weems reflects on her kitchen table series and says, “I knew what it meant for me, but I didn’t know what it would mean historically, within the terms of a graphic history.”

Marilyn Minter will sell 50 editions of her portrait of Miley Cyrus to support Planned Parenthood.

The New York Times asked female architects to talk about their experiences in the field and the professional challenges they face.

Work by female artists will make up 36% of all the work displayed in the redesigned Tate Modern.

Designated as a national monument this week, the formerly-named Sewall-Belmont House & Museum commemorates women’s history.

Salima Koroma creates Bad Rap, a documentary about four Asian-American rappers.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet celebrates Maya Angelou during National Poetry Month.

Mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn performs an experimental 75-minute opera about science—complete with lyrics drawn from famous scientists.

The Guardian asks, “Why, in 2016, are women still (mostly) silent film stars?”

Cartoonist Julie Doucet’s Carpet Sweeper Tales combines images from Italian novels and magazines to create “a narrative of male-female power relations.”

Wikipedia edit-a-thons help improve the visibility of women artists. Only 13–23% of Wikipedia’s contributors are women and only 15% of its biographies are about women.

The Argonauts author Maggie Nelson says, “The important thing is that whatever baggage you have from your life that you bring to intellectual scenarios is not going to keep you from being able to focus on the intellectual work being done.”

Slate celebrates the 100th anniversary of Beverly Cleary’s birth by highlighting the author’s four mostly-forgotten novels.

Shows We Want to See

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Hyperallergic examines works by Elise Ansel (left) and Sarah Braman (right)

An exhibition at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, showcases how Maine-based painter Elise Ansel re-creates, re-visions, and re-presents paintings from the past.

You Are Everything features Sarah Braman’s sculptures combining salvaged objects—like bunk beds and campers—with colorful prisms.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907), a lesser-known German painter who “exalted women in her paintings,” receives a retrospective in Paris of her brief ten-year career.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

March Madness: A Digital Dive into Women’s History Month

NMWA’s year-round mission is to address gender imbalance in the art world, but every March—Women’s History Month—the museum has an opportunity to catch the attention of a wider audience to celebrate women artists. This March, NMWA launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of women artists by asking, “Can you name five women artists?”

Narrow 5WomenArtists for press release

NMWA’s social media campaign for Women’s History Month

A huge community joined in!

  • Art museums, libraries, galleries, and art lovers from 20 countries answered by sharing and tagging their favorite women artists.
  • News outlets like the Huffington Post and the Atlantic helped spread the challenge.
  • More than 370 cultural organizations and 11,000 individuals joined the campaign to promote women artists.
  • More than 3,300 Instagram posts and more than 23,000 tweets used the hashtag #5womenartists.

During the campaign, NMWA’s number of digital followers increased by 140% on Instagram, 19% on Facebook, and 12% on Twitter. At least 60 individuals and cultural institutions wrote personal blog posts about the challenge, in English as well as Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and Estonian. NMWA’s blog post launching the campaign was read almost 2,000 times.

“We are delighted with the overwhelming response to the #5womenartists campaign,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “By calling attention to the inequity women artists face today, the Women’s Museum is gratified to have inspired even more conversation and awareness than we anticipated. We thank all of the cultural organizations and social media users who joined us in this important initiative.”

Overall, March was filled with exciting digital endeavors to bolster the visibility of women artists. Thirty-five participants attended NMWA’s fourth annual Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, part of the Art + Feminism initiative to improve Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. Using the museum’s resources, contributors improved 20 existing articles and created new entries for Hungarian-born Mexican photographer Kati Horna, silversmith and jewelry designer Alma Eikerman, and drafted information for the Association of San Francisco Women Artists.

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An #EmptyNMWA instameet participant snaps a photo of a painting by Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes

For International Women’s Day on March 8, NMWA captured tweets and posts from people around the world celebrating #5womenartists. The museum also hosted a before-hours instameet for a group of 30 local photographers to tour, snap photos, and explore the museum’s galleries.

For each week of 2016, a different museum across the globe takes over the @52museums Instagram account. March 21–27, @womeninthearts brought stories about the museum and women artists to a broader digital public. To finish the month, the museum also participated in #MuseumWeek, the first worldwide cultural event on Twitter, and shared the building’s history, collection, exhibitions, and advocacy programs.

During the last week, nearly 5,000 people viewed the museum’s BuzzFeed quiz, which asked, “Which of these #5womenartists are you?” So, can you name #5womenartists? In a Twitter poll, 83% of NMWA followers said yes! Next year, we’re aiming for 100%.

Want to continue to advocate for women in the arts? Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Visit the museum, become a member, and get involved in upcoming programs.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

She Who Tells a Story: Jananne Al-Ani

In Arabic, the word rawiya means “she who tells a story.” Each artist in NMWA’s summer exhibition She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World offers a vision of the world she has witnessed.

Janane Al-Ani’s work on view in She Who Tells a Story

Jananne Al-Ani’s work on view in She Who Tells a Story

Jananne Al-Ani

(b. 1966, Kirkuk, Iraq; lives London)

Jananne Al-Ani is a photographer and video artist whose work has explored representation and conspicuous absence of the human body. Earlier in her career, she created work that depicted veiled women, examining stereotypes of Orientalism and cultural identity. More recently, Al-Ani has focused on landscapes, using aerial video and photography to show ambiguous sites with traces of inhabitation or seeming abandonment.

In Her Own Words

“The media coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, which focused on aerial and satellite images of a depopulated, barren landscape, had a major impact on my work. What followed was a reassessment on my part of the work of Orientalist painters and the way in which fantasies about the body and the landscape of the Middle East were constructed in their works. I began to see the body itself as a contested territory and during the 90s produced a series of works that attempted to counter the European obsession with uncovering and exposing the bodies of veiled women. More recently, with the Aesthetics of Disappearance project, I’ve attempted to re-occupy that space so, while the presence of the body is implied rather than explicit, the traces of human activity in the landscape are clear to see.”—Jananne Al-Ani, interview with Nat Muller in Ibraaz

What’s On View?

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial I, production still from the film Shadow Sites II, 2011; Chromogenic print, 72 x 91 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011; © Jananne Al-Ani

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial I, production still from the film Shadow Sites II, 2011; Chromogenic print, 72 x 91 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011; © Jananne Al-Ani

Al-Ani’s photograph Aerial I is a still image from her film Shadow Sites II, which in turn is part of her project The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People. She explains, “The actual term ‘shadow site’ is borrowed from the field of aerial archaeology and refers to the practice of surveying landscapes from the air at dawn or dusk when the raking light serves to reveal low lying features on the ground—details that would otherwise remain invisible.”

She was inspired by Edward Steichen’s WWI reconnaissance photography, which she saw as “strikingly beautiful images of landscapes obliterated by shelling and criss-crossed by trenches, but abstracted to such a degree as to have become exquisite and minimal works of art.”

For this work, which depicts southern Jordan, she emphasizes the image’s ambiguity. Al-Ani says, “My guiding preoccupation was with the ways that the evidence of atrocity and genocide haunts the often beautiful landscapes into which the bodies of victims disappear.”

Visit the museum and explore She Who Tells a Story, on view through July 31, 2016.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: April 8, 2016

In an artnet article on the most expensive living female artists in 2016, Cady Noland, Yayoi Kusama, and Cindy Sherman top the list.

Other ranking women artists include South African painter Marlene Dumas, optical illusions master Bridget Riley, Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu, and Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes—among others.

Front-Page Femmes

ArtInfo shares a video of Tania Bruguera’s ten-hour voting session and discussion about immigration.

Illma Gore’s provocative portrait of a naked Donald Trump, recently the subject of social media censorship, will be on view in London.

Inge Hardison, whose bronze sculptures immortalized black historical figures, innovators, and ordinary people, died on March 23 at age 102.

Susannah Worth’s new body of work explores images of food and the significance of recording “culinary performances.”

London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law’s site-specific installation is a suspended garden comprising 30,000 flowers.

Sabina Ott reflects on the influences and processes behind her 8,000-cubic-foot foam mountain installation.

Women artists outnumber men by ten to four in the city-wide festival Glasgow International.

In her memoir, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni imagines a future for her war-torn hometown of Homs.

ARTnews goes behind-the-scenes of Mary Weatherford’s Los Angeles studio.

The Los Angeles Times explores Zaha Hadid’s gender, ethnicity, and architectural legacy and ArtInfo lists 10 upcoming building projects that the architect worked on before her untimely death.

In a video, New York-based artist Carole Feurman discusses her hyper-realistic sculptures and artistic practice.

Aerialist turned improvisational performance artist Matilda Leyser discusses how motherhood led to greater creativity in her work.

The chair that author JK Rowling used to write the first two Harry Potter novels sold at auction for $394,000.

New Republic explores poet Adrienne Rich’s feminist awakening through examining her never-before-published letters.

The new biography The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire argues that Blanche was the more important and influential of the Knopf publishers.

NPR interviews Full Frontal’s Samantha Bee about finding stories, her feminist worldview, and how she feels liberated in her 40s.

Director and screenwriter Elaine May reflects on the public reception of the 1987 film Ishtar.

Rihanna talks about what it’s like to be a role model.

Shows We Want to See

Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian hosts a retrospective of 81-year-old painter Kay WalkingStick featuring 75 works.

Chinese artist Cao Fei explores dystopic scenarios in her first solo exhibition in the U.S. at MoMA PS1.

While grieving her partner’s death, Emma Levitt began knitting and piecing together her partner’s old clothes—ultimately creating a 14-foot-high tapestry, In the Presence of Absence. The work is included in the exhibition Getting Real, which highlights catharsis in art-making.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.