Dominance, Submission, Meaning & VOICE

Sally Deskins, Red Belly

Feminism has long sought to gain equality by obliterating dominance and submission. Yet some find the ends of this dichotomy alluring… erotic, and seek to drink in both sides. So comes the quandary: how to sustain this sensuality yet stay true to a feminist commitment? That’s a question that artist, Trilety Wade asks in the new exhibit: Les Femmes Folles: VOICE.

Wade knows that submission and dominance can vacillate and be exchanged. She explores how balance might be gained in the space between while reveling in both sides. As she describes it:

I usually find myself on the cusp of submitting. I almost give in to my desires. I almost give in to another person. I never wholly submit, thus I am also dominant. That push and pull of submission and dominance leaves me in a static state of anticipation, which is reflected in the distance between the figures in my paintings.

My paintings make me question why there are some people and desires I want to submit to, and why I never allow myself the freedom to either be submissive or dominant; instead I freeze.

Moving to other matters involving passion, power, surrender and control, Sally Deskins’ “Red Belly” signifies motherhood, the scarlet color evoking fiery emotion, passion and sacrifice — which may be ennobling blood-life or deadening blood-loss. The energy of this red belly calls to mind more life than loss, though the two may be intertwined.

A passionate theme continues in the seductive vibes of breasts and loins:

The curly-prints from my pubic hair give the image an erotic flair. The white stamped nipples provide a ghostly aura, and the various drips and red line at the bottom sheds light on the beautiful indeterminism that is visual art and sometimes life as well.

Inspired by Yves Klein’s “Anthropometries,” Deskins’ self-portraits explore the relationship of mind and body. She paints her body with as if it were a canvas and then physically straps herself to paper or canvas to form an imprint, painting her psyche on what appear to be a series of Rorschach Inkblot Tests. Through these self-portraits Deskins searches for her voice.

Ella Weber explores how identity evolves over a lifetime. In her “Boy’s n’ toys” series she places a person next to a person-sized inanimate object from pop culture. The drawings seem to be all about innocence, nostalgia and humor. But look closely and see something more subversive.

In “but is she worth it?” Weber places Mrs. Butterworth’s on a bed of sticky syrup. Next to her a woman holds a plate in each hand, resembling scales. Perhaps she’s weighing her options, to serve or not?  A stack of hotcakes lie between the two figures.

What is the appeal of nostalgia… falling back to a place of greater inequity when women and Blacks were all about serving others? Why does the past still loom so large? And why is it so sticky?

Inanimate object and human being stand side by side. What does it mean to be human – and female? How does identity grow? And might those hotcakes be just fine levitating in thin air? Weber voices the questions.

Wanda Ewing knits social commentary into latch-hook yarn rugs that explore how race factors into society’s notions of feminine beauty and sexuality. The interlace of gender and race adds further texture. In her hands a surprising juxtaposition of risqué images of women’s bodies attaches to cozy yarn rugs. As if Madonna and whore are woven together?

Megan Loudon Sanders delves into identities that lie hidden yet seek expression. Historically, women were asked to conform to rigid standards that left their potential concealed from them. By mixing stylistically dissimilar elements, Sanders depicts a woman who at first glance could pass for any suburbanite. Yet she subversively announces on her body, This is who I am:

A young woman in a blue polka-dot dress brings her teacup up to sip, a simpering smile to the viewer. Intricate and colorful tattoos line her hands and arms, challenging the pristine environment.

While identities can lie hidden, so can the emotional significance of everyday life. Trudie Teijink uses a digital camera to document the remnants of family suppers, highlighting the colors and shapes of food and the utensils used to prepare it. She reveals how art emerges in the mish-mash that falls together. Her work makes us ponder how sentiments and human connections arise through the sights, smells and tastes of food, and of preparing and imbibing together. But sometimes, she says, the mundane still seems futile.

While domesticity seems a safe haven, home can be dangerous. Marcia Joffe-Bouska uses barbed nests to pose the question, “How might things appear safe when they are not?”

Joffe-Bouska also uses egg and nest imagery to express the worth of each individual and to explore how we might create our own safe havens. Strong metal nests signify strength, fabrications representing DNA indicate smarts, and lacy trimmings suggest patience. Each egg/nest combo represents a reason, a justification, or a reminder of why we have value. And each titled piece opens with this mantra: “I am ….”

Other themes look at the voices in our heads, how so much of the work women do everyday lies invisible or seemingly insignificant even to those who do it, and performance art invites attendees to write out notes to be re-interpreted by performers, with response. And more.

Women are speaking up, challenging status quo power politics and giving voice to lives and identities that too often remain shrouded and undervalued, all the while promoting positive communication in the VOICE exhibit.

Together, this art calls for deeper thought, broader expansion, and raised voices.

Co-curated by Sally Deskins and Megan Loudon Sanders, VOICE artists include Marcia Joffe-Bouska, Sally Deskins, Wanda Ewing, Kristin Lubbert, Jewel Noll, Melanie Pruitt, Amy Quinn, Megan Loudon Sanders, Trudie Teijink, Trilety Wade and Ella Weber.

Les Femmes Folles Presents: VOICE, a curated exhibition

The New BLK, 1213 Jones St.

Opening reception: Friday, April 13, 7-10p.m. Exhibition runs thru April 30. Preview art-talk at Indian Oven: April 11, 7p.m.
Art Talk at The New BLK, April 18, 7p.m.


Call for art

Deadline: April 6, 5pm deliver to The New BLK, 1213 Jones St.

Open to: artists who identify themselves as women

Les Femmes Folles: Voice is a curated exhibit featuring the artistic perspective of 11 Midwestern artists who are women at The New BLK Gallery opening April 13, 2012. The artists would like to also showcase the VOICES of other artists who are women with a collaborative piece. Artists are invited to create a mouth in any medium, in 2-dimensional form, no larger than 18×24” that can be hung on a wall. Deliver to The New BLK by April 6 to have it included in the show opening April 13 with artist contact information. Details or mloundons@unmc.eduor

More information on the exhibit at or

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 13, 2012, in feminism, gender, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Little? Miss! Sunshine

    I’m drawn to this post because it gives a picture of what could be waiting for us women when we are finally free enough to live authentically. I am beginning to be drawn into the fight—to stand against oppression, even within my own soul, and to strive for equality and recognition—and in this fight, I sense the vacillation between submitting my femininity to others’ definitions and defining myself by my rejection of normative femininity. It’s confusing on a personal level to keep changing my stance, and it definitely impacts my relationships. So I like this idea of finding one’s own voice in the connection between mind and body; the recognition that “passion and power and surrender and control” are connected in some larger sense of identity; and the freedom to notice my automatic reactions to different expressions without having to judge those reactions. It’s something that feels worth working toward.

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