Discussing "FEMME": An Interview with Spoke Art's Dasha Matsuura
In tandem with Spoke Art Gallery, we are pleased to present FEMME, a group exhibition featuring over 40 artists exploring themes of sex and sexuality from the female and femme perspectives. Juxtapoz contributor and exhibitor Lauren YS sat down with "Femme" curator Dasha Matsuura to discuss the conception and evolution of the show.
Spoke Art / Hashimoto Contemporary gallery director Dasha Matsuura has assembled a staggering group of artists to discuss sex and sexuality from the female or femme perspective on the walls of the Juxtapoz project space at Mana Contemporary. This collection of work includes a wide variety of media such as painting, drawing, embroidery and neon. The result is a complex and edifying spectrum of experiences, ranging from introspective and intimate to playful and defiant.
Lauren YS: The "Femme" show evolved from the "NSFW" show you curated two years ago; is there a shift in theme or content in this second iteration of the exhibition?
Dasha Matsuura: The theme or prompt for the show was the same, but we changed the name for this iteration of the show to bring it to the East Coast. As far as the content of the work goes for this exhibition, I think the difference (to me at least) is rooted in existing as a woman or female identifying person over the last two years. I feel like this show really celebrates self love/reliance and intimacy with a sense of quiet strength - like an undercurrent of mutual acknowledgment of each other’s power.
What are some of your favorite ways different artists have interpreted the prompt?
DM: Sex and sexuality means something different to everyone, so I really looked forward to seeing what artists feel inspired to make about the theme whether it is explicitly about the female form and pleasure like Vanessa del Ray’s illustrations or Sally Hewett’s soft sculptures, or more abstracted works like Meryl Pataky’s neon sculpture that capture a specific and relatable sentiment about the femme experience.
Do you think that curators have the responsibility to actively curate women/marginalized folks?
I can really only speak for myself, I feel like my job as a curator is to give artists visibility and opportunities to share their work, experiences and point-of-view. Galleries facilitate conversations and present exciting work to the public and, to me, there is no way to do that without including varying voices that haven’t historically been given as much weight. This particular show didn’t start as a show focused on gender or gender identity as it relates to sex. I was interested in how artists were incorporating sexuality into their work and when I started developing the show, I found that I was mostly interested in what women were making and what they had to say.
It’s my job to present work in a responsible way that is honest and not tokenized. No one exhibition can cover all of the infinite facets of female sexuality, but I hope we are able to present an interesting array.
Do you believe there is a taboo against women expressing their sexuality through art in 2019?
Certainly. There are plenty of social stigmas surrounding being open your sexuality in general but, to me, particularly as a woman from censorship on social media to how you’re treated by people around you. I think empowered women make a lot of people uneasy and ownership and comfort in one’s body and sexuality is a potent thing.
Are there any female artist forebears who make gender-topical work that may have inspired this show?
I think I was looking at a lot Betty Tompkins’ work when the show first started germinating in my head a few years ago. The brashness of her work gets me every time. I’ve always been a big fan of Jenny Saville’s work for similar reasons too.
Do you think it is important for women/femme-identifying people to discuss sexuality and gender in their work?
I think it’s important for everyone to discuss sexuality but particularly for women/femme-identifying folks to be visible and hold space that isn’t as readily given to them as their peers. In general, I think if everyone was less prudish and more open, the world would be a better place and not just when it comes to discussing sex and gender in art, but sexual health, intimacy, etc.
Are there any artists you curated who seem to have found direction or momentum in the themes they explored in “NSFW"?
You for one! It was really cool to see you develop a body of work from that first piece in NSFW. I’m really excited to show your new pieces at our NY space in all its fleshy, sexy goodness alongside Miranda Tacchia. That show was the first time we showed Miranda’s work and her illustrations were a pretty early part of the development of NSFW. Her humor and the degree of relatable honesty is something I want to see more of.
There were also a few artists like Jessica Hess that turned out really incredible work that was outside of what they typically show but had a lot of personal interest in depicting. Sometimes all it takes is someone giving you a push or permission to try something different or weird or both.
Are you planning any follow-up iteration of the show?
Every show is a learning experience and there is always something I want to tweak, a new artist I want to include or a different way of framing a show. I’ve already started the next iteration of the show in my head, but there are so many different facets and ways to present this show. We're also working on a potential book encompassing the work, which is a really exciting prospect you. Keep your eyes out!
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Come check out Lauren YS “Xenophilia” and Miranda Tacchia “Scandalized” at Hashimoto NYC opening March 2nd. These two concurrent solo exhibitions are continuations of the FEMME/NSFW shows and if you like those shows, I think you’ll dig this work too.
I would also like to send immense appreciation and thanks to the Juxtapoz crew for all their help and letting me bring the show to their space, the artists who made work for the show (past, present and future) and the collectors who support them. We truly couldn’t do any of this without each of your participation, hard work, and contributions. I feel super lucky to get to do what I do with rad people.
FEMME is on view at Juxtapoz Projects, inside Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, through March 29.