Albany Museum of Art
September 7, 2023 – January 6, 2024
Are we entitled to make demands of women and nature? Are we owed their performance, submission, admiration, entertainment, beauty, productivity, love, forgiveness, and fertility? We say we cherish and honor women and nature – we build statues in their honor, pray to them, create icons of mercy and liberty in their likeness – yet we abuse nature and women in strikingly similar ways. Both are religiously sanctioned as property, legislated against, denigrated into submission, their beauty monetized, and their fertility systematically policed.
For such a burden, women and nature deserve the same agency and freedom we gain in their service.
In my childhood home, we spoke of respect and reverence for God and family, including daughters, mothers, and wives. However, the approach of womanhood was accompanied by the threat of others’ lust and fantasy, which transformed reverence into rancor. Once a woman is perceived to be a magnet and focal point of sin, many will try to control her appearance, body, voice, and identity. Female fertility is a particularly poignant lightning rod since nothing is more powerful than the ability to incubate life.
As an adult, science would oddly be what brought me to a new understanding of the divine and its many female incarnations. Through a series of artist residencies at science and conservation institutions spanning several years, I witnessed how prolific, intelligent, resilient, generous, and just Mother Nature is. It became obvious that Earth is a body with waterways like a vascular system and an undulating surface like skin stretched over bone, folding in the crevices. Now, I cannot unsee these parallels in appearance, function, and in society’s blatant disregard. From dowries and debts to deeds, we shed blood over seizure and control of the bodies of women and nature.
Artworks in this exhibition are prompts that ask whether you recognize the similarities and are aware of your own culpability. It asks that we offer our love and reverence free of condition. It also reminds us that we are held accountable collectively, that we reap what we sow. Our aggressions toward one another and our assaults on the water, air, and soil are self-inflicted wounds, just like the facade of freedom and health we project but rarely support with women.
One of our most patriotic anthems opens with a blessing of a female-gendered America: “God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her …” Is this a land you will love? A paradise is possible if we make good on that pledge.