[Editor Notes:Later this month, as part of its ongoing dedication to the promotion of local contemporary art, Thumb Butte Distillery will host “Four Women Out of Hand,” an exhibit featuring recent work from Prescott artists Suzanne Justice, Rita Toikka, Holly Nelson, and Brandelyn Andres. 5enses asked one of those artists, who is also a professor of art history at Yavapai College, to tell us what to expect when this highly anticipated show opens on February 22.]
By Brandelyn Andres
“Four Women Out of Hand” is comprised of candid, powerful, provocative personal testaments, articulated through image and object, that addresses emotions and experiences that most can readily identify with. The result is an investigation – shared simultaneously by artist and viewer – into the realities that are frequently glossed over by the artificial nature of social media and the implied social regulations that dictate “appropriate” conduct.
Increasing cultural pressures encourage us to carefully curate the ways that we present and perform our lives, with all of its facets – from the mundane to the deeply personal – now available for public scrutiny. The themes that “Four Women Out of Hand” present function as advocacy: to encourage the authenticity that is critical for meaningful interactions with one another. If the private is now considered public, we may as well be honest about the gritty actualities of life.
As constructs of gender receive increasing critique within the wider cultural dialogue, the underlying message of “Four Women Out of Hand” is both timely and significant. An all-female show is intentional: it is a demonstration of women supporting one another in a society that routinely enacts mechanisms that pit us against each other. The artwork, as unapologetic expression, encourages women to openly claim their own unique narratives, while pointedly rejecting the stereotype that the communication of emotion makes one “crazy,” “bitchy,” “high maintenance,” “hormonal,” etc.
However, the artwork and the universal messages it conveys is not intended to be wholly gender-specific; rather, it relates to the experiences of men, women, and those within the complex spectrum that lies in between. All viewers can find something personal within the work on display.
The wider relatability of this exhibit stems from its intimate explorations of the self. Justice’s work relies primarily on figurative self-portraiture and autobiography, while Andres tends to work symbolically through the juxtaposition of text (lines taken from self-penned poetry), found objects, and anatomical renderings.
Toikka and Nelson work with highly abstract or non-representational imagery that has a sense of poignancy, timeless and immediate. They convey the depths and complexities of human emotion that transcend descriptions through recognizable image or word. All four artists privilege process in the creation of their work, where the act of art-making informs the meaning, often positioning the process as more significant than the finished product.
As a whole, the exhibit offers a visually diverse sampling of imagery, yet commonality can be found in both style and underlying concept. With art historical roots in the raw emotionalism of Abstract Expressionism and the experimentation with material first promoted by Synthetic Cubism, the work on display is an addendum to these earlier schools, pushing tradition outside of its comfort zone.
The application of color extends beyond its well-exploited psychological parameters in the work of Toikka and Nelson; Justice’s angsty, gestural stroke becomes imbued with meaning rather than simply functioning as technique; while Andres inserts the emotional into a conceptual approach previously reserved strictly for rigidity and analysis. The “heroic” expressionistic bravado of the past is now being replaced by nuanced sophistication, with an expressive force to be reckoned with, lurking just below its surface.
Suzanne Justice, Rita Toikka, Holly Nelson, and Brandelyn Andres. These artists are not solely affiliated through “Four Women Out of Hand”; they all have exhibited with the White Spar Collective as well, a local arts entity that utilizes innovative venues and display techniques to heighten the visibility of non-commercial contemporary work produced by regional artists.
“Four Women Out of Hand” runs from February 22 through April 21. The opening reception coincides with 4th Friday Artwalk and will be held on Friday, February 22 from 5-9pm with musical entertainment provided by the Freddy Freeman Band from 6-9pm. Thumb Butte Distillery, 400 N. Washington Ave., Prescott, is open Friday 12-9pm, Saturday 12-6pm, and Sunday 12-5pm. For more info call 928-443-8498 or email Brandelyn Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGES FROM TOP LEFT BOTTOM RIGHT: “This Behavior is Not Unique” By Suzanne Justice, “A Woman’s Work I (Quilt)” By Brandelyn Andres, “Cosmos” By Holly Nelson, and “Sugar n Spice” By Rita Toikka.