Photo by Seth Combs
“Cha Cha Cha” by David Ghilarducci and Anna Stump
I sincerely hope that by the time this is read, we'll have elected the first female U.S. president. And while I wouldn't go so far as to use some silly phrase like "year of the woman," when it comes to the local arts scene, there have certainly been some interesting explorations of femininity and gender issues of late.
That's a year-round mindset at a place like the Women's Museum of California, the quaint space tucked inside the now bustling Liberty Station arts district. The museum's latest exhibition, Night Stand: Bedside Imagining by the Feminist Image Group, forsakes the more abstract concepts of gender and, instead, seeks to explore the more tangible side of femininity. In this case, the object used to explore these issues is a nightstand. While this object might seem arbitrary, the nightstand encapsulates many issues surrounding womanhood. It can house a woman's secrets and manual means of pleasure, or it can represent domesticity and even subjection.
Curated by the Feminist Image Group, the reinterpreted stands range from playful to deadly serious, with topics representing physical appearance (Janice Grinsell), domestic abuse (Linda Litteral), lineage (Terrilynn Quick), unrequited love (Kathleen Mitchell) and outdated marketing (Ginger Rosser). The piece by Litteral, titled "Sentinel: A Woman's Guardian," is particularly poignant and consists of a stand fashioned out of a ceramic bust of a woman with a framed picture of a pistol. The piece is dedicated to one of Litteral's childhood friends who was murdered by her husband. The accompanying story above the piece is a punch in the gut.
And while the theme of Litteral's piece and many others in the show are aesthetically obvious, it's the less thematically blatant pieces like Anna Stump and David Ghilarducci's "Cha Cha Cha" and Kim Niehans' "The Insomniac" that make this show worth a visit. The latter explored the futility of sleepless nights via a nightstand covered in numerical tallies carved into the wood. Inside the stand, grainy black-and-white videos play on a loop in order to represent, I assume, an unobtainable dreamlike state.
On the way in, I was politely asked by the woman at the counter to sign the guest book. It was sad to see that only five people had visited the museum that day. With issues of womanhood so grossly mocked by the Republican candidate this year, an exhibition like this should be sought out. What a female president means for this country remains to be seen, but the issues considered in Night Stand aren't going away anytime soon.