For years I’ve been determined to make representations of empowered women. In this exhibition I am continuing an ongoing series of larger-than-life drawings of femme identity. I’ve returned to the subject of women performing martial arts and self-defense techniques. The works are drawn and painted on large, collaged, cardboard grounds, a process that has been evolving for years, since attending Occupy Wall Street when I fell in love with the sublime collection of cardboard placards at the actions. I think about these collaged cardboard works as monumental protest signs. The grounds are made entirely of recycled materials while simultaneously providing interesting content with the cardboard browns and tans. I wanted to show the beauty of the collaged cardboard, so I kept these drawings minimal in their use of color and line. In my twenties I was reading about and studying minimalism as well as the Judson Dance Theater’s celebration of democratic movement, and I began to see the overlap between the two genres where minimal human scale objects become props for feminist dance. In these new works the gestures like the hammer strike, groin strike, open fist punch, etc. when stilled and framed as a drawing begin to feel like choreography. An ongoing theme in my work has been the linkage between civil disobedience and dance. The source material for these works are my own photos of women in the LA area who are practitioners of different forms of martial arts and self-defense. I asked them to wear street clothes and dresses. The dresses along with the line quality, scale and transparency, unexpectedly confound traditional notions of femininity, emotionality and power. This is the first time I have used my own drawings for these large cardboard works. In the past I appropriated and recontextualized historical images. Using my own drawings has allowed me to use formal elements in a very personal way; I’m trying to complicate empowered femme identity with vulnerability, physical agility, fragility, monumentality and strength. These works are a celebration of the triple goddess, the maiden the mother and the crone. The women I photographed are of various generations, while two are actually mother and daughter, and of course the artist is the proud crone. Patriarchy continues to normalize sexism, racism, economic inequality and rape culture. The battle continues.
--Andrea Bowers, August 2021