Baxter St is proud to present Femina Luminous, a solo exhibition of photo constructions and collages featuring handmade weavings, large format photographs, and paintings by Naomi Ben-Shahar, one of Baxter St’s 2023 Mid-Career Initiative Artists. The initiative supports artists residing in New York City who have worked in photography or other lens-based mediums for an extended period to provide them with the space, administrative support, and production funds to produce a solo-exhibition and supplementary public programming. Through her multidisciplinary practice, Ben-Shahar seeks to complicate the uniformity and flatness associated with the consumption of photography in our image-saturated era, and create eco-feminist, tactile and sustainable interactions. Femina Luminous will be on view April 29th, 2023 – June 24th, 2023 in Baxter St’s Project Space at 128 Baxter St.
Throughout the exhibition the concept of ecofeminism is present in both the material and subject matter. Ecofeminism, coined by French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne in 1974, is a framework that incorporates core concerns of feminism such as gender-equality, and environmentalism. The ecofeminist movement reprioritizes individuals and structures often undervalued by patriarchal society to illustrate and correct the ways both nature and women are mistreated by patriarchal systems.
In Femina Luminous Ben-Shahar combines large handmade weaves on looms with analog large-format photos of glowing, ethereal plasma-like material, which are actually painterly depictions of eggs in various states . The weaves are created intuitively as a labor-intensive ritual and the photographs mystify the commonplace food item in the otherworldly shapes of the eggs to unite nature and the cosmos. The use of eggs also connects Ben-Shahar’s work with domestic labor and a lineage of women throughout history and cultures who have done with their craft in this context.
Throughout her practice, Ben-Shahar recontextualizes historical techniques, materials, and ways of viewing. She is interested in opening the photographic experience and understanding how art making can be adapted to better connect with contemporary audiences. In her weaving practice, Ben-Shahar rejects the square and rectangular format of frames in place of custom triangular or semi-circular shapes. She stretches her photographs in the same manner, inviting the viewer to see them outside of the two-dimensional, rectangular shape inherent in the medium. The smaller ‘Cosmology Collages’ continue to draw lines between photography, craft, femininity, and nature. The black and white photographs of sand dunes in the arid Namib desert echo the ephemeral gesture in the accompanying paintings which are based on the photographer Barbara Morgan’s 1930’s photographs of Martha Graham and her dancers.
Ben-Shahar’s practice, informed by her career as a photo editor and curator, is dedicated to drawing upon historical approaches to art making and recontextualizing them to serve a current conversation.
Naomi Ben-Shahar is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator living and working in New York.
She has benefited from local and international support, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY Foundation for the Arts, Edith Russ Site for Media Art in Germany, Santa Fe Art Institute, and Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris. Her work was shown at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in NY; the International Video Festival in Casablanca; Feature, Inc., White Columns, Invisible-Exports, and Gorney, Bravin, Lee galleries in NY; FA Projects in London; Edith Russ Site for Media Arts in Germany; Art and Process in Paris; Torch Gallery in Amsterdam; Camera Works in San Francisco; BY Art Projects in Tel Aviv, Guild Hall in East Hampton, among others. Ms Ben-Shahar began her art career as a painter. Her first exhibition featured large scale oil paintings of draped fabrics illuminated by high contrast light and shadows, which anticipated her long interest in light and textile. During her MFA studies in NY, Ms Ben-Shahar shifted the focus of her work to photography and video. For three decades, alongside her own art practice, she made a living as a photo researcher/editor. Her intention from the start was to explore the photo field deeply, from as many perspectives as possible. One of her first research projects was photo researching the books “History of Women Photographers” and “A World History of Photography,” both by Naomi Rosenblum. She was then an image editor of Cabinet magazine, and the New Yorker and curated exhibitions for the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center.