There's a hightened resonance in "The Future Is Female," a mulit-media exhibition featuring 80 works from 45 contemporary artists now on display at 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville. The phrase, seen all over social media and as a rallying cry for the women's resistence movement in the Trump era, was coined in the 1970s at a women's bookstore, at the height of second wave feminist activism.
"This was a time when women artits were leading activisim in the U.S.," explains Alice Gray Stites, head curator for the 21c Museum Hotels. "These women were very influential in not only changing the prevailing asthetic of the time but also really changing the culture and politics of women's rights."
Stites credits the the likes of Judy Chicago, Maria Schapiro and other second wave feminist artists for the art world's acceptance of materials previously shunned.
"Now we don't blink when we see art in museums that includes applique, sewing, ceramics, things we might think of once as decorative or associated with women's work or domestic labor," she says. Indeed these are all materials on display here.
In one example hundreds of acrylic nails create elaborate tentacles and in another white boxing gloves are adorned with lace and vintage lingere is adorned with slogans from the likes of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, embroidered in a dainty cursive. Many of these pieces introduce jarring juxtapositions that urge viewes to question binary thinking.
"If 'The Future Is Female' was once a declarative, aspirational, strictly focused on a defined identity, today we know that identities of gender and sexuality are far more fluid," explains Stites. "So the future that is female here is really broad, inclusive and focused on a future for everybody."
"The Future Is Female" is on display now through September at 21c Museum Hotel just off the downtown square in Bentonville.