‘The Intersectional Self’ explores feminism and gender identity through Opie’s portraits challenging lesbian culture’s butch/femme dichotomy, Ana Mendieta’s radical female facial hair, and a video starring trans activist CeCe McDonald.
In many ways, the current political climate is a regressive response to a society that is putting gender and feminist politics at the fore. We have trans youth fronting everything from indie fashion campaigns to National Geographic. Facebook, after being told by users that its 58 existing gender options are not inclusive enough, now lets people create unlimited ones. Progress in medicine, much to the horror of our new government, has made it possible for external identities to match internal ones. Opening in New York tomorrow, a new exhibition planted firmly in the age of trans-identity will bring together iconic radical artists who have been helping shape — and responding to — the shifting notions of feminism and family structures. And by extension, the mutating face of the world as we know it.
Famous names in The Intersectional Self include Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Catherine Opie, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. But the show also serves as a historical record. Andrea Bowers’s 2016 video Roundtable Discussion highlights inequality through a conversation about black liberation, the prison system, gender, and immigration. It stars Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, undocumented trans-immigrant activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, and trans activist CeCe McDonald, who came to national attention after doing time in a men’s prison. The work of Latina feminist art rebel Ana Mendieta — a Cuban immigrant who passed away in 1985 after decades of fighting discrimination — still feels revolutionary today. Her piece Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants) rips open the boundary between expectations of what men and women look like. Opie’s own self-portrait “Nursing” from 2004 is equally challenging in its exploration of butch/femme stereotypes in lesbian culture.
“The Intersectional Self” is on view at The 8th Floor in New York City until May 19, 2017. An opening reception will take place Friday, February 10, from 6-8pm.