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According to Female Artists, This Is What Hysteria Is Really Like

Sculptors, painters, and street artists explore the origins of hysteria in an annual group show entitled 'the 4%ers.'

by Nathaniel Ainley
10 August 2016, 9:05pm

Alexandra Levasseur. Images courtesy of the gallery

A combination of embroidered penises, expressionist oil paintings, and clay figurines are on display at the Athen B. Gallery in Oakland for the second annual 4%ers exhibition. The group show of female artists explores the origins of hysteria and the artistic expressions that have come to represent it. First conceived in San Francisco at the FFDG gallery, the show has since then changed locations to host a new set of artists with what it calls a “slightly wilder premise," according to the gallery.

“Founded on principles such as exclusion and defiance, this year’s group seeks to express this boldness rather than stifle it internally.” Some of the artists in the show include Lauren Y.S, known for her demonic supernatural Geisha paintings, as well as Erin Riley, the fiber artist responsible for these erotic hand woven tapestries. In an interview with the show’s curator, Rachel Ralph, one of the featured artists, Kate Klingbeil, says, “I’m painting to understand and subvert the power and pressure that society hold over our heads as women.” Klingbeil mixes a combination of paint and ceramics in her in her erotic compositions. She’s been known to destroy her work at times, a practice she describes as a cathartic and healthy experience.

Beryl Fine

Hannah Yata

The gallery explains that the term, "hysteria," was coined by an ancient Greek physician named Hippocrates, who used the word to explain ailments and afflictions thought exclusive to the female body. Hippocrates believed the uterus was the constitutional source of female woes, “often expressed as a restless, wandering womb, creating disorder within the body and distress in the woman experiencing it,” writes the gallery. Hysteria was understood as a nervous disorder and diagnosed on physical indicators: “gestures, motions, gaits, and non verbal utterances.” Without any legitimate grounds in medicine, the expression and mitigation of its symptoms often came in the form of artistic practices, such as painting. Although the diagnosis is no longer considered valid in formal medicine, the artists in the 4%ers show believe the concept of hysteria has impacted “the way women are supposed to act, look, and express themselves, physically, sexually, and artistically.” Now, they seek to reclaim the word through their own artistic expression. See more works from the show below:

Erin Riley

Kate Klingbeil

Winnie Truong

Kit King

Stacey Rozich

The 4%ers show will be on at the Athen B. Gallery in Oakland from August 13th to September 2nd. For more information about the show and the featured artists, head over to the Athen B. Gallery’s website.

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