From hawking sports cars to hamburgers, advertising has always relied on the objectification of women to market products. But starting June 26 SaveArtSpace, an arts organization that transforms advertising spaces into canvases for public art, is reclaiming New York City billboards for the female gaze.
SaveArtSpace: The Future is Female will showcase work by female artists on advertising spaces across the city. The exhibition includes a variety of media and styles, ranging from cartoon sketches to puppet-like sculptures. In one piece, titled Grace Meets Matisse, artist Elise Peterson has photoshopped Grace Jones's iconic Island Life album cover onto Matisse's La Danse, distorting the painting's dimensionality in certain ways but contributing to its overall sense of movement.
Another piece, titled Street Characters (5 Female Figures) by Fanny Allié depicts five sock puppet sculptures. Dressed in different fabrics, they share an eerie lifelessness. One figure appears headless, with two breasts, no arms, and sexily-positioned legs. That a sock-puppet could be described as sexual is ridiculous, with the insinuation being that the objectification of women is so powerful it can corrupt a puppet purely by association.
Re-appropriating billboards, spaces historically catering to the male gaze, allows female artists to get behind the lens and broadcast their art on a large scale. But the billboard's function as a medium remains integral to the art experience, even if the typical content is subverted. The works on display were chosen to catch the viewer's eye and make an immediate impression, the same goal of advertisers.
The pieces in The Future is Female were chosen from submissions addressing the title of the exhibition. "All the work submitted to the call for entry addressed female impact symbolically or figuratively," curator Meryl Meisler tells the Creators Project. The exhibition does what all activism aims to do by transforming space once controlled by institutions. In that way, the space's physical change is radical.
The Future is Female begins June 26th. Check out SaveArtSpace's other projects on their website.