Vanessa Castro

Hello everyone!

So the purpose for my blog posts will be keeping everyone up with my curatorial process up until the show/exhibition that will be taking place on September 5th.

Since my last curatorial proposal for the grant I have changed a few things about my research and about the show. Ultimately I decided that doing a show on “the use of popular imagery as a means of critique” was way too general and not challenging enough for yours truly. Considering I have done a show already on the use of appropriation in post-millenial art, I decided that I want to narrow down my focus on something that has caught my interest. For this reason I decided to look into the use of the female body, primarily the female nude, in the discourse of art history and how young artists today are using the female body as a vehicle to address what ever they deem pertinent, and how they are using their mediums to expand the way the female body is seen in art and visual culture. I will come back to this soon.

Although it was first proposed at the Gallatin Gallery, I decided to propose the show outside of the NYU vicinity. The academic environment can obscure the intentions of the artists, considering many of their works critique the academic environment’s influence young artists. Considering that artists in New York are visually informed by more than what they are taught at their respective institutions, I wanted to remove the art outside of that context so we can view the work as a part of New York City, not simply within a small academic community. Luckily I already have a place set: The Living Gallery on Broadway in Bushwick. It’s a spacious gallery with a small courtyard in the back. They are very active in the Bushwick art scene and I appreciated the fact that a creative young woman ran the space, for I feel that it is in tune with the curatorial framework that I’m working with.

I also have a list of artists, many of which have already responded to me showing interest. My goal is to use as many mediums as possible and try to get the most diverse range of experiences and backgrounds to truly get a taste of what is going on in new art and provoke an engaging discourse between the works.  So far there will be multi-media works, drawings, videos, site-specific works, photography, sculpture, zines, and performance. It is important to show that the idea of the female body has left the limitations of the framed canvas in the museum and has taken many shapes and forms. Not to mention the fact that young artists today have truly transitioned into a more interdisciplinary practice. Hopefully through the variety of mediums the viewer can understand the importance of style and form when addressing such an institutionalized subject.

Finding the artists and space is the fun part. What is really racking my brain is all the academic research. Don’t get me wrong… I am a nerd and can do research all day. I have already read more than 50 essays in the span of two weeks! The part that is driving me crazy is how I can pull all this research together to not only shape my official curatorial proposal, but how it is going to be integrated into an eloquent and efficient 12-15 page research paper. A paper that not only gives the art historical background of the female nude, starting at modernism, but goes into present day, where the internet and cyber theory (a territory that is relatively new and not addressed as much) obviously has to be included. So far I already have 12 pages! And I’m not nearly done!

I have already met with a few artists and will continue to meet with artists in the next week to discuss the show, their works, and how they want to be involved. This part is, personally, the most fun. I love talking to artists and figuring out how we can involve their work in the show. I don’t want to show images yet because nothing is concrete yet.

The thing about being so young and curating a show is that I will absolutely not have a concrete thesis where I will be mandating what it means to use the female body in the new millenium. Why? Because I don’t have my BA yet, nevermind a Master’s degree that would give me the “credibility” to feel like it’s my place to tell people specifically what they should get from a show. Not to mention that I also simply do not have the answer! All I can do is read and research as much feminist visual theory, critical theory, art historical texts, and post-millenial theory (as well as discussing these topics with the artists) in order to respectfully and eloquently address the works in the space in a way that is relevant and educated. And engaging enough that the viewers won’t be scared away by some pretentious jargon. What I hope will happen is that once all the pieces are up in the gallery, and I can see how viewers are interacting and viewing the works, one can start to gather at least a sense of the importance of the female body and the efforts artists are making today to manipulate the modernist tropes of femininity.

So far I am extremely excited and extremely grateful for the grant. I look forward to seeing what other students are working on!


Vanessa Castro

4 thoughts on “Vanessa Castro

  1. Hi Vanessa!

    Reading your first blog post after having discussed this project with you at great length throughout the summer is so awesome — I’m thrilled to see the progress you have made since the early weeks of research. I’m looking forward to working with you on an after-party/ after-show to celebrate female artists, musicians, AND your hard work!

    My question is: Will you be explaining any sort of feminist visual theory during the gallery show? Whether it be in a handout or some sort of curatorial statement? It might be a great idea for those of us who are a bit less informed.


  2. Hey Vanessa,

    Your project sounds really interesting! When I was reading your blog post, It made me wonder about what falls into the category of “post-millennial art”, and how one would classify appropriation of the female body within this context. I think you addressed this difficulty a bit in your post when you briefly mentioned that it is hard for you to pick and choose what deserves to be in the show you’re curating and what does not. However, I’m curious how you feel about individual pieces as a woman? Not that having a Bachelors or Masters is ever a bad thing, but in some ways I feel that individuals don’t necessarily need to have a degree to determine if they feel a work is exploiting women or not. Every curatorial voice is subjective in this way, and I was wondering how you felt about that dilemma? Do you feel like we can ever look at a subject such as appropriation from a purely objective stance, or are we forever governed by our unique experiences? Just some questions I was thinking about when I was reading over your post. The ideas are definitely exciting and poignant, and it looks like things are coming together really well!

  3. Vanessa,

    Your project sounds fascinating! Can’t wait to see the show, and how the contemporary artists you’re showing will be in conversation with the female nude and its wrought history. It sounds as though you are approaching your curatorial framework through a feminist theory-leaning lens–would you consider this a feminist project overall? For me, this possibility is really exciting! It’s hard to find shows that work through these kinds of concerns these days. I’m curious what theory/which theorists you are reading, and what art historians/art historical texts you are working with. Also, how much are you informing your artists about your framework? (In the Meleko Mokgosi’s curating class that Vanessa and I took together, this was an oft-discussed concern among many classmates)

    I think your decision to move the show out of an academic space is very smart, and will perhaps draw in a wider range of people. I do think, however, some references to the academic history of the nude (as in, the nude’s often pervy patronage being justified by academic display and approval) will be necessary for your show. I think ways to do so besides through the art itself might be a salon-style hanging, or other visual references to the nude’s academic history. I’ll think more on this. Anyways, can’t wait to see all of your hard work come to fruition!

    1. Hi Gabi! Thanks so much for reading this long post…

      To answer your questions,

      1) I have been reading a lot from a Feminist Visual Culture Reader: Adrian Piper, Donna Haraway, Mary Kelly, and the likes. And many others that are slipping my mind. In terms of art history I have been reading books that have already talked about the female body and “the nude” that look at the subject from a variety of perspectives, not just feminist one. And that’s an issue in itself that I’m dealing with the show. Do I want to present it as a solely feminist project? It is certainly informed by feminism since I, along with the participating artists, are all feminists and certainly had to involve some sort of feminist critique when involving the female body, but I am worried that I might be obscuring other concerns being addressed in the works that go beyond the feminist realm (if there is such thing). I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that by revolving the show around such a potent subject, this will be a highly political show no matter what. What I want to do is take this subject that is so political and make it into something approachable, which is why I wanted to include as many mediums as possible. If the viewer sees the female body in a variety of contexts, that it the subject is no longer going to be something invisible and unapproachable, but something tangible and existent in every form of every day life. I honestly think about this every minute of every single day… SO stressful.

      2) I have created a draft of my curatorial framework, which I can send you if you’re interested, which I have been showing artists just so that they can get the gist of what I think I’m trying to get at. It’s left pretty open ended and pretty loose so that the artists don’t feel like they have to follow any strict guidelines. Some artists have taken it very literally, while some barely even read it. And I’m fine with both– as long as the show doesn’t end up looking literally like a Feminism 101 text book. I just find that so boring and unoriginal. But who knows, it might turn out that way anyways.

      3) In terms of academia, I’m waay ahead of you girl. I knew that if we were going to talk about the female body, especially in the discourse of art history (and with a grant from a private institution), we would have to address the ‘academic display and approval’ of the body. For this reason, I have made sure to include pieces by artists that were definitely informed by a more traditional modernist approach to representing the female body, while still trying to move away from such antiquated means of representation.

      I’m so happy you commented! Please get in touch if you have any ideas for texts! I’m sure you have plenty of good suggestions!

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