In a gallery high above the DUMBO waterfront is the new exhibit, “Future is Female: Art and Activism,” a new exhibit showcasing the work of female and non-male identifying activists of color.
Featuring paintings, sculptures, and other works of varying size and scope, “Future is Female” celebrates the individual voices and perspectives of its artists while also exploring the universal experiences of marginalized communities.
During last a grand opening event last Friday, curator Nicolette McClendon discussed the show’s careful balance between uncomfortable social realities and beautiful pieces of art.
“I give both areas, the good and bad, the amount of time and space they need to be understood before I actually show the pieces,” McClendon explained. “This show has a lot of interactive pieces, furniture you can lay down on, mobiles you can spin, and a board you can paste posters on.
“Yet those pieces are also about trauma,” she continued. “They’re about childhood, they’re about all of the differences that people face with one another. So it’s a lot of not just looking at the artist, but truly understanding the message behind it.”
McClendon is an artist in her own right, having worked for a number of years creating pieces in her native Miami. She transitioned into a career at a corporate fashion agency, but rediscovered her passion with the onset of the pandemic last spring.
In the process, McClendon has come to better understand how the work of artistic creation is itself a form of activism, an idea explored throughout “Future is Female.”
“I think it is very important for us to realize that whenever you look back at history, what is utilized to document that historical event is the art that was made at that time,” McClendon said. “You look back at the photographs, the posters, and the imagery to understand what everyone was experiencing and what message needed to be heard.”
McClendon believes there is a difference between advocacy and activism.
“Activism is pushing against that door and making someone hear you, whereas advocacy has you working from the inside to help people who are already around you to understand a premise,” she said. “As an artist you sort of have to do both.”
“Future is Female” is the second art exhibit that McClendon has curated. Earlier this year she was at the helm of “What it Feels Like,” a show that brought the work of Black artists DUMBO just in time for the Juneteenth holiday.
For McClendon, curation is an opportunity to actively engage with the works and find interesting ways for audiences to connect with the art.
“A lot of times as a curator, you can map things out in your head. But then when you get into this space, it does not work out the way you wanted it to,” McClendon said. “So when all the pieces are ready to be installed, I literally spend a full week by myself dancing around the space with each piece and make sure that it fits in well together with everything else.
“I don’t want everybody to just stand up at a gallery and then leave after 15 minutes,” she added. “So I utilize furniture and other interactive elements so people can really engage with the art.”
McClendon’s active and empathetic curation process was particularly important for “Future is Female,” which presents the work of female and non-male identifying communities who are often marginalized, even within the art world.
Each piece of art is also accompanied by a paragraph about the artist and their life story, which is meant to help audiences connect with the work on a more personal level.
Having curated two shows now in DUMBO, McClendon is hopeful that she can use the opportunity to affect positive change within the Brooklyn art community.
“I think this showcase is extremely different than what you usually would see in DUMBO,” McClendon said. “It’s great to know that we have been welcomed into this space, and we want to use this chance to engage in a meaningful conversation with beautiful art. We want people to know who these artists are, what their stories are, and what message they want to share.”
“Future is Female: Art and Activism” is on display in the 5th floor showroom of 175 Pearl Street until September 20. The exhibit is presented by sk.Artspace, a local art incubator dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging artists. For more information, visit skartspace.com.