“Who is art for? Us too.” This poignant statement is the overarching motto for the Women’s Mobile Museum, a progressive photographic art exhibition featuring the work of 10 Philadelphia-based artists who identify as women or femmes.
From September 13, 2021 through October 29, 2021 and November 22 through March 11, 2022, the GW community can visit this pop-up art installation at the Corcoran School of the Arts for free. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays. The exhibit features pieces that question accessibility, representation, and power dynamics within the art community.
“The Women’s Mobile Museum is a vehicle in the metaphorical sense...It aims to challenge the current hierarchies of the art world and, more broadly, of the intellectual world. The artists of the Women’s Mobile Museum envision a decolonized art museum that welcomes all people,” according to the artists’ statement at the entrance of the exhibit.
All the collections in the exhibit are powerful, but a few in particular stand out, including “UNSAT,” by Davelle Barnes. This collection of three self-portrait photographs accompanied by dog tags is a commentary on racism, homophobia, and general negative impacts of serving in the military from the artist’s personal experience as a soldier. Barnes recognized that serving in the United States Army had a large influence on her outlook on life and she wanted her audience to see her personal experience. Her viewers are able to gain a deeper understanding of her experience because she uses herself as a subject in staged photography.
Another collection that shares a powerful message is “untitled [zola]/[zola] untitled” (seen above) by Afaq. Visitors' attention is immediately drawn to this collection because it is featured on one side of a large standing platform in the middle of the exhibit. This is another piece entirely composed of self-portrait photography and the artist uses a combination of black and white photography, color photography, and printed fabric to comment on her struggles as a non-white woman seeking to connect with her culture in America. Additionally, several “I” statements like “i am still sad when i’m successful, i’m only successful if i hide that i’m sad,” and “i know everyone who is not a man has had cause to run from one,” give the viewer a powerful, direct look at what the artist endures on a daily basis. These statements may not be initially obvious or typical to see in a museum.
While much of the material covered in this exhibit is thought-provoking and potentially uncomfortable, it undoubtedly prompts the viewer to think deeper about who and what type of material is generally included in museums and how this limits opportunities for marginalized groups. As ambitious women, part of uplifting ourselves and finding success is breaking the glass ceiling ourselves and working to make the opportunities available to as many people as possible. This exhibit illuminates new perspectives in art, which helps everyone envision a more equitable environment for all.
Feature image by Lauren Nixon.