Amani Williams at Deep Dive Art Projects: Returning the Gaze
Amani Williams’s exhibition, Coming at You, Red, Hot and Full of Desire, is a poignant response to the June 24 SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. These monoprints created during her 2022 residency at Deep Dive Art Projects highlight moments of desire, temptation, and arousal through self-stimulated intimacy and consensual partnership. While issues of sexuality, body-positivity and feminism are current topics of discussion—the concept of female autonomy is being threatened so viscerally by specific federal and social areas that one can easily see how a woman in power challenges the current state of affairs. In Williams’s work, women have the upper hand. The sensualizing of the female form demands that we look, acknowledge, and connect with the authority of a self-fulfilled female.
Inspired by traditional pin-ups of women from Betty Page to Vargas, Williams takes the heterosexual teasing of the model’s gaze and turns it on its head. To Williams, “[the traditional pin-up] embodies servitude and compromise to achieve a fantasy geared towards cis straight American men. The pin-up presents a promise of false access to a ‘woman’ built off the American Dream and the trauma of two World Wars.” This common presentation of women that has continued to the present through all media is damaging to women—both in terms of shaming women for their own sexuality and fully embracing the commodification of women as a pleasure-servant to men. Williams says, “I take pin-ups, Playboy centerfolds, and models which are all part of ‘low-culture’ to talk about imagery of women [writ-large] and how it symbolizes straight sexuality in the media.”
I first saw Amani’s works at the CIA BFA show at Reinberger Gallery in 2021 and could not get them out of my mind. At a point in my life where I am questioning my own physical attractiveness and identity as a middle-aged (some would say senior) woman, the confidence and gaze of her female subjects gives me a jolt. When I look at her images which show a representation of the female form, I feel 100 percent seen. Collaborating with Amani has given me the opportunity to see how these often-monumental paintings might be translated into print media. With the significant body of monoprints produced during her residency at The Deep End, one can see how the intimacy and layering that occurs through printmaking can add a new dimension to this very powerful work.
DEEP DIVE ART PROJECTS
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Cleveland, Ohio 44119
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