A different kind of Whitney: Show puts feminist twist on the Biennial

Amazing Amazonian: Artist Suzanne Wright, left, and “Whitney Houston Biennial” curator Christine Finley, with Wright’s piece — a seven-foot drawing of an Amazonite crystal.
Photo by Merle Exit

On March 9, an artists studio in Dumbo will play host to an exhibit titled “The 2014 Whitney Houston Biennial: I’m Every Woman.” But don’t expect walls covered in images of the late diva.

Instead, curator Christine Finley has chosen works from 75 female artists, across a range of ages, backgrounds, and disciplines, who capture the singer’s spirit more so than her visage. The show’s title also playfully addresses the Whitney Museum’s annual “Whitney Biennial,” where Finley believes women are underrepresented — this year’s exhibition at the renowned Manhattan art museum has just 38 female contributors out of a total 103.

“It comes as a response to the awakening representation of women artists in major museums and galleries,” said Finley, a Boerum Hill resident.

It is a message that rings true for Suzanne Wright, a former Brooklyn resident who specializes in large colored-pencil drawings and a subject matter that she calls “future feminism.”

“I was immediately drawn to the idea of a ‘Whitney Houston Biennial,’” Wright said. “The play on words and sentiment seemed so right on. Loss of this amazing diva was devastating and almost seemed like people were afraid to honor her fully.”

The show also became a source of inspiration for Wright, who is contributing a giant drawing of an Amazonite crystal — named for the legendary female warriors of the Amazon in Greek mythology.

Off the wall: Heather Powell’s “Battlefield,” just one of many female-created artworks at the “2014 Whitney Houston Biennial.”
Heather Powell

“At first I was going to put up a funny collage that I had been working on in my studio, but when I started to realize the project’s potential, that gave me the incentive to finish my seven-foot Amazonite drawing, so it could potentially absorb the collective power of all the other women artists in the show,” said Wright. “The Amazonite crystal is very powerful and I hope it gives as much as I know it will get.”

Other works in the one-night show will include Heather Powell’s “Battlefield,” a mixed-media sculpture using 3-D materials, and “Previa Trip” by Annie Ewaskio, a mysterious painting evoking Alaska and environmental activism.

The show will only be exhibited for one night, but Wright believes its legacy will be enduring.

“Finley has created a venue where we can unite for one night and honor one another, and I predict this innovative endeavor will live on, much like Whitney Houston’s incredible spirit and voice,” she said.

“The 2014 Whitney Houston Biennial: I’m Every Woman” (20 Jay St. near Greenwich Street, Suite 207, in Dumbo) March 9 at 4–8 pm. Free.

Space tripping: “Previa Trip” by Annie Ewaskio, just one of many female-created artworks at the “2014 Whitney Houston Biennial.”
Annie Ewaskio

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