On one wall there is a little girl, face to face with a wolf. The two regard each other contemplatively.
On other wall there are huge comic book panels, in the grand old pulp style, but instead of a dashing iron-jawed hero, there is a heroine who seems to be exploring some foreign land halfway between outer space and a scene ripped from Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
Over here there’s a wooden sculpture of a tarot card reader. Over there a series of portraits of pagan women, decked out in ceremonial garb. You discover a room tucked away like a hidden oasis; inside this installation, the sound of calming waves wash over you, and the darkness highlights a video projection of … a fancy piece of soap that looks like a moon?
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) opened its second exhibition in its newly remodeled space. “Sisters of the Moon” is a multi-artist exploration into the sacred feminine.
Curator Joey Yates spoke with Insider about the evolution of the show and how the pieces were chosen to explore the emerging themes of the exhibition.
“It (grew) out a show more exclusively about femininity and nature,” says Yates. “Like in the case of (artist) Kiki Smith, the fact she has been, for the past 15 to 20 years, working on these reframing or reclaiming of fairy tale characters, so rather than the female character being victimized — like a young woman walking through the woods and there is this fear attached to it — she recast them as friends.”
That particular work is on the third floor, and it’s beautiful.
Yates, who joined KMAC as an associate curator in 2012, says the ideas behind the exhibit grew and changed.
“As the show grew and it had this title, ‘Sisters of the Moon,’ it began to take on something more spiritual,” he says. “I started reading about the history of spirituality in contemporary art … and it just made better connections.”
Yates really hits this message home in the Curator’s Note of the show’s program:
“Sisters of the Moon features artists who investigate ideas related to mysticism and mythology, illuminating the creative spaces where female identity, artistic practice and spirituality converge. Rooted in the ancient belief that women more fully embody the generative forces of nature, possessing a greater connectedness to the surrounding environment, this exhibition provides a unique setting for art exploring the poetics of nature and the feminine divine.”
The show has a lot more narrative than “Material Issue,” KMAC’s first exhibit in their remodeled space.
“There is a lot of representative work, which is very different than our last show, which was very abstract. That was by design,” says Yates. “We knew this would be a kind of counter to our first show, and it’s certainly worked out that way.”
He also talked about how the theme allowed him to curate a show that allowed diversity in vision and media.
“I was able to look for the narratives. You pick these broad themes that exist in the kind of diverse population we have in America and you want to represent that as tight as you can, as close as you can, as best as you can,” says Yates. “And absolutely, once you have a general kind of broad concept, you want to pull as many diverse stories as you can.”
“Sisters of the Moon” does an excellent job of continuing KMAC’s attempt to follow their mission and function as a contemporary museum of art.
“We have to talk about that every day, we have to address the niche our museum does have … that focus on the decorative arts (and the) focus on functional arts,” explains Yates.
He says serving two mistresses — the art and the craft — in this manner is something other similar museums are working to do as well. Museums often ask, “How are you moving?,” because they are all moving into a kind of contemporary art focus.
While an appreciation for the curatorial behind the scenes may be interesting to some, it’s more likely you’ll be attracted by the wealth of stunning visuals and intrigued by the potent combination of images and allusions the works present.
The exhibit includes the owl girls and moth women of Kathleen Lolley; Lina Iris Viktor’s self-portraits, each making her look like the queen of a lost continent; the craft-based fantasy stories of Saya Woolfalk, who is creating a world as dense as any fantasy novel; and a pantheon worth of other works. No doubt you’ll gravitate to your own favorites.
There is so much going on in this show, it might take a couple visits to really take it all in. But that’s OK — starting with the grand reopening last summer, KMAC admission is free for a full year, barring a couple of special events.
“Sisters of the Moon” is on display through Jan. 8. KMAC is located at 715 W. Main St.