The Weak Sex Exhibition / by Hannah Harley

   Last weekend, my most recent curatorial experience, The Weak Sex exhibition, opened in a spectacular fashion. The 24 hours before the show was an exhaustive effort to hang the show and redirect our traffic to our new space. Our original location, a gallery at Point Park University, became questionable just 24 hours before the show. The artists’ fiery passion and enthusiasm inspired us to continue with the show.

    So on Saturday, November 14th at 5:56 pm, we hung our last nail, opened our doors, and welcomed the first of the night’s guests. For the next three hours, the space continued to play host to an increasingly large crowd.

    The exhibition opened with our group photograph, a promotional material that was quite fun to produce. These women are powerful, and by showing us in this stance, with this lighting, with these words, we challenge your ideas about femininity at the very start.

    The curator’s statement, as seen below, then corresponded on the opposing with our individual portraits.

The Weak Sex: Analyzing the Role of Women in the 21st Century

The experiences expressed here attempt to redefine womanhood by challenging contemporary society’s influence over self-image, sexual intimacy, and gender identity. These artists directly attack a hierarchy that has quieted and subdued female expression by departing from a traditional notion of femininity.
The Weak Sex is a limited viewpoint of four artists articulating the complexities of womanhood. These four artists have a dedicated history of being discontent at the inequality that has long haunted the femme existence. These artists boldly analyze the significant experiences that have come to define them as individuals and as women.     


The gallery then opened up with Ren Rathbone’s Reflex/Reflects series, which can be seen in a digital format here. Their work dissects human reactions to menstruation, body image, and rape by challenging the viewer to be uncomfortable and to question that emotional experience. For this show, Rathbone photographed vials of their menstrual blood with found objects in their Perspective series. These images were hung in the bathroom, where Hannah Altman had installed a piece about the female’s morning routine.

Ren Rathbone  The Giving and Receiving of Head , 2014 

Ren Rathbone
The Giving and Receiving of Head, 2014 

    Hannah Altman, known internationally for her And Everything Nice series, showcased her more recent work. These images focus on the female form and the interaction of it in a space. Altman’s works analyze female psychology and desexualizes the female form. She recently participated in one of the most acclaimed DIY art exhibitions of the summer: How To. Images from that show can be viewed here.

Hannah Altman  Untitled,  2015

Hannah Altman
Untitled, 2015

    Blue Velvet, one of Michelle Montana’s series, looks at the innocence of sleeping next to someone without the socially inherent idea that to sleep with someone is necessarily sexual. This series was presented in the intimacy of the bedroom, with blue velvet cloth draping over the bed, where Ren Rathbone’s images of their rapist were situated. Montana also presented work which she created exclusively for this exhibition: Mirror Mirror. In creating this series, Montana invited female artists to interact with a mirror using paint, eggs, knives, hairspray, lipstick, etc. By photographing these individuals, Montana documented the struggling relationship between women and their reflections.

Michelle Montana  Untitled,  2015

Michelle Montana
Untitled, 2015

    My own work surrounded romantic and sexual intimacy, as if often does. I showed Love in the Digital Age, which is a case study of modern dating through the bios and profile pictures of Tinder users, Table Manners, which analyzes sexual etiquette and boundaries, and The Hidden Factor, in which I collaged pornography in an attempt to better understand media’s influence on intimacy and human interaction.

Table Manners  installation,  The Weak Sex  exhibition 2015  Photo by Michelle Montana

Table Manners installation, The Weak Sex exhibition 2015
Photo by Michelle Montana

Hannah Altman's installation, The Weak Sex exhibition, 2015
Photo by Michelle Montana

    For me, it felt like a dream: There were people I had never met, spending time looking at and analyzing the exhibition. These messages, these personal themes that these artists quietly explored visually were now publicly displayed, to be dissected by whoever walked in the door. How cool is that? And how terrifying is that? It is by and large considered to be slightly childish to express this emotional and heartfelt reaction to a very professional experience. To be considered professional, so often we are encouraged this detachment. But how are you supposed to maintain this professionalism when your passion feels as though it is exploding out of you?

    It was an amazing experience for meI was overwhelmed with the support, the love, and the creative energy in the space.. Words fail me, as they often do. But to each person that made it to the opening, thank you. 

Photo by Michelle Montana

Photo by Michelle Montana

   As my undergraduate years come to an end, the importance of creative collaboration has continuously increased in importance. The other three artists in this exhibition have inspired me long before the concept for The Weak Sex was created, and it was such a privilege to collaborate with these incredible individuals. Let's do it again sometime.