Feminine Architecture is an all-female photography exhibition bringing together the works of two California-based artists; Haley Golden And Nora Lowinsky. The collaboration pays homage to the friendship between the creative duo, the growth of their individual and shared visions, and more broadly the power of women re-enforcing each other in the arts — as an act of ‘building architecture’ together.
Although starkly different in their artistic intuitions -Haley Golden adopts a quirky and pared down approach to her representations of new topographics, while Nora Lowinsky’s self-developed 35mm portraiture is dreamy, ethereal and poetic in essence, the two are linked by an anthropologically-grounded sensitivity to their lived surroundings. Whether the focus is on brick walls or on female muses, both Golden and Lowinsky use their cameras as a means to visually document the worlds they live in, finding beauty in its imperfections.
At its foundation Feminine Architecture celebrates the collective voices and visions of female artists, urging for the creation of a loving, empowering and supportive sisterhood within the arts.
Haley Golden’s website
Nora Lowinsky’s website.
Opening: Alchemy Bottle Shop (3256 Grand Ave, Oakland) on Jan. 20, 2017 from 5-7 PM.
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Archive Collective: How did the idea for this collaboration come together?
Nora Lowinsky: Haley and I became friends at the tail end of 2014, at a time when both of us were coming out of a dark period of not cultivating our gifts. We had both reached a bottom. We were immediately, magnetically drawn to each other and helped one another from that darkness to emerge into a creative light, reborn. We saw the light in one another. We both encouraged the other to create. We have been each other’s life line support for our creativity since the day we met. Meeting Haley was part my destiny.
I decided to plan an exhibition in 2016. I just felt the desire to show after a year of compulsive shooting and developing an identity, without a distinct plan or the real experience of having produced my work in a context to be viewed in person. So I approached Haley about the project first. She was immediately on board and secured the space for us right away. Initially, we wanted to do a big group show. As we met and discussed the exhibition, however, it became clear that we would do a two woman show. We always wanted the show to be exclusively women artists to promote the deep bond we have cultivated among other women.
Haley Golden: I think Nora describes the evolution just right. I have a vivid memory of meeting her for the first time. It felt like an instant energy shift. Throughout my life, there are only about a handful of people that I’ve experienced that with and it is a gift. I think we were both on the cusp of something. Our friendship has given me that extra push to pursue my photography in a serious way and the foundation to sustain it. It’s wild to think about the past two years since meeting each other and how far we’ve come. In the purest way, this show is meant to be a physical manifestation of our growth – it is truly a celebration for us.
AC: Could you tell us more about the name, “Feminine Architecture?” What does it mean to you?
NL: Feminine Architecture finally came to me after we had a sort of challenging time finding a show title. We played a lot with words. We even involved our spouses. It was all fun, but nothing was hitting home. Haley loves simple titles and I veer a little more off in poetic land. Feminine Architecture is just the title that fit us best as a unit without echoing the current popularized narrative around the female gaze too much. It speaks to us, our show and more largely to a movement of women building relationships and creative opportunity. It’s about growth and building together. It’s about female friendship. The title merges our different creative identities in two words and also manages to dispels the words’ gender myths. Architecture can be feminine and what’s feminine can be architectural. It’s a wordplay on gender stereotyping. The pairing is so basic, yet still unexpected.
HG: Simply, the name weds the subjects and themes of our work. When I first heard it, I instantly thought of our friendship and what we’ve built together and what we will continue to build as individual artists, as collaborators and, generally, as women in the arts. Often, I think the artistic process is seen as a solitary experience – which it must be on some level – but I have found community as an essential tool for my growth, particularly one that is woman-centric. With Nora, I was able to share my thoughts and feelings about the creative process (even my very dark and self-deprecating ones) and feel validated for the first time. Before, my art felt like it was living in my body – a very frustrating feeling. Now, it’s going to be up on walls and framed for the first time.
AC: How does your identity as a woman feed into your identity as as an artist?
NL: I don’t separate the two. I am a woman and I create and both are inexorably linked. I use my womanhood as a guide for everything. I listen to the wild woman within me, ancestral female voices and I am inspired by the feminine energy which surrounds me. I choose to hear, feel and see the woman. I am on a self-healing journey through what I am doing.
HG: Can you ever separate the two? My work is inherently a reflection of my viewpoint and a significant part of my personal experience is being a woman. I wouldn’t say that it specifically informs my photographs. More than anything, I want to emphasize the “human” experience.
AC: Do you identify as a feminist artist, a female artist, or both?
NL: I think “feminist art” is just art centered around feminism-challenging any inequality of the sexes, which I do naturally. Art created by women is always going to be from the female perspective, therefore channeling that inequality underlyingly if not overtly. I absolutely identify as a feminist and that extends to everything that comes from me. What I make, I birth. Yes, I do identify as a feminist artist, but I shy away from calling myself anything. I do not identify as a photographer even really. I am a woman, a feminist and I am showing what I am making- what spills into a form. I do not like feeling bound by labels, but I certainly celebrate my womanhood and where I am right now– creating and sharing images while making a place for myself in a male dominated world.
HG: I think the difference is the intention behind it. Ultimately, what is your message and what is the impact you want to have on your audience? I am a proud feminist, but I am not making a statement about feminism. From a historical context, it is powerful to think about the act of women making art at all. There was a time, and really not that long ago, when women were completely barred or discouraged from pursuing the arts in the public sphere. There were a lot of female artists whose work was co-opted by their husbands or family members, and even destroyed. To wonder how much talent and potential was extinguished is devastating. As an extreme, I can’t imagine someone taking my camera away from me and telling me to find a more suitable pursuit. I think my spirit would die. The ability to freely create is not to be taken for granted.
AC: Let’s talk about vision: what is your current vision as an artist and how has that changed over time?
NL: Well just simply, we grew together. We began at the same time and stayed close. Our vision together was to be here, where we are, alongside each other. That’s inherently harmonious without even looking at the images we make and how they relate. My own vision is in formation. I like to work intuitively and not push too forcefully because that simply is not my natural flow. I want to enjoy my process. My treatment of self has evolved a lot over time. I trust and love myself more.
HG: Seeing our work side by side will be tangible proof of our singular visions and the varied ways our photographs relate despite their obvious differences. Feminine Architecture is a confirmation of where we’ve arrived on our own, but more importantly how we’ve gotten there together.
I am hesitant to talk about my current vision as an artist since it took me forever to even identify as one in the first place – a term I once thought to be assigned to those only truly worthy. For now, I am simply excited to be taking ownership of it, which is a daily struggle for me.
AC: Who are some female artists you look up to at the moment?
NL: Haley Golden, without even saying, but I had to. This entire show is an ode to us looking up to each other. Brandy Eve Allen. She really speaks to my passion for analog photography. I think she is completely brilliant in her experiments with film and I feel some beautiful sincere love vibrations from her work and person. Rachel Martin’s drawings display playful, humorous eroticism, challenging a lot of bullshit rules and limitations we put on female sexuality. I am also completely into her art instagram @rachelmartinsteenagesymphony I am attending Rachel’s School of Art on instagram. Eva Ostrowska published a heart-achingly beautiful and tragic first book of her photography, Ma Petite Chérie. Her work speaks to me on a profoundly guttural feminine level. I feel the visceralness of her work. I bought a couple of small Mary Rosenberg paintings in 2016. I applaud her for keeping her prices for the people. I don’t know how much longer she can do that for, but it’s refreshing. Brittany Markert (@in_rooms) is a prodigious traditional darkroom printmaker and a surrealist self portrait artist. I look forward to adding to my collection while supporting women.
HG: Outside the realm of photography, I have currently been obsessed with the minimal work of Agnes Martin. Besides her, I follow various contemporary photographers, all of whom I’ve found via Instagram or various art blogs. In no particular order: Birthe Piontek, Jennifer Latour, Hayley Eichenbaum, Brenda Biondo, and Hannah Devereux.
AC: Some emerging female talent to look out for in 2017?
NL: All women I listed above will emerge with more fantastic work in 2017. To add to that list, May Daniels is a model I worked with recently who is also on a heartfelt journey as an artist and creative director. I just want to keep watching her soar. She has also become a friend and a lot of what I am discussing here in this interview is part of our vernacular. Both my friends Vanessa Rodriguez (@vrod176) and Alexis Gonzalez (@thebronxisburning) are fervent storytellers through their urban photographs and portraits of people. My friends are powerful, talented, compassionate women with strong voices.
HG: I feel privileged to work with women every day who are all visionaries in their own right: Brittany Haines, Chelsi Liddell, Giulia Zink, Kristin Namimoto, and Suzanna Scott. Keep an eye on these brilliant women.
AC: Your concluding thought to all women working in the arts?
NL: Do not wait for external validation to do what calls you. If you want to do a show, do it. There are alternative spaces and people to collaborate with creatively everywhere and closer to you than you think. Underground guerrilla art shows are actually the pulse. Art school is irrelevant today. Really who cares about auction houses, big galleries or what drives the market. What’s fresh is authentic and in real community and what’s fresh is in exile. Do not perceive what you are doing as not being of value. Do not wait until you have the money. Believe in yourself because nobody else will if you don’t first, especially as a woman. Not everyone will stick around for what you’re doing and that is okay. Let them go. Your path is yours and for you. Do not fight to gain the approval of anyone. There is room for us all. Bring a new woman maker into your circle. Resist cliquishness. Be open when you feel the urge. Don’t silence your natural desire to be loving and inclusive with another woman. Trust that everything will naturally fall into place for you. Or not. If something doesn’t go your way, oh well. Go and brush your shoulders off. Tap into your masculinity. Tap into your femininity. Forget gender roles, but feel your womanhood. Women are natural multi taskers, resourceful to the bone, problem solvers and intuitive geniuses. We squat to create life. We all come from the bush. Whatever you are making is your baby. You are a warrior. Use your gifts, whatever they may be. You are here for a reason. You are in this one life now. Go! Liberate yourself from self imposed limitations and give yourself love. Now!
HG: The advice that I offer is also a reminder to myself because it is a constant battle.
I am an overly critical and anxious person, which is probably a product of many things, but is definitely tied to being a woman. I spent much of my teenage and early adult life secretly wishing I could be an “artist” and feeling envious of those who were in art school or being creative. I studied art history, but kept a great distance from actually making anything of my own. I made all kinds of excuses and any time I would create something, I thought it was absolute shit. I would have rather made nothing — hide away– than feel that fear of inner criticism or public scrutiny. This was a serious disservice to myself. Eventually, I believe, it manifested in my jaw and I could not open my mouth fully for almost a year. I literally could not express myself the way I needed to.
So, first, I would say don’t be afraid to make something that you hate. If you have that envy that I speak of—keep at it and seek out others who will support you. If you are truly called to make art, it will probably bubble up no matter what, but you will have wasted so much time and energy when you could have been building upon your skills.
Additionally, I think to be a productive artist there is a certain amount of selfishness required. You have to put yourself first and take the time to nurture your gift. Unfortunately, in most cultures, women are not encouraged in this way. It is vital to take the time for yourself and do not feel guilty for doing so. The most compassionate thing you can do (for yourself and the world) is to follow that inner voice and fully honor it in whatever way it is calling you.