Art by Women Graces the People’s House | Modern Society of USA

Art by Women Graces the People’s House

Art by Women Graces the People’s House

Beginning on Jan. 22, visitors to Gracie Mansion will encounter a disconsolate sight as they approach the residence of the mayor of New York City and his family: a cloaked, faceless figure sitting on the ground behind its own severed feet, a signal that an unusual set of guests has arrived.

They were invited by the first lady.

The figure, made of dark bronze, is a sculpture by the artist Kara Walker, titled “Invasive Species (to be placed in your native garden),” and has been put on a small patch of land near the entrance.

The occasion is “She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York,” an installation of works by 44 artists and collectives in the public spaces of Gracie Mansion. The show is the largest one to be mounted there and the first to focus exclusively on female and women-identified creators, all of whom have significant connections to New York City. Some are young — like Jordan Casteel, born in 1989, and Kaveri Raina, born in 1990; three are centenarians — Toko Shinoda, born in 1913, Carmen Herrera, born in 1915, and Florence Knoll, born in 1917; and many are no longer living. The subtitle refers to the period from 1919, the year the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote, was sent to the states for ratification, to today.

“This exhibit is really important at this time, given the #MeToo movement, the centennial anniversary of the suffrage movement, the historic number of women running for office,” the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, said in an interview at the Mansion. “And of course, the personal is the political. What I believe is being exercised in my home as well as out there in the world.”

She recalled that when she moved into Gracie Mansion in 2014, when her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, took office, she was struck by how few portraits of women hung on the walls; “everything else was men,” she said. (New York City has never had a female mayor, just as New York State has never had a female governor.) The goal of “She Persists,” which will remain on view for a year, bringing with it specialized public tours and a middle-school curriculum, is “to fix that and show women who’ve been unheralded, unseen,” she said.

To curate the installation, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy brought in Jessica Bell Brown, an art historian and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton, who said she was thinking, from the outset, about the question, “How does gender impact our understanding of the world and the ways we bring bias into how we even imagine what an exhibition could look like?”

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