For Reimagining Docile Bodies curator Lauryn Lawrence brought together local artists Leslie Gomez-Gonzalez, Amaris Cruz-Guerrero, and Ari Temkin for an intimate exhibition pushing the observer to question why we view the body as explicit.
The name “Reimagining Docile Bodies” comes from French social theorist Michel Foucault’s take on how our environment shapes how we think and react, especially feminization in a patriarchal world. This exhibition was able to highlight the vulnerability and violence placed against human bodies every day.
Walking into the studio on Sunday, the space is fully transformed into an intimate gallery setting with seating in the middle for a closing talk with the artists. Lauryn Lawrence begins the talk by introducing the concept of Reimagining Docile Bodies and what the reaction has been during the 3-day showcase. She notes one man’s reaction to Ari Temkin’s Unwanted (AI Generated Dick Pics, 2022, mixed medium) was to immediately cover his eyes. Each artist was then given a chance to introduce themselves and give a background on their work.
Leslie Gomez-Gonzalez begins the conversation by speaking on her leucorrhoea (mixed medium, 2021-) series. “I photographed the surface of my underwear at the end of each day, collecting a set of 30 images that are used repeatedly to create collages.” leucorrhoea (curtain) is the result of these images being printed, layered, and transferred onto contact paper to emphasis the textures of the delicate surface. She explains the meaning of “leucorrhoea” being the medical term for vaginal discharge. “Discharge is a loaded word,” Leslie says, she has managed to transform an intimate photograph into an incredibly raw series showcasing her experience as a woman and the efforts we will take to separate ourselves from that narrative. Even opting to use the British spelling of leucorrhoea taking it further away from its original meaning.
Ari Temkin describes his work as cultural and anthropological observation in art form. He speaks on the influence Judaism has on his art, jokingly apologizing for the phallic images in the gallery being his contribution, but continuing on to say how rare this is [in galleries]. He explains female anatomy is far more accepted in art, tying back to Lauryn’s story of the man covering his eyes. Ari’s Unwanted is the piece that feels the most provocative of the show, using several phones placed on the wall and AI generated moving images of dick pics, it replicated mediums you may find those “unwanted” images. I find it both incredibly creative and off-putting. I kept coming back to the phones wondering what truly makes this so explicit to me? Throughout the night it forces me to unpack those uncomfortable feelings.
Amaris Cruz-Guerrero relates to something Ari Temkin said during the meaning of his installation, always trying to reach perfect.
Amaris’s artwork speaks to her experience as a non-white Latina, living through the generational curses and racial memory of the women in her family. Playing on the back wall of the gallery is a video of her taking a bath entitled My House Smells Like Chilies and Chocolate (2020). The soap used in the video is made from the ingredients used to make Aztec hot chocolate, known as Xocolatl. Aztecs used this hot chocolate as self care, both drinking it and bathing with it. Amaris uses this intimate ritual to reclaim her body from colonization, “By bathing with a soap that stains the skin with chocolate, being lathered in white and washing everything off I trigger memories of assumptions of classical beauty.”
Lauryn Lawrence is both a featured artist and the exhibit’s curator, showcasing her piece Vulva Study 002 for the first time. Speaking to her after the night has died down, we are able to chat on how she feels about the success of the event and where she sees herself going from here:
LAURYN: “With Reimagining Docile Bodies this show actually started with the artists coming together and seeing the connections already in their work. They brought me on board because they felt that we could really build something all together. They knew I wanted to get more into curating group shows and I was really fascinated by this topic”
ME: “You curated a special culture and environment where you’re able to be so vulnerable and personal with each other and I feel that alone has made viewers feel more comfortable in this space. All of these pieces flow together very well”
LAURYN: “Thank you, I wanted to be really intentional about how I curated this work and how I put it all together […] Outside of being an artist I want to be a bridge, between artists and viewers, artists and curators, artists and collectors. All of the above. Sometimes there needs to be a person that can facilitate the work. That makes me go to sleep with a smile on my face.”
ME: “I know you do a lot of photography and have previously published a book, Women I Know, will you be documenting this event in that same way?”
LAURYN: “I will be making a catalog, in a gallery setting that works as almost a memoir for the show. I’ll be inputting all the works and the words into that, in the future it can work as a pitch for other galleries as well. But, I will say here for the first time that I am working on my next photobook.”
ME: “Oh, an exclusive!”
LAURYN: “I’ve been silent about it but I’ve been working on it for over a year now. I’m saying the title here for the first time it will be called WOMXNHOOD, the “e” is actually an “x” to include all binaries. […] As an intersectional feminist and artist I’m so curious on how we all view feminism in a post-feminist world”
It was refreshing to see these artists being so open on topics societal norms would label taboo. I appreciated this experience and the conversations that stemmed from it. Lauryn as well as artists Leslie, Amaris, and Ari have all created a beautiful show that feels both intimate and welcoming. I hope to see more installments of this exhibit and of these artists in the future.