NEW YORK––Ruby Sky Stiler‘s latest solo show Fathers at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in New York City (September 6 – October 7, 2018), the artist challenges traditional perceptions of the roles of men and masculinity, and in doing so, also women.
A simplistic societal narrative attributes physicality, strength and the public realm of influence: politics, commerce, religion and academia, to men, while women remain in the domestic sphere chaste, demur and raising the family. I’m not going to emphasize the explicitness of these representations across Western art history, but take note that male artists have long wielded power in how women are perceived.
If not portrayed under a lusty gaze, women are often shown with children to demonstrate their virtuousness—the Madonna and Child being the prototype that all mortal mothers must aspire to.
Even so, as Lumi Tan writes, Mary Cassatt’s Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt (1884)––one of the few examples of paternal illustrations in art history Stiler was able to find in her research with even fewer conveying any emotional intimacy––inverts these formulaic gender roles.
Drawing from this inversion, Stiler strives to emphasize the paternal relationship, even hyperbolize it, in her free standing contour sculptures and her glyph mosaic wall reliefs (à la Jean Metzinger.
It should be said that in emphasizing paternal relationships in Fathers, the artist is in no way ignoring or dismissing women or their maternal element. She is merely shedding light on a less acknowledged reality.
Do not assume from this description that the women in Stiler’s work have disappeared. In this current state, they exist apart from the father and children, with permission to be unmoored from relations or natural inclinations for caretaking. They rest, observe, but are never far from view.
Her previous work has “excelled at imaging women in a visually complex and transformative manner, at once referring to ancient and classical art history, but vastly expanding upon the way women can be imagined,” also reinterpreting a modality of ancient culture (red- and black-figure pottery) in a revisionist a correction.
About the artist: Ruby Sky Stiler has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Locust Projects, Miami, FL; The Suburban, Oak Park, IL; and Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR. She was included in significant group exhibitions at Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, New York, The Berman Museum, PA, and The Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, New York, among many other venues. Stiler is a 2018 recipient of the Saint-Gaudens Fellowship. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and her MFA from Yale University. Stiler lives and works in Brooklyn.
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