Amy Wilson, Riot Grrrl, and “The Influentials”

The announcement card for "The Influentials" (click to enlarge)

Next month, VCS instructor Amy Wilson will be in “The Influentials,” a group exhibition at The Visual Arts Gallery featuring nineteen SVA alumni and a collection of artists who have influenced their artistic practice. The show is co-curated by independent curator Amy Smith-Stewart and SVA Director of Development and Alumni Affairs Carrie Lincourt. Here’s a brief description quoted from the gallery’s exhibition overview page:

“The Influentials” brings together some of New York’s most recognized female artists, from celebrated painters like Katherine Bernhardt and Inka Essenhigh to sought-after video and installation artists like Aïda Ruilova and Phoebe Washburn. The exhibition’s title refers not only to this group but also to a second group of individuals who have been a guiding force or touchstone in their work. Each of the 19 participating SVA alumni was asked to invite an artist or other person of influence to be part of the exhibition, and the invitees range from Washburn’s grandmother, whose “waste not, want not” outlook can be seen in her granddaughter’s frequent use of recycled materials, to cult French filmmaker Jean Rollin, whose 1975 erotic vampire tale Lips of Blood illustrates Ruilova’s obsession with horror movies.

You can read a lot more about “The influentials” and the wide range of works included in it at the link provided above.

To represent her own artistic influences, Amy Wilson chose the works of Riot Grrrl, the early 1990s third-wave feminist punk movement. To accompany several of her own works, Wilson has selected a variety of zines and ephemera from the movement, taken from the private collection of Holly Warren, Chair Assistant for the VCS program and fellow Riot Grrrl fan. The items she’s selected relate to such influential bands as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Fifth Column, and Tribe 8, among others.

When I spoke to Wilson about “The Influentials,” she cited several reasons why Riot Grrrl was so important to her growth as an artist. One factor was the movement’s punk/D.I.Y aesthetic, something that has always been a strong element in her own work. In particular, she noted the intense and at times nearly unreadable use of text in the zines; a similar approach can be seen in her own paintings, with their dense clusters of handwritten text that are sometimes very hard to decipher.

Wilson also said that the movement presented a refreshing departure from the male-dominated music scene that she’d grown up with, in which women were rare and almost never played a significant role. Riot Grrrl opened up a space for young women to create music, art, and literature in their own voice, based on their own concerns (to see how important this was to the movement, check out the Riot Grrrl Manifesto)

Finally, Wilson was influenced by the movement’s commitment to the idea of “girl power”: the perspective of a new wave of young, empowered women whose concerns were sometimes ignored by the older generation of feminists. A lot of Wilson’s art comes from the same perspective, and she noted the importance of girls in her imagery and girl power in the ideas that her pieces present.

(To see some of her work, visit her web site and click on the “images” link to the left of the page.)

“The Influentials” will run from August 26 – September 21, 2011 at The Visual Arts Gallery on the 15th floor of 601 West 26 Street in Manhattan. There will be an opening reception on Thursday, September 8 from 6 to 8pm. In addition, a round table discussion moderated by Art in America editor-in-chief Lindsay Pollock and featuring artists from “The Influentials” will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13 at the SVA Theatre at 333 West 23 Street. The exhibition and related events are all free and open to the public. For more information, check out the exhibition overview page on the SVA web site.

The back of the announcement card (click to enlarge)

Visual & Critical Studies