The Muse and the Feminist

In her first major museum exhibition, Between Tongue and Teeth, Angela Fraleigh reimagines the feminine role in art history by transposing women — some of them well-known activists, artists, designers — into fragments of Old Master works or in nebulae of gold and silver leaf. By jumbling references and periods, thus merging the muse and the feminist, Fraleigh liberates these marginalized figures, and she does so in the thoroughly modern I.M. Pei-designed Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, an area synonymous with women’s emancipation.

Born in South Carolina and raised in rural New York, Fraleigh creates fleshy environments that at once beckon and reject the viewer’s gaze, challenging the roles women have traditionally held within the artistic arena. To wit, those extraordinary paintings in gold and silver leaf are a nod to the tireless work of Candace Wheeler, a leading figure in the decorative arts who advocated for women in the workforce, particularly the field of interior and textile design, in the late 1800s.

Another abstract series took inspiration from the 18th-century ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro, depicting the various stages of silk production (which mainly employed women), from the gathering of silkworms to the weaving process. These sit in in beautiful contrast to another series based on the American suffragette movement, which has its roots in central New York State, specifically Seneca Falls. These portraits, informed by Fraleigh’s research into the role that local suffragettes played on the national stage, include Matilda Joslyn Gage, Hester C. Jeffrey, Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, and a young Iroquois woman named Pretty Flower, opening an other turbulent and storied chapter in American history.

Between Tongue and Teeth, Angela Fraleigh, through December 31, 2016, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY

Through the half-drowned stars, 2015

Seemed to thicken, 2005

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell, 2015

Carried by voices, 2014

Between tongue and teeth, 2016

Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, 2016

And then we’ll walk right up to the sun, 2016

Installation view

Installation view

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