Art NotesArts & Culture

‘South East Women Wrestlers’ And More at the Dodd Galleries

SEWW: Whether through performance art, publications or correspondence, the four new exhibitions currently on view in the galleries at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art exemplify how art can be used as a way of connecting to others. Spearheaded by Kaleena Stasiak, a current MFA candidate in printmaking and book arts, South East Women Wrestlers is a newly formed collective of Athenians whose matches lean more towards performance art than pure sport. Personas, costumes and scripted throw-downs are cleverly crafted as an absurd spectacle that, while humorous and entertaining, serves a larger mission of promoting empowerment.

Drawn to the theatricality, female empowerment and DIY aesthetic of the League of Lady Wrestlers from Dawson City, Canada, Stasiak approached their matriarch, Aubyn O’Grady, about visiting Athens for a performance and exhibition. The league was unavailable, but O’Grady encouraged her to start her own league and even provided guiding materials to jumpstart the process. 

After recruiting her new stars, Stasiak led meetings to help everyone flesh out their characters’ strengths, weaknesses, signature moves, finishers, catchphrases, entrance songs and costumes. Opponents were partnered up to collaborate on scripts that elaborated on the backstories of their fights, and the league looked to the WWE, “GLOW” and local wrestling events to inspire choreography. In addition to practicing back slams, collar and elbow lock-ups, and clotheslining on an air mattress under the direction of announcer Colette Arrand, the ladies visited the Landmark Arena in Cornelia for a crash course. All of these efforts culminated in the sumHER Slam, their first-ever wrestling event held in late August.

“SEWW provides an inclusive space where multiple definitions of femininity are explored and portrayed by all body types and sizes,” says Stasiak. “We’ve flipped the wrestling world upside down—men are now ring candy and party girls; medieval virgins and cougars have taken over the ring. By subverting sexualized stereotypes of females in the ring, we are taking Judith Butler’s words that gender is a ‘stylized repetition of acts’ quite literally. By performing different feminine cliches, we attempt to expose their absurdity and the fact that they are constructed by society.”

Providing an empowering alternative to the media and pop culture’s pervasive depictions of wrestling that hypersexualize women or sideline them altogether as props, SEWW seeks to subvert the male gaze and reclaim the sport. In this body-positive arena, the likes of Mrs. Robinson (Stasiak), Dominia Diamond, Catherine Crusader, Joan of Snark, Fireball, Jucifer, Marie Fury, Tumbleweave, Amazona Prime and Dragon Yer Ass—the last two appear on this week’s cover of Flagpole—are free to embrace their alter egos though theatrical roleplay.

The self-titled exhibition features a wrestling ring in the center of the gallery surrounded by portraits, costumes, props and other paraphernalia. Stasiak will offer a Lunchtime Gallery Talk on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 12 p.m. in Gallery 101, where the exhibition will remain on view through Thursday, Nov. 2. The ladies of SEWW will enter the ring for a second round on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 14 during Chillith Fair, a two-day festival at Go Bar featuring Shade, Nihilist Cheerleader, Hannie and the Slobs, Blue Bodies and a handful of other bands, plus poetry readings, DeadHeadPhones yoga, an art show and more.

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Photo Credit: Will Major

Amazona Prime vs. Dragon Yer Ass

BEWARE OF ALL DEFINITIONS: Active during the developments of the feminist and post-minimalist art movements, Rosemary Mayer moved through a variety of media that ranged from text-based work and drawing to sculpture and installation. Spending most of her life in New York City, Mayer was one of 20 founding members of A.I.R. Gallery, the country’s first all-female cooperative space, established in 1972 to challenge the male-dominated commercial art scene. 

“Beware of All Definitions” is a survey focusing on Mayer’s practice from 1966–’73, a turning point in her career when she began experimenting with sculptural works of hand-dyed and draped fabrics. While the textiles seem to be intuitively hung, accompanying drawings that serve as blueprints reveal how each sculpture was deliberately designed with shape, color and texture in mind. “The Catherines,” for example, layers translucent, rosy maroon fabric over silky peach tones in a way that adds physical and visual dimension to the drapery. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog and will be on view through Friday, Nov. 10. 


Rosemary Mayer with “Hroswitha,” c. 1973

PRIMARY INFORMATION: Founded in 2006 to increase the accessibility and affordability of artists’ books and writings, New York-based nonprofit Primary Information views publications as a distributable exhibition space capable of reaching audiences that galleries may not. The organization’s self-titled exhibition shares a collection of works from the catalog and archive that embody its three main focuses: books by contemporary artists, reprinted editions of lost or unpublished material still relevant to today’s discussions, and works that function as publications but take the shapes of other forms like records or posters. 

Highlights include Fear Indexing the X-Files, which offers historical context and analogies for the show’s recurring themes; a reprint of the 1913 futurist manifesto The Art of Noise; and DISBAND, long-lost recordings of a group of feminist performance artists active in New York’s no-wave scene from ’79–’82. Curated by Dodd art librarian Lindsey Reynolds, the exhibition will remain on view in the Plaza Gallery through Thursday, Oct. 5.

LOSING; KEEPING: Exploring the preservation of memory, emotional attachment, physical distance and the passage of time, “Losing; Keeping” is a collaborative exhibition between MFA candidate in painting and drawing Annemarie DiCamillo and Los Angeles artist Luke McCusker. Created over a two-year period, the project began as a series of prints and grew in responses of paintings, sculptures and books. Described by the artists as a “nonverbal dialogue” conducted to preserve the memory of each other, the exhibition offers images and objects reflecting the spectrum between companionship and abandonment. “Losing; Keeping” is on view in the Plaza and Bridge Galleries through Thursday, Oct. 5.