The current exhibition at the Salina Arts Center is A complex weave — Women and identity in contemporary art. This exhibition features works of art by sixteen female artists of different age and race exploring identity in being a woman which includes being a woman in other countries besides America and being a woman of a different race living in America. It’s a wonderful exhibition and well worth going to see.

Zoë Charlton questions ethnic and racial stereotypes in her work. She exhibited a video showing a young black woman bathing. When the woman first starts bathing, the water is clean, but when she finishes, the water is so dirty one cannot see through it and there is a dark ring around the tub. Charlton is showing the young woman trying to wash off her color as a statement on black women finding identity in a white world. Her drawings were also quite striking and unique in the fact that the paper was not necessarily pretty and presentable. Her paper was wrinkled and warped — something most artists would try to get rid of.

Annet Couwenberg  explores female identity quite literally by creating clothing in a sense like in her installation Act Normal and That’s Already Crazy Enough where she formed what resembled cloth shoe racks into circles. In the middle of each circle read one of the words of the title. She uses clothing as a metaphor that looks at the contrast between what’s considered normal and our own desires. “It is kind of interesting for me to read your blog and rereading the title and Dutch proverb of my piece Act Normal and That’s Already Crazy Enough my mother would repeat to me quite often. Although it is ingrained in my brain rereading it in black and white again gives me that same startling feeling of being aware of staying in-line of what is expected of me by my culture and family. The work I make becomes a receptacle for introspection to distinguishing between what we are and what we have learned to be and desire,” Couwenberg said.

Another installation was created by Sonya Clark. Clark hung combs from the ceiling in spiral shapes creating “curls.” From a distance, the installation just looks like spirals hanging fromt he ceiling, but as you get up closer, you notice each curl is made up of several combs attached together at the ends. Clark uses combs in her work to evoke meaning in her materials. The combs represent hair culture, race politics, and good hair and bad hair. She says on her website, “What type of hair would easily pass through these fine-toothed combs? What does it mean that the combs themselves are arranged into tangles like felted dreadlocks, neat curls, and wavy strands? Combs imply order in as much as they are tools that organize the fibers we grow. They suggest thorough investigation as in ‘to go through something with a fine-toothed comb.’ When a comb has broken or missing teeth there is evidence of struggle. The missing teeth provide a new rhythm, the music of a new order.”

April Wood displayed two feeding devices attached to metal apparatuses. Behind these devices she made were pictures of people being “fed” with these devises. She said, In my work, I am exploring women’s (and men’s) relationship to food and to the boundaries of their bodies. I am intrigued by ideas of nourishment as it applies to eating and also sexuality sensuality and the way that women’s bodies ride this delicate line.” The images and devices she has made are striking and almost disturbing. The pieces definitely engage the viewer.

All images were used with permission from the artist.