Pink has always been a girl’s color. Little ones, and their dolls, are dressed head-to-toe in pink dresses and headbands before they can talk, and baby showers are filled with the shade to announce to the world that “it’s a girl.” Last weekend, at Women’s Marches across the globe, pink was the preferred color for pussy hats and protesters. But the color has always been a huge source of conflict for many women, a constant reminder of the oppressive gender roles we’re forced into before we’re even born. For artist Portia Munson, freedom comes from taking pink back.
A mixture of sculptures, paintings and mixed media installations, Munson’s new exhibit, The Garden, at P•P•O•W Gallery in Chelsea, explores femininity and “the fleeting nature of time” through a pink lens. A Marie Kondo nightmare, Munson’s installations piece together cultural obsessions and feminine relics to analyze themes of gender, female identity and consumerism in a disposable society. Her work references sexuality, adolescence, fetishization, fertility and passive femininity through found objects, dolls and re-occuring floral imagery, redefining the color pink and its role as a representation of female subjugation.
“My use of found objects—objects that are made and marketed to us—when recontextualized in my work, reveals the way our culture subliminally and overtly manipulates our constructions of reality,” she said. “Everyone is able to bring their own personal experience to these objects, and it makes them reflect on their own complicity with stereotyping. […] In the paintings, what I am trying to do is meditate on a singular object—like a doll, a vase, or perfume bottle—that is ‘girlish, ‘innocent,’ and ‘demeaning,’ and through the act of painting, bring forth the real power of the feminized.”
Featuring Munson’s work from the early ’90s through today, The Garden also shows how the artist’s pieces have expanded over the last two decades, to take on different meanings for today. Her explorations of femininity and consumerism seem particularly pertinent now, when trends come and go at a ridiculous rate and Trump’s presidency threatens autonomy for women everywhere.
“I think there was a time when feminism sort of became a little bit of a bad word or like, not so cool,” she said. “It’s very exciting right now that it feels like it’s becoming really cool and having power. […] I think it’s happened before, but it’s sort of a backlash to the new Trump era. It’s like women want to not be objectified, be really female, be really women, but be strong.”
The Garden is on view now until February 11, at P•P•O•W Gallery in Manhattan. View Munson’s work, above.
All photos courtesy of the artist and P•P•O•W New York