The exhibition “Live Dangerously” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) reveals the bold and dynamic ways in which female bodies inhabit and activate the natural world. Twelve groundbreaking photographers, including Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Kirsten Justesen, Xaviera Simmons, and Rania Matar, use humor, drama, ambiguity, and innovative storytelling to illuminate the landscape as means of self-empowerment and personal expression. This presentation is drawn from NMWA’s collection of modern and contemporary photography and enhanced by key loans that feature women connected to nature through the lens of the female gaze.
A major section of the exhibition showcases the performative and fantastical works of Janaina Tschäpe. For the first time, NMWA exhibits all 100 large-scale photographs in the series “100 Little Deaths” (1996–2002), in which the artist stages her own body within sites from her travels around the world.
While some of the featured artists evoke a quiet, reflective relationship with nature, others physically alter and unsettle their environments. Justine Kurland photographs teenage girls setting off smoke bombs, skinny dipping, and climbing trees as a way to rebel against patriarchal institutions and disrupt gendered expectations.
Artists in the exhibition often depict the female body wholly immersed in mountains, oceans, valleys, and deserts. Several of the photographers capture these figures near crashing waves or underwater, as though the ocean’s depths are their natural habitat. Rather than seem daunted by the sublime forces of nature, the women portrayed in Live Dangerously appear carefree, intrepid, and fierce.
Featured artists: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Anna Gaskell, Dana Hoey, Mwangi Hutter, Graciela Iturbide, Kirsten Justesen, Justine Kurland, Rania Matar, Ana Mendieta, Laurie Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, and Janaina Tschäpe.
September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20005