All that Glitters: Artist Frances Goodman
Titles of works:
Hand-stitched Sequins on Canvas
Acrylic Nails, Silicone, Canvas, Frame
Acrylic Nails, Foam, Resin, Silicone Glue
65 x 90 x 66 cm
by Petra Mason
Artist Frances Goodman is based in eGoli, Johannesburg, Africa's City of Gold where she's been mining the rich landscape of 'femininity, costuming, and role playing' using acrylic nails, sequins and other unconventional materials.
The Goldsmiths London educated artist was born in South Africa in 1974 and finds it the perfect place to work as an artist and to 'bounce in and out of'.
Cultural Historian Petra Mason first met Goodman in Miami, Florida when she was in town for an artists residency at Kathryn Mikesell's The Fountainhead Residency.
Downtown in New York’s once gritty (but still grubby) Lower East Side, champagne royalty Richard Taittinger opened a five-thousand-square-foot gallery space in a former music hall. While some of the miniature neighbouring gallery spaces resemble neat broom closets, Taittinger’s spot boasts twenty-foot ceilings and can accommodate monumental artworks.
Where once-upon-a-time bawdy vaudeville acts with can-can girls kicked, Johannesburg-based Frances Goodman – then the only female artist on the gallery’s line-up – installed her first major U.S. show, ‘Rapaciously Yours,’ just days before The Armory Show opened far further uptown, on the West Side in 2016.
Ever since she’s been attracting attention at home in South Africa and spreading her carefully manicured tentacles broadly internationally with exhibitions in Italy, Denmark and Texas.
By reworking materials that typically signify a glossy version of her gender, for this exhibition Goodman works mostly with acrylic (false) nails as her medium and raids the beauty parlor for materials. The pair of giant ‘stiletto’ nail-shaped warrior shields remind me of Ndebele paintwork patterns and would fit perfectly in Nicki Minaj’s crib. The boys don’t escape her one-two punch either as she works over stereotypical masculine materials: car hoods and back seats embellished with gag-worthy misogynistic comments we’ve all heard too often and in too many languages.
Her wedding installation The Dream (an edition of two) unfolds. The frothy, soft sculptural piece – comprising worn wedding dresses, beadwork, hand embroidery and sound installation – hangs from floor to ceiling: a pile of ruined expectations, haunted by the ghosts of modern-day Miss Havishams. The wedding gowns mushroom into a cloud of organza, eggshell whites and pale pinks, heavy with longing and broken dreams.
Goodman explains: “During the course of our lives we are fed a lot of notions about love and marriage. Phrases like ‘dream man,’ ‘dream wedding,’ ‘dream dress’ and ‘dream day’ are channeled towards women in particular. So marriage and weddings are ‘The Dream’ we are taught to aspire to. I also wanted the installation itself to have a dreamlike quality: a haziness, a softness, a space of suspended belief and reality.”
The sound installation for The Dream features recognisably South African accents – all women’s voices – speaking openly, echoing global sentiments and universal commentary on the state of the modern bride. The voices speak about how today’s cookie-cutter mythology of marriage eerily echoes what might have been said in the 1950s, at the height of the American Dream and before ‘Sex and the Single Girl,’ which is where the rest of the artist’s narrative takes off.
While it’s hardly news that most media is viewed through the male perspective and largely written by men, nailing the ‘female gaze’ is a lot more complex. We battle visual debris and mixed messages daily via social media. A quick scan of my Instagram feed: South African artist Lady $kollie has Instagrammed her green ‘pro nails’ grabbing Jalapeño hot sauce (referencing Beyoncé’s Formation lyrics) and is, amusingly, also ‘honouring’ ex-stripper Blac Chyna for her engagement to a Kardashian. Elsewhere I read that Beyoncé is a feminist – because she kicks ass in short shorts – but I thought she told “Single Ladies (to) (Put A Ring On It)”? You get the picture.
For Goodman, this confusion is her playground. She even gets to stick her tongue out at Miley Cyrus, who trotted past the New York gallery and snapped, then Instagrammed, a gigantic tongue made from false nails titled Lick It., Cyrus’ post racked up more than two hundred and fifty thousand ‘likes.’ As Goodman told me over bagels for breakfast in New York recently, “What I like about the story is that when I was thinking about the tongue piece (and getting inspiration for it) I referred to [Cyrus’] music videos and her iconic tongue pictures, so I guess she was looking at me looking at her.”
Adding to the cartoonish appeal, Goodman even looks like Archie’s Veronica (from the Archie Comics book series), but in her case women are her best friends and she’s certainly not competing for Archie’s attention. She’s too busy in her studio and too busy being strategic – how else does one get a New York exhibition?
“After doing a number of residencies in the New York area I built up a network of people who are supportive and appreciative of my work. While upstate at Art Omi I met a curator who really loved The Dream and thought it should be exhibited in New York. She introduced me to the Richard Taittinger Gallery.”
As for its future, so far The Dream is fulfilling its promise of ‘happily ever after.’ The second edition was purchased by the 21st Century Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and the first will soon travel to Angola.
Represented by SMAC Gallery in South Africa, Goodman navigated the global uncertainty of 2020 by cooking up new work and working remotely with her salon style team (including a hairstylist and sequins stitchers) to produce her latest solo exhibition ‘Uneventful Days’ that opens at SMAC on 31 October to 5 December 2020.
Her Mind's Eye: Artist Judith Mason
Upon healing: Collaboration with Qinza Najm
Qinza Nam sitting under heavy mesh embroidered with bullet shells in the performance No Honor in Killing. 1100 bullets, collected around NY and Pakistan shooting ranges, 11 yards of fish net. Title: No Honor in Killing, Performance at Museum of Moving Images NY. 2017
Photo in header courtesy the artist, Qinza Nam
by Yi Chin Hsieh
edited by Beláxis Buil & Global English Editing
I first met Qinza in early 2021, when everything was under better control and people were more knowledgeable about the Coronavirus. As a Pakistani-American artist who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, Qinza's practice mainly focuses on gendered violence, cultural identity, and social trauma. As a Taiwanese woman coming from an East Asian background, I resonate closely with female struggles and these cultural focuses Qinza brought up in her work. Her notions and observations, especially on forbidden female sexuality in a male-dominated society, reminded me of my own experiences and culture shock when I first moved here to the United States.
Considering the collective and globalized events and trauma we are experiencing, I decided to collaborate with a few different artists, including Qinza, for my most recent project, The Gift Shop. The Gift Shop is a curatorial project providing a platform for audiences, artists, and curators to rethink how exhibitions can be broadened. I work with artists on art objects collaboratively, finding a balance of presentation, demonstrating the artist's practice, and sometimes, the conceptual expansion of the artist's statements.
Golden Bullets is one of the collaborative projects for The Gift Shop. Golden Bullets is an extension of Qinza’s prior project, No Honor In Killing. The objects used in the recent project are the same bullet casings that she collected from shooting ranges in NY and Pakistan for her performance in 2017 for the Museum of Moving Images. She assembled around 1100 bullets representing the lives taken by gun shootings in schools and honor killings in Pakistan.
She later wove them over a heavy net and sat underneath it. Participants were invited to lift the heavy mesh together, carrying the weight of the bullets above their heads. By doing so, the audiences symbolically shared the pain and the consequences of these social issues. Criticism was implied but buried in the layers; healing was in process with the encouragement of audience participation. Metaphorically, No Honor in Killing pointed out some of the most brutal facets of humanity and society in an original manner of storytelling.
While discussing her performances and projects with her, I asked Qinza to reconsider what bullets and guns truly represent. Is it power? Social status? Or insecurity? Or protection and defense? Guns are tools, after all, and depending on the people who use them, they can easily take lives or protect someone from possible danger. To further these concepts and perhaps create a reminder, Golden Bullets contains seven bullet casings provided by the artist and placed in handmade boxes I made. In each casing, are idioms/proverbs written onto small pieces of paper then rolled up. There are seven words of wisdom in each box, with three of English origin, two of Urdu, and two of Chinese Mandarin. The Urdu and English sayings are handwritten by the artist and the Mandarin ones are by me. Idioms are collective cultural wisdom. We wish to deliver the best advice of the artist and the curator and share our cultural identity and life lessons with the audience/collector. The project is currently on view at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum and will also continue as a pop-up exhibition at Laundromat Art Space in Miami, Florida.
Perhaps some support from the past encourages us to keep moving forward and be confident in a better tomorrow. As one of the messages says, "the darkest hour of the night comes just before dawn." The Golden Bullets were made during a deep global social trauma. Despite that, the project wishes to bring hope, guidance, and a moment of reflection to the audience. As Qinza and I finished our conversation on that Friday night after hours of sharing thoughts and fears, I somehow felt more hopeful and even healed, knowing whatever is happening now in our lives shall pass one day. And it will perhaps inspire more idioms to be created and shared.
I walked, and even skipped a bit with bullets clinking in my bag on the way home.
Meryl Meisler: New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco