Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Distribution
Downtown
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
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in lieu
JOAN
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MOCA Grand Avenue
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Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
Night Gallery
OOF Books
Over the Influence
Royale Projects
The Box
Track 16
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Wilding Cran Gallery
Wönzimer Gallery
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Human Resources
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Arcana Books
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the Landing
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CLEARING
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Nonaka-Hill
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STARS
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The LODGE
Various Small Fires
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r d f a
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BEST PRACTICE (San Diego, CA)
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Et al. (San Francisco, CA)
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Libraries/ Collections
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Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
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USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Artists Examining Themselves:
On Nao Bustamante’s Speculum

Leer en Español

Nao Bustamante, untitiled vitrine (speculums) (detail) (2021). Found objects. Image courtesy of the artist and Artspace San Antonio. Photo: Beth Devillier.

“Charlotte, you’ve never looked at yourself with a hand mirror?” The ladies are at one of their nondescript daytime diner spots and Miranda is teasing Charlotte about her clinically depressed vagina, which Charlotte has apparently never really seen. 

“Oh my god! Honey, I insist you go home right now and take a look. Or better yet, take my compact and make a quick trip to the ladies’ room,” says Samantha. Embodying a sentient Ladies’ Home Journal, as usual, Charlotte proclaims that she doesn’t want to look because she thinks it’s ugly. 

For its glaring inability to age with grace—reruns give way to questionable epithets on race and queerness—Sex and the City reveled in making its captive audience confront prudishness by having them sit through casual conversations about depressed vaginas and lazy ovaries. Whatever 1970s feminist trailblazing had been undone by the aspirational power-suit movement of the 1980s had evolved into a modernized vision of feminism that catered to a sometimes scandalized, often titillated bevy of premium cable subscribers. 

Still, in 2021, while a progressive, sex-positive, gender-fluid feminist ethos abounds, it’s clear that we still haven’t reconciled with the fraught history of a repressive culture and the gynecological injustices that led the many Charlottes of the world to become disenfranchised from their vaginas (injustices ranging from the common alienating pap smear to more historical maltreatments, like the 19th-century forced experimentation on enslaved women’s reproductive systems). Los Angeles-based artist Nao Bustamante has admitted to even skipping her annual visit with the gynecologist at times to avoid the discomfort of the experience.1 But after a revelatory pelvic exam in 2011, Bustamante decided to act, positioning herself at the helm of what she hopes will be the most significant redesign of the vaginal speculum since 1943. 

This project, BLOOM, rooted in both research and object-making, is the latest installment of Bustamante’s enduring interrogation of the patriarchy and its deleterious effects. Over time, women and femmes have been made to dissociate from their bodies in order to function in a violently patriarchal culture. Autonomy begins to feel increasingly impossible in a world where abortions are almost as difficult to obtain as justice from a rapist and male gynecologists conducting research can have free rein to exploit vulnerable women’s bodies without consent. BLOOM excavates this violent history and proves that gynecological reinvention as a mode of art-making remains as relevant to today’s lived reality as it was for body-conscious feminists of the 1960s and ’70s. 

Bustamante’s speculum design draws from the delicate mechanics of an opening flower, which incidentally brings to mind the blooms of Georgia O’Keeffe (who, for the record, didn’t exactly like her paintings being reduced to genitalia).2 In a recent exhibition at Artpace San Antonio (also titled BLOOM), Bustamante showed her drawings of the redesigned speculum alongside mixed-media works, droll videos that inject unexpected humor into otherwise gruesome lessons about the history of women’s healthcare, and ceramic sculptures of new speculum models made by participants in a public workshop led by the artist earlier this year.

Bustamante’s speculum design, which was conveyed through a series of drawings in the exhibition, consists of “several flexible, curved petals in a thin condom-like sheath,” that allow the examiner to “adjust the opening in graduated and reasonable degrees.”3 It also includes modesty panels that begin folded in, but “bloom” open to activate lubrication for the speculum, while also draping over the patient’s exposed body when pulled apart. The delicacy of the redesign, which looks at first glance a bit like an ultra-sophisticated tampon, is a welcome change from the clanky metal travesty that we’ve come to despise.

The BLOOM speculum is a far more thoughtful tool than the bent pewter gravy spoon J. Marion Sims (the so-called “Father of Modern Gynecology”) used to experiment on enslaved Black women sans anesthesia in the 1800s4—he believed women of color couldn’t feel pain. Bustamante’s inquiry started with her inability to shake thinking about the medical industry’s lack of care when it comes to women’s discomfort, but it veered into a more fantastical realm, blending imagination with material and space. In doing this work, she joins a legacy of women artists who have pushed the boundaries of feminist aesthetics to attack a medical system (and general culture) that dares to make their body parts taboo, or worse, claim authority over them.

Nao Bustamante, Bloom, concept drawing (detail) (2021). Graphite on paper, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jessica Taylor Bellamy.

Throughout the last few decades, many artists have centered their work around women’s bodies. Immediately familiar vulvic works are Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974–79) or Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll (1975), in which she endeavored to “physicalize the invisible, marginalized, and deeply suppressed history of the vulva….”5 Another pair of feminist artists who examined themselves from a more specifically gynecological perspective are Hannah Wilke and Louise Fishman. (While it would be reductive to say that the latter is a Charlotte and the former a Samantha, Wilke was on the bold end of the self-examination spectrum, while Fishman took a more subtle approach.) Wilke is considered the first feminist artist to use vulvar imagery in her artwork, paving the way for Chicago’s yonic plates.6 She leaned into mediums like drawing, assemblage, photography, and performance to express her sexuality, but it was her sculptural work that was most culturally provocative. Starting in the early 1960s, Wilke made sculptures blatantly evocative of the vulva—she used folded clay, latex, erasers, chewed bubble gum, and laundry lint to conjure the delicate folds of women’s genitalia. Pieces like Agreeable Object (1972)—made of latex and snaps—and Sweet Sixteen (1977)—consisting of 16 pink ceramic pieces—confronted her audience with something private, made public. 

Fishman was not quite as confrontational in her paintings, but she did contribute to a raised consciousness around female rage with the abstractions in her Angry Women series (1973), and to a general legitimization of female emotion as a valid topic for art-making. However, it was during a lesser documented transition into sculptural work that Fishman explored the more physical manifestations of womanhood. These untitled, wall-hanging constructions from 1971 weren’t obvious references to the body like Wilke’s sculptures, but she arranged the canvas strips, strings, and frayed threads into assemblages that alluded to skin, hair, and other tactile bodily imagery in such a way that it would require the direct experience of womanhood in order to understand these abstract interpretations of vulvas, birthing canals, and menstruation. 

In 1973, art critic Sarah Whitworth, likely the only writer to have ever published a response to Fishman’s wall hangings,7 described this series as a tamer entry point for women to get in touch with their bodies than what Wilke was offering. She wrote in Amazon Quarterly, an arts and culture journal by and for lesbians, “If the mirror of physical self-examination was too forbidding, Louise was offering a bridge. At least these works could be cupped in one’s hands without fear of social redress.”8 Whitworth describes how the work elicited a direct physical response in her despite its abstract nature, and found its clandestine provocation a welcome contrast to the in-your-face feminist art of the 1970s. 

On the flipside were feminists like Carol Downer, who just one year later, purchased a plastic speculum and performed a self-examination using a hand mirror. She was so empowered by the experience of taking back her body that she urged other women to join her in literal self-examination of their own cervixes. She even went so far as to suggest they use the speculums to self-diagnose their yeast infections and treat them by inserting yogurt into their vaginas. While this notion was certainly liberating, she was later arrested for practicing medicine without a license.9 Even if the yogurt prescription was a bad call, feminist scholars gave Downer credit for bringing attention to the flawed idea that only gynecologists (many of whom are men) could wield speculums, in turn, claiming exclusive right over women’s bodies. But it wasn’t always this way. 

Babies were traditionally delivered by midwives, who more often than not were Black women and working-class immigrants. Medicine was among the domestic duties of women, but the early 20th century saw them being driven out of the field of healthcare, and the responsibility of caring for pregnant women was taken over by men. The experiential training of healing practices was replaced with eight years of expensive medical school and, as a result, a new class of professionals with little or no on-the-ground experience in childbirth took over. Elder, rural, and working-class midwives who didn’t have access to exorbitantly priced professional schooling were ousted from their birthing practices due to new educational regulations.10

It was men who decided women should give birth on their backs, with their feet in stirrups (rather than ergonomically on all fours, as was commonly practiced by midwives) and it was men who decided that a cold metal duckbill would be used during gynecological exams. The fate of women’s bodies has long been in the hands of the patriarchy—the presentation of BLOOM in San Antonio coincided with the recent Texas abortion ruling.11 Bustamante’s BLOOM speculum contributes to a long line of feminist artwork taking on a different form of citizen agency, but it also grapples with the potential for other projects like it during a moment when the circumstances surrounding women’s healthcare are becoming more precarious. Before the year’s end, BLOOM will move from a speculative art project to a 3-D printed prototype, and Bustamante has pending partnerships with patent drawers and material scientists to develop an actual working prototype as soon as 2022.

BLOOM picks up where Bustamante’s previous body of work left off, expanding on her inclinations toward safeguarding women, yet excitingly pulling her inquiries into real world applications. The fact that feminist artists are still mining autonomy over their vaginas nearly 50 years after Roe v. Wade points to the overwhelming terror that the medical and political establishments still inflict on women’s bodies today. Within this context, Bustamante’s research, artworks, and eventual prototype show that women’s healthcare has not caught up to our modern civilization, and an inquiry into women’s autonomy over their bodies is more timely than ever.

Nao Bustamante, Vagnasium (2021). Video installation and mixed media. Image courtesy of the artist and Artpace San Antonio. Photo: Beth Devillier.

Nao Bustamante, BLOOM (installation view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Artpace San Antonio. Photo: Beth Devillier.

Nao Bustamante, BLOOM (installation view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Artpace San Antonio. Photo: Beth Devillier.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 26.

  1. “Nao Bustamante: BLOOM,” Glasstire, accessed July 12, 2021, https://glasstire.com/events/2021/07/06/nao-bustamente-bloom/.
  2. Amanda Mannen, “Georgia O’Keeffe Hated People Thinking Her Flower Paintings Are ‘Vaginas’,” Cracked, November 21, 2020, https://www.cracked.com/article_29021_georgia-okeeffe-hated-people-thinking-her-flower-paintings-are-vaginas.html.
  3. “BLOOM,” Artpace San Antonio, 2021, https://www.artpace.org/works/iair/iair_summer_2021/bloom.
  4. Rose Eveleth, “Why No One Can Design a Better Speculum,” The Atlantic, June 14, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/why-no-one-can-design-a-better-speculum/382534/.
  5. Quinn Moreland, “Forty Years of Carolee Schneemann’s ‘Interior Scroll’,” Hyperallergic, August 29, 2015, https://hyperallergic.com/232342/forty-years-of-carolee-schneemanns-interior-scroll/.
  6. Joseph Bobowicz, “Eschewing the Male Gaze: How Hannah Wilke’s controversial vaginal imagery paved the way for women artists,” Hero, September 26, 2018, https://hero-magazine.com/article/133734/how-hannah-wilkes-controversial-vaginal-imagery-paved-the-way-for-women-artists.
  7. Margo Hobbs Thompson, “Agreeable Objects and Angry Paintings: ‘Female Imagery’ in Art by Hannah Wilke and Louise Fishman, 1970-1973,” Genders 1998-2013, February 10, 2017, https://www.colorado.edu/gendersarchive1998-2013/2006/04/01/agreeable-objects-and-angry-paintings-female-imagery-art-hannah-wilke-and-louise-fishman.
  8. Sarah Whitworth, “Angry Louise Fishman (Serious),” Amazon Quarterly, October 1973, pp. 57-59.
  9. Eveleth.
  10. Angela Garbes, Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy (New York: Harper Wave, 2018).
  11. On September 1, 2021, Texas officially became the most restrictive state in the United States in terms of access to abortion services by enacting a law known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion care after just six weeks of pregnancy. That is well before the average woman even knows she’s pregnant and, what’s more, the law deputizes private citizens by allowing them to sue abortion providers or anyone caught assisting a woman in obtaining an abortion. Michel Martin, “Texas OB/GYN: My Existence Is In Violation of the New Abortion Law,” NPR, August 29, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/29/1032259863/texas-ob-gyn-my-existence-is-in-violation-of-the-new-abortion-law.

Neyat Yohannes is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Criterion’s The Current, Mubi Notebook, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Bitch, KQED Arts, cléo journal, Playboy, and Chicago Review of Books, among other publications. In a past life, she wrote tardy slips for late students. 

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