Unlike the deepest recesses of the mind, and the soul that lies within, these female gifts are plainly visible, wonders that spur the imagination. When treated with respect and reverence, and not objectified in C and D categories, their artistic silhouettes, whatever their size or shape, are a rich, positive symbol of Womanhood. Not a prurient one, mere Victoria’s Secrets captivations, a Big is Better obsession that impels affronts, abuse, and dangerous physical violence. Disgusted by the everyday assaults, the viewing of women as “trophies,” and their mental/physical disfigurement in many countries, artivist Leonor Anthony is hoping to take her “women’s empowerment” statement to the Top of the World. Ironically–and searingly–it will fixate on Bras and concurrently, Breasts.
Subtly, but still piercingly, this defiant Cuban emigre to the United States is a “liberationist.” Tired of imprisoning sexual myths, and the dangers posed by “Barbie Doll” thinking, she intends to install 50 blue bras amid Arctic caribou, foxes and glaciers–an artwork that will eventually move on to other far-flung horizons. “My dream is to start a chain of bras…to show unity in the fight for gender equality,” says Anthony in her Miami studio, standing next to bags crammed with bras. Her trip aboard a Norwegian Tall Ship, and working in a remote art residency program for 17 days ten degrees from the North Pole has been temporarily postponed (COVID-19 has again wreaked havoc). But never daunted, whether in the crusade for racial justice, or environmental conservation, Anthony is pushing forward.
“I am going to the Arctic…Women have suffered enough….Women in India have been dominated, raped…We have had it with being subservient. Now I just want to put my beliefs in front of people…I’m not angry, just passionate..“I just don’t want any more nameless women tortured, murdered. The bra installation, which I hope to one day put around Central Park in New York, is my call for Unity.”Watching her mother being assaulted by her father–profoundly impacted by the woeful story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 17th Century Italian artist raped by a tutor–and seeing women’s hopes constantly dashed in the male-dominated art world has left scars.
But she has still found clarity. A sculptor/collagist/writer/painter/videomaker, Anthony knows no boundaries–and is understandably drawn to the female form.
To disturbing us, to provoking thought. A multi-disciplinary creator, she’s similarly the multi-villifier of myths, female disenfranchisement, and restrictions on her imagination. She wants to be free.“Young girls feel they have to look pretty, that’s psychological violence,” insists Anthony, discussing her “Barbie Dolls” sculptures. Viewing these prettified dolls as an antithesis to women “having hope, triumphing, and the independence to be relevant,” she continues, “trophies…possessions…the Barbie is antiquity…Artemisia was not allowed in painting school. I was also in a no man’s land after I came to the United States during the Freedom Flights (in 1972), and that’s true for too many women.”
Emphasizing her “always being in art, in my dreams, in flights of fancy,” Anthony has long been the passionate artivist. Working on behalf of cancer and AIDS research, the Dalai Lama, and artists’ rights, she has this emphatic “solidarity” with the victimized–causes that need a fiery supporter. Recalling a turning point in her life–another unflinching questioning of the power structure–Anthony explains, “being accepted by the 2017 Venice Biennale, that was a dream come true. The theme was ‘Open Borders,’ and I did a proposal, ‘Color, A World View.’”
Far more than a demand for womens’ rights, the Biennale presentation essentially probed racial issues, her being a child of Cuba, art as her sustenance, the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and another plea for “Unity.”
It also showed her to be irrepressible, a dogged crusader demanding we find our better angels. That we put aside our factional tribalism, and unite to save the planet. Not just from chemical toxins and environmental degradation. But that we listen to harmonies (her Jazz or Sounds of Freedom series is an ode to James Baldwin, Miles Davis. etc), and find “a land of liberty,” a bounteous place honoring “the brotherhood of man.”Such an idyllic garden of virtues might be on the horizon–a distant one. Yet the indefatigable Anthony, who has known her share of disappointments (“I am making preparations for the Arctic…then Central Park”), remains strong. She has already mirrored American Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks, her saying, “I knew someone had to take the first step…”Anthony has boldly taken those defiant first strides–and more are coming.
Written By Edward Kiersh