The eye of the beholder: EOTH and The Goddess Exhibit

Alexandra Ray and Catherine Loewe, co-founders of Eye of the Huntress, talk to SuperRare about challenging the accepted (male) viewpoints of art history through the exhibition of female artists.

Sep 27, 2022 Art / Art + Tech

2 months ago

“The Woman Problem”

Picture a goddess. Marble, maybe, a smooth-skinned sculpture of an elegant woman. Or perhaps your mind goes to a painting, a nude Venus by the sea, breeze blowing her long hair to coyly cover her breasts. Historically, depictions of women, celestial and human, have been portrayed through the male gaze, from Rubens’s curvy sea nymphs to Modigliani’s elongated lovers.

Art history textbooks largely fail to present any examples of how women have perceived themselves throughout the centuries, as they have been excluded from most Western art spaces. Consider an analysis of eighteen major art museums in the United States, which found that their collections were 87% male. Another analysis revealed that three of the most-visited art museums in the world have never had female directors despite being founded centuries ago.

“Venus and Adonis” by Peter Paul Rubens from the Met Museum Collection

As art historian and feminist critic Linda Nochlin summed it up, “the white Western male viewpoint [is] unconsciously accepted as the viewpoint of the art historian.”

Alexandra Ray and Catherine Loewe, co-founders of Eye of the Huntress (EOTH), are looking to challenge that viewpoint with their online gallery. Their newest exhibit,Goddess,” is a refutation of centuries’ worth of female exclusion, featuring the work of nine sought-after female artists displayed digitally.

“Goddess” will also be their first exhibit of NFTs, and curators and contributors alike feel confident that this dive into web3 is a vital step for elevating the status of female artists.

“There’s been a lot of talk about emphasizing the strength of women,” said Ray. “The resilience, the beauty we add, the value we add, that was a theme we wanted to work with.”

What began as a female-founded virtual gallery has rapidly begun to expand into something cutting edge and intensely focused on the issues raised by Nochlin. Her famous essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” was published just over 50 years ago, listing a series of problems she perceived with how women have been excluded from art. Nochlin identifies women’s historical lack of access to art education, the responsibility of child-rearing that falls more heavily on mothers than on fathers, and societal expectations that placed greater value on men’s creative pursuits, resulting in male artists, and (lesser) female “hobbyists.”

Loewe and Ray had these problems in mind as they established EOTH, and, in many ways, “Goddess” is an attempt to address these issues in the art community, to push back against what Nochlin archly labels as “the woman problem” by creating women-powered solutions.

United in Diversity

“I think the women we’ve chosen for this exhibit, they want to be recognized as artists, as opposed to just the names behind these projects,” Loewe explained.

The exhibit offers a place to bask in the female perspective, and from the start, Ray and Loewe were adamant that the exhibit be diverse. Contributors span the globe, from Israeli-based Talia Zoref to Australian-based Aslan Ruby to Korean-born fashion designer Dayong Kim. The artists also specialize in a variety of mediums: ceramics, sculpture, film, murals and graphic design, as well as more interactive performances.

EOTH has combined artists who are well-versed in NFTs and those who are just starting to mint their art. NFT collectors will likely be familiar with Aslan Ruby’s “Honey Badges” and “Meta Angels,”but might not know much of Charlotte Colbert’s films, or Kate Daudy’s installations. “Goddess” will serve as a gateway for many to experience some of the earliest digital sales of many of these artists.

Sarada Haeata, the artist behind Aslan Ruby, approved of this blended curation from the start.

“I was really excited to be approached by Catherine and Alex,” she said. “Coming from a background of exhibiting in real life and building an art career over the last decade, I was happy to see curators coming across from that more ‘traditional’ fine art world to the web3 space. The challenge now is to start to bring some of those traditional fine art collectors into the NFT space.”

Ray is pleased to report that she is already seeing cross-contamination: Crypto fans are beginning to “make the leap” into buying physical art, while the persistence of NFT culture continues to win over more old-school collectors. “We have a nice transatlantic, global flavor to what we’re doing,” she explained.

“Flavor” is a concept Ray refers to frequently, as do several artists describing their experience with the exhibit. Making sure that the gallery feels approachable and “easy to digest” is a vital part of welcoming more women into the space. Rather than overwhelming viewers by trying to make up for centuries’ worth of inequality, “Goddess” offers bite-sized pieces of talent that exemplify the best of what is out there right now, aiming to entice new buyers, to make the transition into the digital space fun and effortless.

Remarkably, “Goddess” manages to present these NFTs in a way that feels fresh and flavorful without sliding into the commercial.

There are not flashing lights that read “feminist,” no attempts to sanctify any female celebrities for the Instagramability. “Goddess” feels powerful in its understated confidence, no need for a bold red lip or pink glitter.

— Rebecca Endres

“I wanted to create something rich, baroque, detailed,” said Misha Milanovich on her contributing piece. “Not some throwaway object that can be made on my phone in five minutes.” She acknowledged that the increased visibility of NFTs is leading to some “mainstream” works of art that may feel inauthentic or draw scorn from art traditionalists. Still, she insists that digital artists were doing groundbreaking work before the NFT take-off a few years ago, and that work continues to hum beneath the trendy buzz of Discord chatrooms.

“An artist is an artist,” she added. “It’s my belief that if Picasso was alive, he would be doing this, pushing the medium, playing with it.”

Loewe echoes this enthusiasm for the opportunities before them: “Each era had its new technology. The Impressionists were using paint from tubes for the first time, and that changed the nature of art. You could say the same thing about photography, or the invention of the printing press. Art and technology have always been closely aligned.”

Virtue, Not Virtue-Signaling

Despite the exciting work that “Goddess” is honing in on, web3 still feels like a bit of a boy’s club: When imagining the impact of NFTs in pop culture, Snoop Dogg and Ashton Kutcher own the place, no women come to mind immediately. Celebrities aside, about 70 percent of cryptocurrency owners are men, despite the fact that men represent only 48 percent of the population. This creates an even steeper climb for EOTH to overcome, promoting women in a male-dominated field through a male-dominated medium. The “woman problem” Nochlin identified in the art world has found doppelgängers in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and many of the social media platforms that inform the metaverse.

Ray and Loewe aren’t concerned by this: “gallerists are not really with it; the art world itself is very slow to move,” said Loewe, citing recent skepticism to the inclusion of NFTs at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland. Nonetheless, she feels that web3 needs to be given more credit as it continues to expand and create spaces to welcome new groups, particularly among millennials and Gen Z, who make up a larger stake of crypto users than older generations. “It’s a nice parallel with the whole ethos of web3 to put power back into the hands of under-represented sections of society,” she said.

“Opportunities for marginalized groups are pretty hard to access,” admitted Kate Daudy, a contributing artist who has used funds from NFT sales to support women’s advocacy groups. “The world is a tough and almost unbearably unjust place, but the future remains in our hands.” 

Continuing to shape the future they want to see, EOTH has enlisted some.place, a women-founded platform, to host the “Goddess” exhibit. Ray and Loewe were full of praise for how well some.place worked to make their vision come to life, and Loewe claimed how some of that effortlessness stemmed from the fact that they were all women, looking to elevate one another in a space that has marginalized them for so long. “It really is incredible,” she reflected, “after so many years of being in the art world, and it being so difficult, there’s the sense of camaraderie, of community, we all want to help each other, and I think this show is a celebration, a snapshot of how amazing women are.”

“For me,” said Sarada Haeata, “the term ‘Goddess’ means being a badass woman who owns her shit and has the support of the women around her.” She acknowledged that support alone won’t get any artist that far, male or female, but it’s a helpful starting point.

This blunt assessment might just be the key to understanding how Goddess comes together so well. There are not flashing lights that read “feminist,” no attempts to sanctify any female celebrities for the Instagramability. “Goddess” feels powerful in its understated confidence, no need for a bold red lip or pink glitter.

“Women are a real mycelial strength in society, they have an energy that is healing, they grow, nurture, give life. All of these aspects are extremely important,” said Milanovich, adding that the community that she has found in “Goddess” has hit upon something she has been actively seeking for a while now. “I believe truly that if you have a voice and you just work on shouting that voice, it becomes medicine for other people.” 

Projecting that voice is exactly what Ray and Loewe are trying to do. “I just love the idea that these women will have conversations with each other and grow in their careers,” Loewe said. “One of the things from the art world is that we believe in building relationships; it’s a slower process than what I’ve seen in parts of the crypto space, and that slower side of it I do like.”

“I would like to meet more women artists,” Daudy said, acknowledging the importance of more female-curated exhibits. “As a woman artist with three children, I don’t find much time for socializing and getting to know people in my field.”

The world is a tough and almost unbearably unjust place, but the future remains in our hands.

— Kate Daudy

Looking forward, Loewe and Ray both feel confident that their gallery will continue to grow as web3 expands and diversifies, giving them an opportunity to dispense that medicine Milanovich believes in, the space to clear one’s voice and be heard.

“If you are an art historian or curator, you can’t ignore this space,” said Loewe of NFTs, “Most of the people that I’m talking with in museum settings, they’re very interested in these concepts. That’s what artists do, they are the loudspeaker for taking the pulse of the times. I think it’s something that will be integrated into the story of art.”

Indeed, the exhibit feels like a visual loudspeaker: colors and textures explode in the images. There are nods to some of the traditional “greats,” that Nochlin mentions: one can see references from Picasso to Matisse. Yet these allusions do not prevent it from feeling fresh, nine very distinct styles come through to create a taste of how effortlessly NFTs coalesce with traditional art.

Despite the wide range of techniques and inspirations, “Goddess” is cohesive precisely because it represents a community, a home for female-produced talent to shine, and for ideas to spark. Just as the exhibit elevates the individual woman, the balance of the pieces tells a story. All one has to do is step inside to see how these women have grappled with marginalization, and what empowerment looks like. As Daudy says, one of her central aims is to invite people to “consider the decisions they make, and the consequences of their actions. We each of us have the potential to be powerful agents for positive change.”

“We’ll shake up the art world,” promised Ray. “We’ll disrupt. And also foster so much innovation. I’m excited to see it.”

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Rebecca Endres

Rebecca Endres is a freelance writer and office administrator working in New York City. She currently lives on Long Island. She is the winner of the 2018 New School University MFA Chapbook Contest in Poetry. Her poetry has been published in Thin Air and The Best American Poetry Blog.

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