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Arts & Extras: From the minds of 'Fierce Women'

Arts & Extras: From the minds of 'Fierce Women'


BLACKSBURG — Hanging Chakaia Booker’s “The Fatality of Hope” on the wall of the Moss Arts Center’s Ruth C. Horton Gallery took fearsome effort. Each of the three segments of the 17-foot-long sculpture weighs more than 350 pounds.

Based in New York, Booker makes her writhing, spiky, weighty abstract art by cutting up and twisting discarded tires — not easy objects to work with, especially those with embedded steel.

“This is why I call it fierce,” said Margo Crutchfield, the Moss Arts Center’s curator at large. “Here you have an artist who is wrangling with a material that’s aggressive, extraordinarily difficult to work with, and yet she’s transforming it into these incredible works of art.”

Encountering Booker’s art at a museum exhibition about seven years ago gave Crutchfield the inspiration for what evolved into the “Fierce Women” exhibition, which opens Thursday in all the gallery spaces of the Moss Arts Center, and stays on display through April 25. “I knew it was inevitable, I was going to be doing a show of her work,” Crutchfield said. Booker’s sculptures have been interpreted as referencing environmental and industrial issues and African and African American culture and experience.

All the artists included in “Fierce Women” have built national reputations in the arts.

Washington, D.C.-based artist and DJ Rozeal creates prints that combine traditional Japanese images of geishas with African American hip-hop culture, a motif born in part from the artist’s observation while traveling in Japan of a fashion trend in which teenagers would darken their skin and wear hip-hop jewelry as tributes to their favorite African American rap stars. Her mashups invite reflection on the complexities of cultural and gender identities, Crutchfield said.

Based in New York, Jenny Holzer works with words, creating collections of statements and phrases like short poems and reproducing them on fliers, posters, billboards and plaques, and scrolling them on large-scale LED readouts. One such LED installation ran up the entire interior spiral of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. “Fierce Women” includes four of her enigmatic LED signs.

Another New York artist, Marilyn Minter, is known for intense, sensual photographs emphasizing and challenging the artifices of feminine beauty as portrayed in the fashion industry and in pop culture. In addition to her prints in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery on the center’s second floor, Minter’s video “Smash,” depicting enormous close-ups of a woman’s feet in jeweled stilettos sloshing through mud and kicking through glass, will show in the center’s Cube black box theater through Feb. 8.

The Armory Gallery at the Virginia Tech School of Visual Arts will show a companion exhibition, “Marilyn Minter: Splash,” through Feb. 22.

Lastly, “Fierce Women” will feature works from Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous feminist collective that formed in 1985 as a reaction to the paucity of female artists included in a 1984 Museum of Modern Art exhibit that purported to be a representative survey of international painting and sculpture. One of the group’s most well-known campaigns involved a billboard featuring a guerilla mask superimposed over a lounging nude, with the slogan “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” referring to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The works that will appear at the center are selected from the group’s retrospective exhibition, “The Art of Behaving Badly.”

Write on the bus

Since 2015, Roanoke Valley writers have had a chance to earn a $1,000 honorarium by applying to take a month’s worth of Valley Metro bus rides and convert their experiences into a book of poetry or prose. If you have a way with the written word and this prospect tempts you, the organizers of the Art by Bus program, a combined effort of the Roanoke Arts Commission, RIDE Solutions and the Greater Roanoke Transit Authority, are now accepting 2020 Writer by Bus applications. The due date is March 18, with the bus rides expected to take place in June. For more information, visit

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Mike Allen is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. His past beats as a Roanoke Times reporter included Botetourt County, Franklin County, courts and legal issues, and arts and culture.

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