For Portia Munson consumerism is a site to decipher violence on ecology and feminism

Overproduction and mass consumption are two sides of the same coin, namely – capitalism. As the consumer culture has flourished, it has precluded the possibility of scaling the declining health of the environment and the rise of affirmative gender roles. Irrevocably, at present, the human tribe is facing irreversible ecological problems and gender bias. New York-based multimedia artist Portia Munson’s long visual arts practice, at the intersection of sculptural installation, photography, painting and sculpture, raises pressing concerns around nature and feminism. . The excruciating exercise of hoarding the objects – scraps from garage sales and thrift stores, rubbish from roadsides and streams, heaps of gifts and dumps – takes the form of flawless maximalist art installations. The American artist categorizes and assembles thousands of these mass-produced found objects and organizes them into densely layered pieces that emphasize the object’s color and intended function.




close view, bound angel, 2021, found figurines, lamps, candles, twine and cord, wedding dresses, tablecloth, leaf extensions, oval table Image: Lance Brewer, courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


In the recent personal exhibition angel bound by the installation artist at P·P·O·W, New York, the works on display are a more active investigation of environment and gender roles. Leverage the crucial project Pink project tablepresented at the pioneer exhibition bad girls by Marcia Tucker, the sculptural installation angel bound has items including female angels, little girl figurines, the Virgin Mary, classic and pornographic nudes, snow globes, candle holders, night lights, lamps, soap dispensers, among others. These are placed on the large oval dining table covered with a tablecloth made from the wedding dresses. The shape of the sculpture as a faceless bride invites viewers to look at the linked objects as if they are “choking and tangling”.



Nightstand, 2021 found figurines, lamps, string and rope, nightstand, Portia Munson |  Portia Munson |  STIRworld
Nightstand, 2021 figurines found, lamps, string and rope, bedside table Image: Lance Brewer, courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


The violence that takes place at the table differs from the careful presentation of objects on the market aimed at coaxing buyers into investing in them. It is as if the two representations of domestication were playing with the emotional mind of the consumer. The new series Serving trayspopulated by ceramic and glass figurines hung by a string on the vintage silver trays, within the exhibition nestles the large-scale installation, angel bound. Exploitative consumption, whether of products or aggressive assumptions about femininity, sets the stage for destruction.



Serving Tray #6, 2022, found figurines, string, rope, serving tray, Portia Munson |  Portia Munson |  STIRworld
Plateau #6, 2022, found figurines, string, rope, serving tray Image: Lance Brewer, courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


Another large-scale sculpture, Today will be great, by the multidisciplinary artist, in the form of a female form, has the upper half of a headless pink mannequin, her arms crossed at the hip – exuding an authoritative demeanor – and wears pink elbow pads, a handbag back, a large ribbon with the words FEMINIST printed on it, and a necklace of pink plastic beads. Pink items such as dolls, cosmetics, fake hair, fake flowers, dresses, bras, tiaras, evening gloves, jewelry and awards – to attract young women – are presented in the form of the large hoop skirt. At its base is a sign indicating today will be awesome. In front of the sign, a cowering figure is lying on its side, its hands pressed against its pelvis hinting at the fetal position. On the one hand, the individual objects in today will be awesome are created to instill confidence and achievement in young women, on the other hand, their thick accumulation in the immersive installation opens up a harsh reality of suffocation and violence. The victimization of the woman when she is regularly expected to appear confident forces her to fall into the vicious cycle of buying and consuming.



Portrait of Portia Munson |  Portia Munson |  STIRworld
Artist Portia Munson Image: Courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


In an interview with STIR, Munson talks about the twin concerns – gender inequality and ecological imbalance – addressed in her art installations, “My work stems from my everyday experiences, focusing on the clash between our material culture and the world” natural”. Two sculptures today will be awesome and angel bound are large accumulations of used found objects. I see this work as a commentary on femininity, female-centric marketing and female consumption, but also as a commentary on the environment. I believe that the continued pollution and destruction of our environment is the most pressing and serious issue of our time, and for me it is inextricably linked to feminism. I see a lack of respect for the environment, the very place where we live, as paralleling our civic discord and disregard for women and other undervalued groups.




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Portia Munson's conversation around Bound Angel |  Portia Munson |  STIRworld

Portia Munson talks about Bound Angel Video: Courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


The still life meditations on individual objects found in Munson’s installations in the form of paintings and drawings from the functional women affirm Munson’s fascination with objects. The broad spectrum of subject matter in these works – spread legs, nutcracker, ashtray, bare-chested mug, female-torsoed perfume bottle, naked bottle opener, and obscene salt and pepper shakers – once again opens the window to the way of life. women. . “Painting and drawing represent objects taken from my installations, focusing on a singular object and allowing its implicit meanings to resonate. Working in different mediums at the same time directly informs all my work and helps me refine and crystallize ideas,” Munson mentions. The exhibit is a visual translation of Munson’s desire to display and document living records of women’s daily lives.



Installation view: Bound Angel, 2021, found figurines, lamps, candles, twine and rope, wedding dresses, tablecloth, leaf extensions, oval table, Portia Munson |  Portia Munson |  STIRworld
Installation view: bound angel, 2021, found figurines, lamps, candles, twine and cord, wedding dresses, tablecloth, leaf extensions, oval table Image: Lance Brewer, courtesy of Portia Munson and P P O W, New York


“Our modern cultures produce so much, we define ourselves and express our values ​​through the products we surround ourselves with. I hope my work helps people recognize that there is a meaning or meanings embedded in this kind of things and helps orient us to a deeper way of seeing,” Munson concludes.

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