Art

“Nasty Women” Is One Hell of a Group Hug at Grand ArtHaus in Phoenix

Getting into group hug mode at the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition.
Getting into group hug mode at the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition. Michelle Sasonov
For people feeling angst-ridden over Donald Trump’s election, art can perhaps provide some measure of solace. That was certainly the case during January's First Friday in downtown Phoenix, when the “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite” exhibition opened at Grand ArtHaus.

The exhibition, which continues January 20 and 21, featured 240 small-scale works by emerging and established artists. Some created pieces specifically for this show, and all agreed that monies from works sold would go to Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Although some pieces stood out, including Ann Morton’s dainty white cloth embroidered with the message “we are fucked” in red and blue, much of the artwork was merely meh.

click to enlarge Detail of Ann Morton's Proof-Reading for the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition. - ANN MORTON/PHOTO BY LYNN TRIMBLE
Detail of Ann Morton's Proof-Reading for the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition.
Ann Morton/Photo by Lynn Trimble
But that hardly seemed the point, as people gathered for the opening consoled one another about the impending shift (or jolt, perhaps) in the American landscape. “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite” delivered something else gallery-goers sorely needed: one hell of a group hug.


Organized by five local artists, “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite” was inspired by a similar exhibition created in New York City, which sparked like-minded exhibitions around the country and in several additional countries.

Its title is inspired by the third presidential debate, when Trump (still president-elect as of this writing) decried opponent Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman.” Artists featured in the Phoenix exhibition responded to a call for art addressing the possible rollback of rights for women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

click to enlarge Organizers and friends enjoying opening night for the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition. - MICHELLE SASONOV
Organizers and friends enjoying opening night for the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition.
Michelle Sasonov
Organizers Patricia Sannit, Laura Dragon, Meredith Drum, Colleen Donohoe, and Erika Lynne Hanson took the Michelle Obama approach with their call for art – urging artists to go high rather than low and submit works without a mean streak.

That partly explains the relative lack of fiery material in the show. But it’s also possible that Phoenix artists aren’t yet digging deep enough into their own anger, fear, or pain. They’ve got another four years to go there, and we absolutely hope it happens.

click to enlarge Installation view before opening of the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition. - COURTESY OF NASTY WOMEN ORGANIZERS
Installation view before opening of the "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" exhibition.
Courtesy of Nasty Women organizers
But there’s another factor that significantly influenced the nature of this show. People who bought works on opening night got to take them home right away, which meant the number of pieces on view dwindled significantly by the end of the evening.

What version of the “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite” exhibition people saw Friday night depended on when they got to the gallery. The approach resulted in good sales – more than $11,000 at first count, says Dragon, who hopes to reach $20,000 during closing weekend. But finding half-empty walls was frustrating for latecomers.

To assure there would be ample art for this weekend’s final “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite" events, organizers issued another call for art. As of noon on Thursday, January 19, they’d received nearly 100 additional works. But take note: You won’t see them all unless you arrive when the gallery's doors open Friday night.

click to enlarge Exhibit wall, minus lots of sold artwork, during opening night for "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite." - LYNN TRIMBLE
Exhibit wall, minus lots of sold artwork, during opening night for "Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite."
Lynn Trimble
Exhibition hours are 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday night, with dance performances by Nicole Olson, Elisa Cavallero, and Grace Gallagher happening at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The exhibition is open from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday night, with readings starting at 7 by poets, storytellers, and memoirists – including Rosemarie Dombrowski, first Poet Laureate for the City of Phoenix. The exhibit is free, but organizers suggest a $2 to $10 donation during performances.

It’s tough to predict what quality of art you might find there, but “Nasty Women: Phoenix Unite” is undoubtedly a glorious celebration of community. And sometimes, community trumps art.

Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version to include newly announced Saturday hours.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble