Feminine Architecture is the upcoming exhibition from California-based artists Nora Lowinsky and Haley Golden. Two friends with very different visual styles but with a shared goal to support and celebrate female artists. We talk with Nora and Haley about their collaboration, the motivation behind the exhibition and about building a community of female voices in the arts.
Tell us a bit about the exhibition and what it was that inspired you to put the show together.
Nora: Feminine Architecture is about female friendship and love. It is about self empowerment and collective empowerment. It is my and Haley’s work since we met two years ago. At the end of 2014, we were both frustrated with our lives; we took our frustration and built Feminine Architecture. We met when we were both on the verge of becoming who we are now. We guided each other to this place. We manifested this exhibition together. We journeyed here together. We pushed each other. We believed in each other and that was a reflection of how we started to believe in ourselves. The show is about growth, togetherness and being architects of self love. I knew Haley was special the moment I met her. She radiates a certain energy that is mystic and rare. I think we must have met before too – in a past life, in a past form.
Haley: This show has had many phases since Nora first mentioned doing a female group exhibition together. We played with a variety of ideas, but ultimately realized that we wanted this show to be just the two of us. It is an homage to our journey as friends and artists. Nora has been my ‘art sidekick’ and it feels right to share my photographs alongside hers, in large-scale framed prints for the very first time. Beyond our mutual bond, the show started to have longer legs than we initially intended; strangely, we secured the date for our show many months ago not realizing that it fell on inauguration weekend. Nora and I watched the election results roll in together with our spouses. What was supposed to be a night of celebration turned into a night of grief; the reality of where our country is heading has affected us both very deeply. On what will truly be a very dark day for America, we instead want to focus on what brings us hope.
What do you want your viewers to take away after seeing the exhibition?
Haley: I hope they feel changed or energized in some way. The best exhibits are those that send waves through me, as if I’m high on some drug upon leaving, even if I can’t put words to it. If we can spark that sensation in just one person, I would say that our mission was accomplished. That said, when I create an image, I’m not thinking about how it will be received. It’s not my natural inclination to have expectations for the way others will experience it. I think it’s very personal. Finally, I want to express to other artists (particularly women) who aren’t formally trained or schooled that there are no cut-and-dry rules to creating, calling yourself an ‘artist’, putting together a show or taking your work seriously.
Nora: I would like people to feel the vibrations of love and unity. I would like women to be encouraged to help each other in life, in the arts, in any context. I would like anyone who feels like they’re living in a shell to come out. The only reality that exists is yours, of which you are the architect. It is an optimistic exhibition at an uncertain time.
You mention in your press release that you hope to use this exhibition to help build a community of female voices in the arts; talk to us more about this intent and its importance to you.
Nora: Feminine Architecture can be a conversation starter for women to build together. I have experienced so much openness and inclusion in my pursuit of creativity from other women in the arts. Nearly all of my girl friends today are doing creative work. Many I met over the last two years, during the time I shot all of the photographs for Feminine Architecture. So, they are part of this exhibition for me too. And so is the prospect of meeting new women and just generally fostering that pattern and having it multiply. In the same breath, I have felt a lot skepticism and, at times, rejection from creative and talented women. The latter has less to do with me and what I am doing, but rather points more broadly to a sectarian mentality towards women in the arts from within. If we allow ourselves to be receptive towards another woman, we grow. The reflex to close oneself and preserve position and resources certainly has to do with our underrepresentation. Feminine Architecture urges women to set aside any bias, deconstruct that mentality, and instead view one another as allies, as healers and as architects. We can heal each other and we can heal the world. We hold the key. It is time for us to come into that power.
Haley: I think that sometimes there is an unspoken competitiveness or divisiveness present among women and we often become pitted against each other. There is this sense that one woman’s success will take away from another’s. It meant a lot to both Nora and I to highlight our bond. We are in the same field, at the same level, in the same city, and some of the same circles. We have embraced this and stayed open to the other completely. We have found that this communion has only created more opportunity and more room for growth. I hope that a greater number of women feel invited to do the same. It is critical to support each other in the arts, and in all facets of our lives.
Your two styles are quite diverse, Haley seeking out abstract architectural details and Nora exploring femininity through portraiture; what is the common factor that has brought these two styles together?
Nora: Actually, contrast is what brings our styles together. We curated the exhibition and our work intentionally. Although I also love taking photographs of nature, we felt the exhibition would be more powerful if I only showed portraits of women. Along with our mutual love for shooting outdoors, we both have strong relationships to color and a distinct connection to spiritual energy through our photography.
Haley: The common factor that has brought our styles together is our sisterhood. We let that be our guide in how the show formulated. We really embraced the differences of our photographs. We did not necessarily make our selections to complement the other’s work. Rather, we allowed the other to handpick their own images, ones that best represented their vision of themselves. Most exhibitions can be confining in this way and we really wanted to display what spoke to us. As we’ve refined and become more and more familiar with the selections, I’ve personally begun to notice more and more similarities to be drawn, both visually and thematically. I am excited for our viewers to find areas where our works intersect and play upon the other.
Haley, what is it that you admire most in Nora’s work and why?
This is almost impossible to summarize, but I will try. I admire her unabashed embrace of what is personal and true to her. She is the ultimate romantic; her life, work, and art are beautifully intertwined where there is almost no separation. This is an extraordinarily brave approach. I am continually astonished by Nora’s ability to capture her subject. She has a true gift for communicating the human spirit, which is no easy feat. It has been such a privilege to know Nora and her artistry on an intimate level. I am eager to watch her work evolve.
Nora, what is it that you admire most in Haley’s work and why?
I love Haley’s sense of whimsy and humor. I love how she reveals the divine in the unexpected. I love her reverence of nature and its endurance. I love the colors and shapes she sees. The heavenly energy from Haley’s aura is present in all of her images, in an unforeseen way.
Do you have any plans for future collaborations?
Nora: We’re taking a color darkroom printmaking class together this spring. Apart from that, we are just eager to share our show through early March. We haven’t actually discussed this yet, but I think it would be fun to hang out in the gallery together at different times and invite people to come view the show with us present. The exhibition is in the top floor gallery of a bottle shop, so we’ll obviously need to crack one open. We both drink Mezcal.
Haley: There is nothing concrete on the table as of yet. We have been full tilt on getting everything together for Feminine Architecture. I’m sure that once the dust settles, we will have something up our sleeves. Nora and I are both big dreamers. We are always thinking 10 years ahead in ‘what ifs’. Given our natures and our affinity with one another, I can say with almost 100% certainty that this will not be our last collaboration.
An exhibition by Nora Lowinsky and Haley Golden
20th January through 1st March 2017
Alchemy Bottle Shop
3256 Grand Ave.
Exhibition opening night: Friday 20th January, 5-7pm
See more of Nora and Haley’s work at:
All images copyright Haley Golden and Nora Lowinsky.